Has stress robbed you of fun you could have with your children, colleagues, friends or partner?
If so you may have slipped into increasing stress problems spoken of at centers for disease control and prevention which reports a shocking number of people who fall into frequent stress fiascos. Few disagree that stress can lead to overeating, depression, and many common illnesses. Toxic cortisol dangers from stress also rub off on people close to us at home or work. We now know more about stress that locks in dangerous levels of cortisol and we see its force as too potent to simply wish away. Stress is replaced with its opposite, an aha chemical, by choices we make and stress-free actions we initiate. That’s how brains work to keep us healthy enough to overcome disadvantages and help others do the same.
Simply stated, What would transform your stress into its opposite, or serotonin chemical for more wellbeing that you and others around you can see evident in your day?
The two-footed questions below are designed to help transform stress into a force for delight in your day?
1). If stress came as ingredients in a jug of bleach would we drink it anyway?
In some ways stress is as toxic as drinking bleach except that it takes bleach less time to reduce our calm into crisis and calamity. I’ve heard it excused as “good stress” and even bragged about by graduate students who study all night before exams, or young single parents with low-paying jobs who also try to be perfect parents. However, this belief is not only false, but can be counterproductive. When we see stress as toxic to the body and mind as bleach is to our stomachs, only then are we mentally prepared to replace this silent killer with a heaping intake of serotonin delight that sustains mental health. It starts with a reality check.
2). What specifically do roots of stress look like in your day lie?
Stress often presents as an ambiguous or underlying anxiety, fear, or overwhelming discontent. However, if we look closer we tend to see its roots more specifically located in an unhealthy relationship that pulls us down, an ill-fitted job we hate, lack of support from family and friends, or insufficient funds to pay for the lifestyle we live. The way out of stress is highly dependent on our ability to identify its existence and see specific roots. Any gardener knows that weeds simply grow back unless their roots are pulled out. Removing stress, calls for our unique abilities to spot and replace toxic roots of weeds, with healthier seeds planted in their stead for the kind of flowers and fauna we prefer.
3). What lies opposite a stressful situation identified, that could create curiosity and delight?
Once we identify a particular stressful situation, we have set the stage for its opposite in the form of delight and calm. It’s not enough to wish stress would disappear however. Just as worry and anxiety cannot yield a life well-lived, fear or anxiety also pull us in toxic and destructive directions. Actions that focus on uplifting responses to stressful situations, however, can create curiosity for new wonders we’d like others to see in us. For instance, we may look for support in a mentor, if we lack it in a friend. Or, we might imagine an adventure away, and then plan an affordable venture for our next break at work. Gratitude has often been my own pathway past parts of my life that slip into stress. I simply list everything that makes me thankful in a day. Even the smallest blessings such as a smile from a fellow worker can improve moods and shift our focus into curiosity about new possibilities to be thankful for in coming days.
4). What would it take to embrace personal kindness and side-step self-blame?
Our enormous mental capability fully equips us to act kinder to ourselves in ways that let go of worry, see past others shortcomings and even laugh at personal past mistakes. Mindfulness, or the practice of slowing down to enjoy every part of our day, will replace fearful anticipation of the worst situations ahead. While it’s true that none of us can escape all stressful situations, it’s also true that we can respond to stress with an inner calm that mindfulness awakens. We see this inner capability alive most in peacemakers who offer solutions when conflict arises, in givers who find resources when others fall into need, and in faithful friends who stand with peers when their chips are down. And while mindfulness often extends serotonin to others, it starts with replacing inner stress with a step or two toward delight and appreciation for ourselves. It may mean we laugh at self, or forgive a friend, but it replaces stressful toxins for serotonin and stress-free options.
5). How does inner contentment offer us tools to tackle the next stressful situation?
Stress takes its biggest toll on those who focus solely on problems. Its existence prompts anxiety to linger while blinding us to possibilities beyond toxic tentacles that reach into our minds like an octopus reaches to consume its prey. While overwhelming problems may seem to make stress practically impossible to avoid, our brains offer extravagant tools to keep cortisol driven toxins under control. First, we can help ourselves by sleeping long enough to rewire for new possibilities. We can also eat whole foods and avoid fats and sugars that drain our ability to see better options when stress appears to be inevitable. We can exercise by walking, playing sports or taking stairs rather than an elevator to replenish oxygen the brain needs to keep us engaged in non-stressful alternatives. Finally we can learn how to tame our brain’s amygdala from its hot mess of stressful responses. Simply act from calmer moods until we build habits that store for healthy responses. Each time we reflect, and then offer a kinder response for instance, we grow mental tools to propose and lead stress-free possibilities going forward.
Most agree that stressful situations are here to stay, yet far fewer seem aware of our enormous capability to act in stress-free ways. We mentally store mindful responses to calamity for instance, in ways that build aha-building-tools. Ready to transform a frustrating situation you face today into a fun-filled adventure you can live with?
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Created by Ellen Weber, Brain Based Tasks for Growth Mindset