Last night, as I was sitting in bed, I found myself devoured by a state of stress. The kind of stress that comes out of nowhere. Strikes suddenly. Leaves you reeling. And even feeling a little confused, because you didn’t see it coming. At all.
One moment I was just sitting, living my life, and in the next I was swallowed by massive dread, worry, and anxiety.
This tends to happen from time to time, so I’m familiar with it.
I used to get stuck here, allowing it to spiral and devolve—expand to the point where I’d become totally encased in a state of panic. Getting to the point where it felt like I almost couldn’t breathe.
I’ve learned, though, with practice, how to snap myself out of it. And, relatively quickly.
I’ve spent years paying attention to this particular characteristic, and I’ve discovered ways of extracting myself from it. The process is precise, deliberate and exquisite. It’s not always easy, and some experiences are certainly more difficult than others, but it works. It’s effective.
I wanted to share this process with you, because I know that we all experience stress sometimes. And, it never hurts to learn new ways of coping with it.
The easiest way to release stress when you feel totally overwhelmed:
1) Acknowledge it as soon as you possibly can. The moment you notice yourself feeling stressed, acknowledge it. Say it. Speak it out loud. The energy of it can’t continue to consume you when you bring your attention to it.
2) Pay attention to the physical sensations in your body. Where do you feel it? Are you shoulders rising toward your ears? Is your upper back tight? Is your jaw clenched? Are you grinding your teeth or squeezing your hands? Is your chest tight? Do you feel like you have a sinking, swirling, panic-inducing feeling inside of your chest? Can you feel yourself breathing? Just note it. Pay attention. As you pay attention to this, you’re beginning to redirect your focus—which gives you the ability to consciously decide how to move through it.
3) Breathe deeper. No matter what, throughout everything, focus on taking deeper inhales and exhales. This will calm you.
4) Search your mind for the trigger. Do you know why you feel stressed? Can you point to a specific situation, moment, or circumstance that is causing it? If so, note it. Name it. Understanding the trigger immediately helps to shift your perspective, because it allows you to focus on the solution.
5) Figure out what you need in this moment to cope.
a. What will relieve your stress? There are a lot of things you can do, so it’s just about finding what works for you. However, my biggest suggestion is to move your body! Stress has a powerful, palpable, tangible energy to it. It’s chaotic. It’s strong, it’s forceful, and it’s persistent. You need to find a way to begin to physically release that energy.
Can you go for a walk or a run? Or, do jumping jacks, or burpees, or push-ups? If you’re at work and you can’t do any of these things, can you at least walk to the bathroom? Can you stand up and just move a little bit?
This will help. Stress is mental, but its effects are also physical. So, when you can begin to ease the physical effects, you also open up space to ease the mental ones.
b. Develop a plan of action. If you know why you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, what can you do? Think about it. Write it down. Note your trigger, and start to think of ways you can practically move through it. Make a list. If you’re overwhelmed by many things, write down everything you have to do and prioritize.
Also, you can only do one thing at a time. You can only ever do one thing at a time. Even multitasking doesn’t really exist, because you’re actually just switching focus between different tasks—you’re focusing on one task, then another, then another, and then maybe back to that first task. So, repeat to yourself: One thing at a time. And, just start. I literally repeat this as a mantra!
When you can redirect your focus from the problem (the feeling of stress and whatever is causing it) toward the solution (making a plan of action), you come into a more empowering state of mind. You start to feel as if you have control over the situation. You also begin to understand that you’ll figure out a way to get through it.
6) Tell yourself that you’ll figure it out. It’s manageable. You can do it. Repeat this over and over and over. Be kind. Figure out what you need to cope. Look for ways of tackling whatever issue is bothering you. But, know that the best thing you can do is come to a better state of mind. Try to shift your attitude toward proactive, positively aligned action as quickly as possible.
We can’t make effective, informed, positive decisions when we’re in a state of stress, fear, or overwhelm. It just doesn’t work. We’ll simply perpetuate the problem.
So, your first priority needs to be to center yourself.
Don’t judge yourself for your emotions. Don’t guilt yourself for feeling stressed. And, don’t worry about the fact that you’re feeling stressed. Don’t start thinking about all of the ways your day, or life, are going to be ruined because of whatever is going on. That doesn’t help anything, and it just makes you feel worse.
Allow yourself to understand the truth of how you feel, but know that the most important thing is to get grounded, centered, and balanced.
Because you will think more clearly and act more effectively when your decisions are not being clouded by fear, stress, or overwhelm.
What do you do to relieve stress? What are some of your best ways of coping? Leave me a comment and let me know!