Read Time: 9 Minutes
It’s everywhere these days.
We can’t seem to escape it.
No matter what, it seems we are always connected to it.
How did things get to this point?
Most of us in today’s modern World are seemingly living in a constant battle with stress responses.
Take this typical day for example.
Alarm goes off.
Get the kids out the door.
Commute to work.
Get the kids to bed.
Try and get to sleep only to then do it all over again.
Sounds stressful doesn’t it?
Well, here’s the thing…
This scenario is actually from approximately 12 years ago before cell phones took over our lives. Now with all of those points above, you can add in phone calls, text messages, personal emails, social media notifications, etc.
Wow things have drastically changed to say the least.
Before we go any further, let’s get things ironed out here a little bit. Not all stress is negative or DIS STRESS. Stress overall is an important human process that includes both POSITIVE & NEGATIVE factors within our lives. Examples of positive stress are typically related to things that allow us to grow, challenge ourselves and to change for the better.
What are some examples of this form of stress?
Personal goals, work / life accomplishments, health related improvements etc. All of these factors take work and accepting the challenge to overcome them.
Remember learning to walk?
Riding a bike for the first time?
Graduating High School?
All probably pretty stressful hurdles to overcome, but you also wouldn’t be where you are today without overcoming these stressors.
For the purpose of this article we are going to stick with the negative forms of stress. This is the stress we want to help you remove from your life.
Here are some strategies to help you navigate your life with reduced stress.
1) Keep Your Phone on Do Not Disturb (DND)
This is absolutely crucial. Every time one of those notifications alerts you: “DING” no matter what you’re doing, it causes a release of dopamine in the brain.
Dopamine is a form of neurotransmitter that:
Plays a major role in the motivational component of reward-motivated behaviour (Wikipedia). Essentially any form of addiction (drugs, substances or behaviour) can be traced back to this chemical release in the brain.
Kick starts adrenalin. This is a long built in response that is programmed for us to be ready to attack or run away from a threat. The easy way to remember this is that this gets us ready to FIGHT or FLIGHT, as our sympathetic nervous system goes on high alert. (Livestrong)
Throughout the course of our day, in the background of our minds this is happening over and over again.
Think of this for a minute.
From the time our alarm goes off in the morning, to the time we try to go to sleep, we are being bombarded with notifications. It is no wonder why the majority of us feel completely exhausted at the end of our day. Our nervous system has been working overtime all day long in a vicious feedback loop of addiction & adrenalin. Our nervous system can’t differentiate between notifications from our friends or from us running away from a Lion. The system sees it as the same stressor and is running off the same programming!
By placing our phones on DND we can control when we submit ourselves to these stressors and not be at their mercy throughout the course of the day. This can save us a significant reduction in negative stress and its response throughout the day.
2) Find Some Time to Breathe.
Breathing is controlled by our body through our autonomic nervous system. This means that it operates without us having to consciously control it. It’s autonomic or automatic. This is a great built-in feature that we have. While this is an automatic process, we can intervene at any point in time and take direct control of our breath and thus our physiology.
As mentioned in our last point, it is clear that there is a strong correlation between our nervous system running on overdrive and large percentages of the population who can’t sleep at night. This is literally because our body has not come down out of that adrenalin-controlled state! Our body still thinks we are fighting in traffic, responding to notifications, or completing tasks at work. If we use the threat analogy as mentioned earlier, the nervous system is still ready for the lion to attack us again. No wonder our minds are racing 100mph when most of us try and go to sleep.
The good news is that we can step in and change this state when needed. There are numerous excellent courses, classes and breathwork practices out there now that teach this very principle. Yoga and Martial Arts are 2 very large practices that have instilled breath work for thousands of years. If something has been around for thousands of years, it is probably pretty important. Somewhere along the way we forgot about this, or ignored it.
We recommend going into your app store and downloading The Breathing App. This in part was created by Deepak Chopra and is a great tool that allows us some dedicated time to focus on our breath. This doesn’t require a lot of time to commitment.
We would recommend:
Starting with 2 minutes of total time.
Utilizing the 4:6 ratio (4 second inhale, 6 second exhale).
Focus on nasal breathing for both your inhale & exhale.
Allowing yourself 2 minutes of focused conscious control in this area will help your nervous system adjust from sympathetic -fight or flight, to parasympathetic -rest & digest. This is the state in which more of us need to get to at the end of a busy day. This is where our body can relax and perform all of its necessary work to repair and recover. We are no longer under attack.
3) Be Mindful of Your State
Mindfulness. We’re sure you have heard of that at some point recently. What exactly does it refer to? Merriam-Webster defines mindfulness as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”
This is a pretty good definition with lots of information that can be unpacked. Basically, mindfulness is about us noticing when we have these thoughts, emotions or experiences that would typically cause us stress or to react negatively.
We can go right back to the first paragraph of this article and from the time the alarm clock goes off. What happens?
What are some of the first thoughts that go through your mind? Positive or Negative?
What about on your commute?
I am sure each and every one of us has said something very negative and judgemental in traffic! There is a good book from Esther Hicks that gives a great example with how to deal with scenarios like this. Mindfulness, or being mindful essentially comes from switching your awareness from negativity to appreciation when any of those thoughts happen.
Let’s give an example borrowed in part from Esther.
Say you’re at the grocery store and the checkout lines are rammed. It’s 6:00pm and you still have to get home and make dinner. People and shopping carts are everywhere. Instead of getting frustrated and spiraling into negative angry thought patterns, you can be mindful of these thoughts and shift to appreciation.
You may think:
I like how the cashier is friendly and smiling.
I love how I am easily able to access nutritious food for my family.
I saved some money today.
I appreciate how that mother is paying attention to her child.
I am looking forward to making a nice meal.
My day is going really well.
Simple thoughts like this, or being mindful throughout our day can instantly change our state.
Now more than ever, with all of these stress responses around, it is crucial that we step in and take control of our nervous system’s response at any point in time.
As mentioned in #2 with the breathing strategy, we don’t have to be unconscious to what our nervous system is doing. We can intervene at any point in time. We have the ultimate control of everything we respond to. We just need to know and understand that we have the skills and tools to do so.
Start to implement one or all of these strategies today after reading this article.
We know it will make a huge impact in reducing the stress of your life.
We hope that you share this with someone close to you.
Imagine what could happen if we all found these tools to take control of how we react and deal with the stress that occurs in our daily lives?
Pass it on.