Emotions and Stress
What is Stress?
The Institute of Heartmath™ defines “stress” as “the wear and tear experienced by the body in reaction to everyday tension and pressure.” Webster’s dictionary defines stress as “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease.”
We like to define it as your body and mind’s response to any pressure that disrupts or threatens its normal balance. The physiologic response to chronic stress can be very damaging to your body. Your adrenal glands, which sit atop your kidneys, have been given the job of helping you in times of stress. Physiological responses to mental stress are usually the same as the responses to physical stress, or imminent danger.
Your heart rate accelerates; your blood pressure rises; your digestive tract shuts down; your “wizard brain” (the higherlevel thinking powers) slows down and your “lizard” brain (the animal instincts for survival) are enhanced — all in preparation for you to be able to run away from danger or fight the danger face to face. The adrenal response to stress is often called “fight/flight”. If you stay in this state too long, or go there too often, your body develops signs of breakdown and disease. Chronic stress will leave you exhausted, overweight, unable to comfortably digest your food, and suffering from a long list of minor and major complaints. In order to stay on the path to your goals, it’s important to build in regular stress management and transformation practices.
For this exercise, we are going to take a couple of different perspectives on how we think about ourselves and stress. These are skills that are not automatic for us as humans, they take some practice and might feel awkward at first. But building the muscle by practicing every day will not only have you noticing your life differently, but it will become easier and easier.
For the first part,make a list of (at least) 20 things you know that you love about yourself, or times when you did a wonderful thing that made a difference for someone. For example-
-In school I went out of my way to say speak to the girl that had no friends. OR
– I drove my friend back and forth to PT after her car accident. OR
– I always make sure my in-laws are taken care of during the holidays.
Things like that.
Include things about your body as well:
– my hair always looks great regardless of the weather or
– my skin looks younger than I really am
– my legs carry me through my favorite activity of hiking with my dogs
This list will get you present to the amazing human being and gift that YOU are to the world, and to yourself and your family.
NEXT, Make a list of (at least) 20 things that you are grateful for in your life. Things like
- I love my favorite blanket on my bed
- My air fryer makes foods my kids love so much healthier
- I’m grateful that the mailman always puts the packages on the porch out of sight
- I so thankful the garbage man doesn’t let my can blow all around the street
- I love that my children are home over the holiday break
NOW that you have made your lists, go back and read each one, slowly, and get present to what it feels like to have these things in you and in your life. Take a few minutes to focus on each thing, put your hand on your heart as a way of activating your heart center while you think about these blessings in your life, both big and small. NOTICE how your body feels when you are really present to the things you are grateful for. Getting the emotion into your body is an important part of moving yourself out of stress and into a calmer, Rest and Digest Hormone system.
Tell (at least) 3 people today that you appreciate them/something they did. You can call someone up who lives on the other side of the country, or you can tell the cashier at the grocery store you appreciate how they bagged your groceries. But go out of your way to find people to acknowledge for something, big or small, that has made a difference to you.