Movement Three: Stress Regulation
Stress is the body’s reaction to perceived dangers, and it causes a whole cascade of physiological events in the body. Exposure to some level of stress is a given for most people, but not everyone reacts equally to those stressors. Not everyone is under equal stress, of course, and this movement in no way is meant to imply that it is just a choice to be stressed. Some in our society are under oppressive levels of stress, and that is something we all should work to shine the light of justice upon.
But, stress is also a reaction to outside circumstance, and you can improve your stress regulation through a variety of actions, all of which will help you be more resilient and live a sustainable life. This third movement asks you to look at the way you cope with stress in your life and move toward healthier habits.
The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. William James
Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there’. Eckhart Tolle
In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers. Fred Rogers
You can’t always control what goes on outside, but you can always control what goes on inside. Wayne Dyer
Life is 10 percent what you experience and 90 percent how you respond to it. – Dorothy M Neddermeyer
You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it. – Maya Angelou
Exercise One: Try Meditation
There is a story about a spiritual teacher who told his students to meditate for an hour a day. He was asked “what if we don’t have time?” and his answer was in that case to meditate for two hours a day. The truth is, the busier and more stressed you are the more you could benefit from intentionally slowing down. But it doesn’t have to be for hours!
If you have a form of meditation you do already, make a commitment to prioritize that practice in your life. If you have never meditated, it’s super easy! You can follow the simple directions below, try a meditation app, or follow a youtube video like this one: https://youtu.be/z6X5oEIg6Ak
- Sit in a comfortable way, with your feet flat on the ground and your back fairly straight. Lay your hands in your lap or on your knees.
- Lower your gaze, or focus on one object, or close your eyes.
- Take a deep breath in, focusing on that breath. Hold it for a count of two, and then exhale long and deep, holding your exhale for a count of two.
- Continue focusing on the breath, for a cycle of 30 breathes.
- That’s it! Just focus on your breath. If other thoughts arise, just let them drift away and return your thoughts to your breath.
Exercise Two: Create Your Own God/Higher Power Box
You can read more about the God Box here: TheGodBoxProject.com | The God Box book by author Mary Lou Quinlan
It’s a simple concept. Just get yourself a box of some kind, preferably with a lid. Any sort of box will do, but you can also decorate and beautify your box.
Then, whenever you have something that feels like it’s too heavy for you to carry, write a little note and put it in your God Box. In essence, these are the things that you are asking for a higher power to help you with.
Try it for yourself! You just may find that it helps you let go rather than stress.
Exercise Three: Dancing With Yourself
Exercise and movement of any kind help with anxiety and depression, but dance is an especially great way to metabolize stress out of your body. You don’t have to be a good dancer, but just try it. Put on some music that you like, and just dance. Notice how it makes you feel. Have a little dance party by yourself in the kitchen. Have fun. Shake it off.
Exercise Four: Assess Your Use of Substances
One common, but often unhealthy, coping mechanism for stress is the use of substances such as alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, and other drugs. Substances can numb and ease the stress and anxiety, so their use is understandable, but can quickly get out of control.
This week, notice how much you drink, smoke, or imbibe. If it feels like it’s too much, challenge yourself to cut back. If that doesn’t feel like something you can do, seek help. Join a 12 step program, talk to your doctor, talk to your therapist, or talk to a friend. You can do this. You can be in charge of how you respond to stress.
Exercise Five: Limit the News
Yes, you want to stay informed about what matters and what’s going on in the world. However, the 24/7 news cycle doesn’t so much inform as it inflames. Turn it off. Decide on a strategy for getting the news, and seek out sources you trust. Seek out more in-depth reporting and take in less TV news and pundit shows. Your adrenal system may end up thanking you.
How Stress Effects Your Body: https://youtu.be/v-t1Z5-oPtU
How to Make Stress Your Friend: https://youtu.be/RcGyVTAoXEU
The Age of Overwhelm: Strategies for the Long Haul by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky
- Think of a time you were under a great deal of stress, but you succeeded or made it through anyway. How did that feel? What were your healthy coping mechanisms?
- What is your stress go-to (food, booze, etc)? What would be a healthier alternative?
- How much news and media do you consume regularly? How does the media you consume end up making you feel? What strategies might help you stay informed but also non-stressed?
- Our culture has some very unhealthy messages around stress. Do you ever feel that it’s a badge of honor to be overworked and over stressed? How do those unhealthy messages affect you?
- Where can you give yourself more space for calm and mindfulness in your life? What would you have to let go of to create a less stressful life?
- How much do you have control over the level of stress in your life, and what can’t you control? Can you change the way you respond to what you don’t control?
Next: Movement Four