I'm often asked if we can ever be without stress in our lives? I want to first answer that with a resounding no, but then break it down even further to ask, can we ever be without distress in our lives? And I think the answer is, it depends. And it depends how serious you are about combating and dealing with the stresses that come your way each day.
There are two forms of stress in our lives. The positive stress, or eustress, and the negative stress, or distress. Distress is what most people think of when discussing stress. It's the kind of stress that can lead to burnout if not put in check. We like eustress. It's what drives us to learn and be our best. For the purposes of this blog post we're going to focus on distress.
So can we ever be without it? I think it all comes down to the way that we choose to approach stress. How do you react to it? Do you become angry, do you snap at people? Or do you get curious and more present to it, where you are able to formulate a constructive response? It's a choice. And I believe we all have the power to make a choice. And for me in my journey with post-traumatic stress, I had to learn that it was a matter of serious health consequences if I didn't learn to take that negative form, that distress and turn it into a positive.
So if you're finding yourself in distress, there are a few excellent techniques you can practice to help manage stress when it comes your way. The first are some simple deep breathing techniques which are highly effective. It's one of the simple gifts we can give ourselves and it's often overlooked. It will help you detach from the stress and gain perspective by slowing down your heart rate and the fight or flight response. There are tons of different deep breathing techniques. You can go on YouTube and find one that resonates with you. Disclaimer...I'm not a medical doctor. I'm sharing one of my personal techniques with you.
Second, when things are really bad - When your belief in yourself is challenged, go back to your faith, either read something, or look at some inspirational quotes or a video. Tap into something that is gonna remind you of your greatness and your purpose - what you were put on this earth to do.
Third, move. Take a walk. Physically remove yourself from the stress. Movement reduces stress hormones and increases your feel good hormones called endorphins. And then with a clear head come back. When you move, you tap into different areas of your brain, the parts that allow you to reason. What if you cannot leave? You're in a meeting or something. You can still detach from the stress and gain perspective. That's number four. Take a moment to breathe. Look at what is going on. What exactly is the source of the stress? Give it a name. Is it a new project, when you already have two other ones going on? Is it a person? When you can detach and identify the source, you can formulate, a proper response.
Fifth, build some courage. Stress causes fear. (fight or flight) The flight part is the fear. When you are faced with fear, you've got two choices. Forget everything and run or face everything and rise. And when you choose to face everything and rise, that's where courage comes from. Courage is not always running into a burning building when others are running out. Courage is a muscle that can be built, just like at the gym. It takes work. What I can promise you is the more you choose courage you'll lessen your fear, and build confidence. So when the next stressful or fearful situation comes up, you'll respond with, "I got this."
So can we ever live without stress? No. We want to increase eustress and limit the distress.
When feeling stress you can (1) Breathe (2) Believe (3) Move (4) Detach (5) Build up courage. So while you'll always have some form of stress, there's a lot that you can do. Make the choice to be the best you. Choose less stress and practice these techniques. Most of all be patient in this journey. It't not about being perfect, it's about choosing to be intentional with your health and your life.