5 Ways to Break Your Habit of Stressful Thinking
“There is no stress in the world. Only people thinking stressful thoughts.” ~Dr. Wayne Dyer
Chronic stress is killing us. Literally. It is a factor in every leading cause of death. Heart attack, cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and even neuro-degenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Yet we continue to strive. To make heroic efforts and take more and more on. Is it worth the struggle? Is it worth feeling perpetually out of time and out of head space? No way!
But the busy lives we lead tend to convince us otherwise. We have coffee to push past the boundaries of fatigue. Drugs to push past the pain. And so we hunker down for another day.
The thing about daily chronic stress, though, is that it’s entirely subjective. What I find stressful, you may not. I may enjoy the morning commute, even with the bumper-to-bumper traffic and frustrated drivers frothing about. You may not be bothered by having to provide excellent customer service to rude people in the course of your work (I don’t particularly enjoy it).
This subjectivity shows that it is not that situations in your life are by their very nature stressful, it’s your relationship to these situations that causes stress. In other words, it is your thinking that causes your stressful reaction to the daily grind. The great news is that you can change your thoughts! Even the ones that pop-up without you even knowing it. We can CHOOSE less stress!
I have a feeling that you’d rather not be stressed-out. You’d rather let that tension go. I bet you’d rather feel relaxed than all keyed-up, right? Me too. Use these five methods to unplug from the stress response any time you need to. Your body (and your mind) will thank you.
1. Lower-belly breathing. Bring awareness to your breath. Consciously direct the in-breath into the space below your navel, feeling your abdomen expand with each inhale. This simple act enacts the “rest & digest” function of the nervous system, putting the “fight or flight” response into neutral.
2. Allowing tension to release. As you breathe, see if you can allow the tension in your shoulders, arms and back to loosen and release. Feel the tension flow downward with each out-breath, even visualizing the tension melting down into the earth.
3. Practicing gratitude. Close your eyes. Call to mind a deep sense of gratitude for the good things in your life. The stress response shades our judgment, causing us to think in terms of lack and fear. With gratitude, we realize the abundance all around us, pulling the plug on this fearful mindset. Reflect on how interconnected everything is — this very moment, with your clothes, the electricity, the car you drive, your iPad, everything! is made possible by thousands of others. Truly, no person is an island (unless you grow your own food, make your own clothes, use fire for light and heat, etc…. I think you get the point).
4. Laughing out loud! When we laugh, feelgood endorphins are released, tension in the mind and the body relaxes, and the stress response is put into neutral. Things become a bit lighter just because we’re smiling! Try it out! And notice how the world smiles with you…. come on, don’t be shy.
5. Taking time for yourself. So much tension and anxiety results from the feeling of not having enough “me” time. We rush around each and every day from morning ’til night, letting the aggressive pace of our thoughts push us ever forward into the future. When you commit to taking some much needed time for yourself, at least once every day — even if it’s just 15 minutes — you allow yourself to return to center, and return to the present moment. Ahhhh! There is peace here, in the present moment, if we allow for it.
With the regular practice of these five methods, you can unplug your body’s stress response, and bring yourself much needed relaxation. And with the awareness offered by slowing down a bit, we can choose different thoughts than those old reflexive patterns of thinking that lead to so much stress.
Without the tension and anxiety of daily chronic stress, there’s no choice but to live a life of more joy! What a relief.
Where in YOUR life could you use a bit more relaxation?