Your Brain Will Keep Releasing Stress Chemicals Until One of These Happens
Stress is meant to be a warning light on your personal dashboard of well-being. It is your body’s way of telling you that there is a discrepancy between where you are and where you intend to be. Your mind is set on wanting to be “there” while your body is “here.” Your brain wants to bridge this gap. To get ready for action, it produces the chemicals and sensations that you associate with stress. Amidst a host of other feelings, your heart beats faster, your breathing quickens, and your palms get sweaty.
In order for your body to get back into a state of equilibrium, one of two things must happen:
You must either 1) take action in the direction of your intention or 2) change your thoughts about your current situation.
If you do not do either of these, the chemicals that are released during the stress response — cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine — remain in your blood stream. Their presence weakens your immune system as they signal that now is not the time for healing — it is time to take action.
If the fight-or-flight response is not utilized to take action, these chemicals turn toxic as they drain the body’s energy from other important survival tasks.
When the warning light of stress comes on, go a little deeper to see which response is appropriate to get your engine of well-being running again. Use these 3 tips to figure out the next steps you should — or shouldn’t take in order to relieve that anxious feeling.
1. IDENTIFY YOUR MAIN SOURCE OF FEAR
First, you must be able to clearly articulate what exactly you are worried about and why. Identifying a fear allows you to know that you are not it. It creates a space from which you can take control. When you understand that you are the one who is aware of your fear (and thus can override it), the tension in your brain is reduced significantly.
How immediate is the threat that is causing you the most angst? On a scale of 1–10, how severe is the threat — could it literally cause the end of your physical existence or is it just a discomfort based on unmet expectations? Are you worried about not having a roof over your head tonight or are you physically safe at this moment? Are you worried about not being compensated enough for your skills in the future, leading to a shortage of savings? Are you worried about not having enough self-discipline to stick to an exercise regime and nourish your body, leading to less than optimal health?
2. LIST 3 ACTIONS THAT COULD AVOID THE WORST
Next, get your brain thinking about the actions that you know could take today to address the root cause of the stress you’re feeling. Whatever your main concern is, list at least 3 actions you could take right now to ensure that the worst-case scenario doesn’t happen.
Worried about your health? How could you take better care of yourself today — starting with your next meal? Worried about your finances? How can you improve your skills or efficiency starting today — any courses you could take or books you could read? Worried about the fear of failure if you pursue your grand idea? Can you put together a rough plan today and be ok with adjusting along the way, knowing there will be things you will have to learn as you go?
What habits would you have to change or strengthen to improve the chances of the best-scenario happening?
Your brain hates unresolved questions. Put it at ease by letting it know you have a plan and by taking steps in that direction.
3. CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS
After reviewing the first two steps, if there is NO action you can identify right now, the only other thing you can do to allow the chemicals of stress to flush out is: change your mind.
Make peace with how things are. If you can’t control it, worrying about it is not going to help either. Acceptance is the gateway to change. Challenge yourself to change your perspective on the situation. Can you see the positive that might come out of this in the future? Can you think of similar events that have happened in the past and how you dealt with them then?
After everything you’ve been through, you are still here.
You are still alive and breathing, even after all the times you thought you things couldn’t get any worse. This too shall pass. In the meantime, life’s abundance is waiting for you to notice it — in the next smile from a stranger, the next wagging of your puppy’s tail, or the next juicy orange that blossomed for you.
Use your mental energy to focus on the good that is already present in your life. Think about all of the things that you CAN do and that you CAN control. Do something creative that will brighten your mood and make you feel empowered.
Express yourself creatively through art, cooking, singing, dancing, or whatever hobby makes you feel strong and capable.
Reach out to a loved one just to say hi and connect.
Start or continue working on a project that you know will reward you in the long-run.
Once you reconnect with your own strength and joy, you will be in a much better place to come up with creative solutions to many of life’s issues. And as a bonus, your body will thank you for freeing it from the toxic chemicals of stress.
“Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create.” — Roy Bennett