Right now, with all the uncertainty, unknowns and fear about what is going to happen to us in the future, it is completely natural to be feeling stressed, worried and anxious. This is just our body’s natural defence mechanisms being activated in response to danger. For our brain any uncertainty in our lives, it interprets as as a threat. This causes the body to flood with hormones to prepare it’s systems to either ‘fight or flight’. This is where we either want to confront the situation or avoid it. You may be finding that you are feeling tense, more alert, not sleeping as well and you can feel your heart beating in your chest. This is as result of your body producing larger amounts of the chemical cortisol (the stress hormone) which prepares the body to respond to the potential stressor.
A big cause of stress right now is the worry over what the future holds. When we leave the present moment and focus too much on the future your brain has to try and predict what is going to happen. If you are constantly surrounded by uncertainty, negativity and danger messages (like we are seeing in the news) this will cause your brain to make up and predict the worst outcome, rather than what is actually true. It is often the case that many of our worries and concerns rarely turn out in the way we are predicting in our minds. This is why it is more important than ever to stop and bring ourselves back into the present moment when this happens and refocus on the here and now.
The skill I want to help you cultivate through reading this article, is to become more aware of what is actually happening in the moment, not what your brain is trying to reflexively make of it and choose your actions accordingly. You must see life as it is in that moment, not the disaster your brain is making it out to be nor how you’d like it to be, then take-action. With the chaotic, unpredictable world we are now facing, the only thing you can be sure of, certain and in control of is YOU! Your thoughts, your feelings and your reactions to what is happening. When you focus on this, rather than get pulled into future-mode or swept up in the negative messages which were are being exposed to 24/7 your ability to act, influence and remain calm massively increases.
Stress comes from trying to predict the unknown, catastrophising and living in the future.
All that matters is you and the here and now.
Self-awareness is key
The first step to dealing with your stress is finding ways of noticing when it has taken over. Self-awareness is KEY. If you are able to pay attention to your experiences you can quickly recognised when you are stressed. The following questions will help you to raise your awareness and identify the key signs which will help you to recognise what your stress looks and feels like!
· What am I feeling right now?
· Where in my body am I feeling?
· How does X feel?
The mind and body are connected and the stress you may think is all in your head, can actually be felt in the body. This is actually really empowering because you have a choice over how you respond. Feelings of stress are just bodily sensations, like a sneeze or shivering.
When we notice feeling stressed, it can feel like it’s coming from deep inside our core. It feels really personal, like it’s a part of who we are. Even though it feels personal, we can still separate ourselves from it.
We don’t need to take it so personally. It is Important to remember that you are not your stressful feelings; feelings are there to give you an example of how you could react but it doesn’t mean you have to act in that way.
Get a picture of what your stress feels like and you will see that it is actually something separate to you!
Then ask yourself the following questions
· “What is the worst that could happen?”
· “How bad would that really be?”
· “If this was happening to a friend what would you tell them?”
· How important is this for the rest of my life?
· Is this permanent?
Remind yourself that this will pass.
Taking-action is the mantra that will keep you moving
In any situation where you find yourself feeling worried, out of control and getting stressed, if you learn to refocus your mind on only the things you can control and then ask yourself; “what is it I can do here?” and “where is the opportunity?” it opens up the possibility of action. There is nearly always something you can do. Anything more than nothing is something.
WHAT IS IT I CAN DO HERE? WHERE IS THE OPPORTUNITY?
Now what is the best you can make out of it? Where is the opportunity, what are your choices, what can you do here now?
Think of your life as having 2 circles:
1. Circle of influence- contains the things you can do something about
2. Circle of concern- full of the things that bother you that you can’t directly influence
We can waste a lot of time and thought bouncing around in the circle of concern. It tends to increase our stress levels. Train yourself to focus your energies on the things within your circle of influence. Let go of the things in your circle of concern. This will massively increase your ability to stay centred.
Whenever you are feeling overwhelmed by life or you face a particular challenge, draw out these circles and write in them the things that are on your mind. See where each challenge, worry or concern belongs.
1. Do what you can about whatever is in your influence
2. Accept those things you can’t have an effect on and leave them behind.
The key point is to be in charge of what you decide can be done.
1. If a thing can be done by you, do it.
2. If it can be done by someone else, get them to do it
3. If nobody can do anything about it, accept it, let it go and move on.
All three actions you’re taking, rather than passively hoping someone else will do the solving for you.
Stress is a part of everyday life, particularly at the moment and as much as you might try to will it away, it will inevitably creep up again. Given the uncertainty, constant exposure to threatening information and negativity it is more important than ever to learn the tools and mental strategies so you can actually learn to use it to your advantage and keep you focused. In such a chaotic, uncertain world, the only thing you can do is focus on the things you can control and then take-action on those things.
What am I feeling right now?
What is within my control?
What can I do here and where is the opportunity?
Embracing this way of viewing uncertainty is empowering, motivating and builds your resilience to future changes and curve-balls. You might be surprised at the result when you start approaching your stress in this different way.
If you are feeling the strain of this pandemic please don’t suffer in silence.
You have a choice over what happens to you during this time and I want you to come out of the other side, healthy and positive about what is to come should you choose to see it in this new way.
Get started today and head to https://bookme.name/Masteryourmind to book a 1:1 free chat.
We will talk through the things you are struggling with and I will give you the support, reassurance and advice you need to stay strong and in control.
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Food and Emotional Expert