Originally published April 2013
There is a lot of buzz about stress in our society today, and hopefully we are all aware of the myriad ways in which chronic stress can impact our health. Yet, our culture gives us mixed messages about stress. On one hand, we are inundated with stress-busting tips and ideas. On the other, we are indoctrinated with the notion that in order to BE more, we have to DO more. This conflict can make it difficult to get in touch with the reality of how much we are affected by stress, and our willingness to let it go.
For some of us, stress is in our forefront. We are aware how it feels in our bodies and minds, and the effect that it has on our lives. For others, stress may be so constant that it has become our baseline; the feeling of it is so ingrained that it seems normal and natural. It might even feel like stress is necessary for our survival – that without it, nothing will happen. In order to assess how much of a problem stress is for us, we first need to take an honest look at where we are. The following tips can help you raise your personal stress awareness, and then take appropriate action to reduce it:
· Check in with your body/mind. A wristwatch alarm or smartphone app such as “Mindfulness Bell” can be set to go off at random intervals throughout the day. Use the bell as a prompt to catch yourself - stop what you are doing, and notice in a nonjudgmental way what is happening internally. Are you clenching your jaw, tensing your shoulders, etc.? Are you being overly critical of, or scaring yourself with anxiety provoking thoughts?
· Explore your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs around stress and its repercussions. How does it affect you? Is that ok with you? Do you feel that it is required in order to accomplish everything that needs to get done? What would it be like to slow down or to let some of it go? Liberating? Scary?
· What are your beliefs around doing vs. being? Are you using your activities to define yourself or to prove that you are good, smart, lovable, etc.? Could you be good, smart, lovable, etc. without them?