Just like everything else, if you want something gone from your space, change your beliefs about it. The same goes for stress.
The No. 1 cause of unhappiness, worry, anxiety, sleep deprivation and illness is stress. Yet people have come to accept stress as part of life. It isn’t, and it shouldn’t be.
Some people can be in major anxiety-inducing situations and still remain calm, while there are some who react to the smallest things. The measure of stress comes from how each individual reacts to the stressors in their lives, not the magnitude of the situation.
This is why it is important not to judge the situation as small or big, because when stress is triggered in a person, the reaction will depend on how the person will process the stressors. The best way to determine whether you are stressed or not is to pay attention to your body.
Your body is the most accurate gauge of how stressed you are. When you are calm, there are no sharp pains or intense feelings in your body. Try this exercise: close your eyes and breathe normally. Focus on your breath and notice how your body is reacting. If there is a reaction, including not being able to sit and focus on your breath, your body is under stress.
If your body feels calm and there are no sharp sensations, this is your state of relaxation.
Now think of something that stresses you out—traffic, not paying bills on time, the fear that someone in your family might get sick. Notice that the minute you think of something that will stress you out, there is a bodily sensation that corresponds to the thought. Your shoulders may freeze up, the back of your neck might hurt, the solar plexus feels hollow, the lower back aches, the head starts to throb.
Pay attention to how your body reacts to stress, because each person will react differently.
It is important to recognize how your body responds to stress so that you can understand and listen to your body. This way you will stop judging the situation as too small or too big, because it does not matter; what matters is that you are in stress mode, and you need to decide that you no longer want to be there.
Decide to change the situation, or don’t. Just know that you and only you are responsible for your state of being. Yes, it is just a decision away.
Face it: Sometimes you like the drama, and if you want to be in drama mode, go ahead and stay there—the choice is yours. You and you alone are responsible for the choices you make—not the driver in the car in front of you, not your boss and not the situation you are in.
A large part of being under stress is thinking and believing that your are not in control of your feelings. This is, in fact, the farthest thing from the truth.
Once you decide that you no longer want to feel a certain way, change it and see what happens.
This is why it is so important to recognize that you are reacting to the situation with stress, as your body will tell you so. The situation will not change; you are the one that changes your reaction toward it.
The first step is deciding that you no longer want to feel that way, and then doing whatever works to change how you feel.
We all use tools to make us feel better. Some choose to drink beer after work, others smoke cigarettes, some take anti-anxiety drugs. But there are tools that don’t require a lot of money and that are far more conducive to happiness and empowerment.
Alcohol, cigarettes and other “maladaptive” tools create dependence. When we go toward something outside of ourselves to cope with something unpleasant, we create dependency. But our objective is empowerment and accountability, so instead of using maladaptive tools, we take responsibility for our state of being—and that’s just recognizing that you are in a state of stress, and not judging yourself as good or bad.
Second is to use means or tools that empower you, rather than giving your power away. Here are some tried-and-tested tools you can use to raise your frequency, or to put yourself in a better mood.
1) Play music.
Choose music that makes you feel good—classical, gospel, religious, mantras, love songs that are not about heartache, etc. Play music that has a positive message, uplifts your mood and elevates your spirit.
2) Take a walk.
If you live near a park or you have access to a garden, take a walk and be with some semblance of nature. This may be difficult for city dwellers, but there are still some public parks left where you can just take a walk and release your tension and fears. Walking in the mall doesn’t quite cut it.
Go to a Pilates class, yoga, Zumba, tai chi, hip-hop dancing, Nia, ballroom—there are so many choices that I am quite sure there will be at least one that you will enjoy. The point is to enjoy, not to go because you have to.
See how your energy shifts from the beginning of class to how you feel at the end of class. This is a great way to stay in shape while putting yourself in a great mood.
4) Hang out with friends.
Be with people who uplift you, with whom you can laugh out loud and just be yourself. This is bonding with like-minded people who make you feel good about yourself because you are also making other people feel good about themselves. Have fun, watch a movie, get together and just be happy.
5) Play with your pet.
Never underestimate the ability of pets to heal you. Play with and nurture your beloved pet, as it responds by loving you unconditionally—and learn how to receive that love.
6) Eat fruits.
Nature’s feel-good food is fruit. Bite into a fruit, and you will instantly feel better. Eating fruits on an empty stomach will amplify its healing qualities in terms of nutrition, but it will also instantly make you feel good inside.
7) Find something to be grateful for.
The gratitude tool is the easiest and most effective way to shift your negativity into positive thoughts and feelings. There is always something to be grateful for; the fact that you are alive is one of them. Look for something or someone to be grateful for, and see and feel the stress disintegrate.
8) Pamper yourself.
This isn’t free, but it is money well spent. Go to the barber shop, the salon or the spa, or get a home service massage. Just give time to take care of yourself.
It takes practice, yes, but this can be as easy or as difficult as you decide it to be. Being happy and stress-free is a decision you make. Do it because you love yourself, and you know that you deserve to be happy, and that happiness is your natural state of being.
Read more on The Philippine Daily Inquirer Thriving in SouLove column.
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