I got a message from an old friend not long ago. In this message was unsolicited advice, no, it was a warning, about how I should conduct myself in a pandemic. I read it and thought to myself, “What the heck! I didn’t ask for this!” And I was pissed. It created unwanted stress in my morning because that isn’t where I wanted my thoughts and attention to go. It really bummed me out. Then I recognized I got hooked into my own story and backed away from my internal swirl.
This message got me thinking about stress and my ability to manage it.
Stress. We hear about it, we talk about it, it’s even in the news. It’s so common, especially in a pandemic. Stress can be obvious like an accident. It can also be subtle, like juggling priorities during the day, making it difficult to know when it’s present and how to manage it.
So… what is stress? Plainly stated, its pressure applied in a physical, mental, or emotional way. Stress isn’t necessarily bad. You can grow stronger and more resilient when managed in a healthy way. But if not managed, if you live with chronic stress, it can do harm.
Where does most of our stress come from? I think Mark Twain nailed it with this quote-
“I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”
Yup, not all of it happened because it was in his mind. (head explodes… right?!)
Stress is sort of a good news/bad news thing.
Terrible things do happen in our lives like losing a loved one, getting sick, or losing a job. Life can throw some real doozies at us. And it sucks! Stress is part of the human package.
The mind has a lot to say about all of that. The mind is busy creating stories, connecting dots, and doing an excellent job of protecting you from all sorts of hurts.
The mind makes stuff up (MSU) to ease the pain and discomfort of the suck.
I call this MSUing. And here’s the rub, it doesn’t help reduce stress, it makes it worse.
Here’s the good news…
We have the ability to catch the mind when it starts to MSU. If we can catch ourselves in the act and redirect our attention to physical sensations in the body, we can reduce some of the stress in our lives.
Take a moment to reflect on a couple questions:
Have you ever told yourself a story to justify an action or something you said?
Have you ever waited to hear back from someone, didn’t get the response when you thought you should have, and made-up stories about what they think or feel about you?
Fun Fact: We all do this. It’s normal and we can do better. Why do better? It lowers stress.
One final question – Did you notice how your body felt when you MSUed?
I’m not saying to not get mad or sad or angry or any of the array of emotions we can feel. It’s about not getting stuck in those places when we MSU. How do you get unstuck?
4 easy steps to interrupt MSUing:
Notice when it happens (emotional activation, sensations in the body, and internal dialogue)
Take a few deep breaths
Feel any points of contact your body has with the ground, in the car, or furniture
Inhale at a four count, and exhale at a six count. Do this three times
This four-step practice brings your nervous system online for responding rather than reacting. It supports healthy function in your gut and organs. It helps you slow down and think clearly. It improve s relationships. Who doesn’t want that?
Want more to practice?
Join me for a yoga class every Monday evening at 5:30pm Mountain time starting February 7th online or in person. I work with these and other practices to reduce stress and increase resiliency during challenging times.
I’d love to see you!