You’re cut off while driving. Your children erupt into a screaming fight. Or you’re five minutes away from an interview for the job of your dreams and your composure evaporates in a rush of anxiety. When life delivers adversity, stress is the common response. Your body kicks into action, preparing for a fight. The adrenal glands pump out adrenaline and noradrenaline — hormones that increase the heart rate, quicken breathing, raise blood pressure, and tense muscles. You’re ready to take on the perceived threat to your safety or well-being.
Of course, in reality we rarely run from foes or physically challenge them. As a result, we don’t burn off these powerful hormones, leaving them to “course through our bloodstream,” explains Dr. Herbert Benson, a pioneer in stress research at Harvard Medical School’s Mind/Body Medical Institute. In the short term, a pounding heart and sweaty palms can exacerbate the stressful emotions you’re already feeling. Left unchecked, this chemical mix sets you up for an array of physical and emotional problems, says Benson, including anxiety, depression, and intensified PMS and menopause symptoms.
The next time you are facing a stressful situation, stop yourself from spiraling out of control and bring yourself back to center.
Here is one exercise:
During a stressful event, your thoughts can intensify the storm inside of you. For example, say you’re about to give an important presentation to a large audience. You might find yourself worrying that you’ll get the facts wrong. This kind of worst-case-scenario thinking can increase the rush of stress hormones, worsening your prespeech jitters.
A technique known as “thought-stopping” can help you halt these negative, obsessive thoughts, says Dr. Kenneth Ruggiero, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. The first step, he says, is to literally call a halt to this train of thought. If you’re alone, say the word “Stop!” out loud. If you’re around others, think it to yourself. Some people even find it useful to pinch themselves to disrupt those stressful thoughts, says Ruggiero. “This gives you a moment of distraction,” he says, “and an opportunity to change your focus.”
Next, choose a positive thought on which you’ll focus instead, such as “I’ve given presentations before, and they went well” or “I know this material better than anyone in the audience.” In doing so, says Ruggiero, you swap a negative, stress-inducing thought for a positive one.
adapted from Body + Soul Magazine, 2010 by Erin O’Donnell
Walnut Wood Meditation Timers with Chime
Now & Zen – The Zen Alarm Clock Store Headquarters
1638 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80302