WHAT IS STRESS? The process in which the body, mind, and emotions respond to demands. It usually occurs in seconds!
WHY DEFINE IT? You can’t manage something you don’t understand.
WHAT IS THE STRESS RESPONSE? It is a normal response to the demands and changes of life – both positive and negative! (Ask for examples of “positive” stress and “negative” stress) Examples Positive stress would be getting married, purchasing a new house, having a new baby. Negative stress would be the loss of a loved one, a car accident, those things that happen – BAM! You didn’t even see them coming! Everyday stressors of work life and personal life and balancing the two!) GOOD STRESS – Can be positive – see a rattlesnake out hiking on Telegraph Pass – stress is a good thing – keeps you safe! BAD STRESS – “Anticipatory” stress – where anxiety comes from – if I go to San Diego and go surfing, there may be a shark and it’ll hurt me!
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF STRESS? Stress is experienced emotionally, mentally, physically and behaviorally!
Physically – Headaches, muscle tension, shortness of breath, fatigue, changes in appetite, changes in sleep pattern, upset stomach
Mentally – Trouble thinking clearly, poor concentration, confusion, negative self-talk, forgetfulness, poor judgment, feeling out of control, nervousness, anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, feelings of worthlessness
Behaviorally – Increased anger, aggression, excessive use of alcohol or drugs, inability to start or complete projects, compulsive gambling, sex or internet use, uncontrollable or unpredictable events
SEEPAGE – If we don’t manage our stress, IT WILL MANAGE US! If we continue to push it down again and again, what occurs is I like to call SEEPAGE! It can pop out at very inopportune times, such as an angry outburst, crying for no reason sometimes a panic attack – all set off easily by a little incident, word or situation, out of nowhere! An example of seepage is when you have been shoving things in a closet and shutting the door again and again – open the door when company is standing there and the closet explodes on you!
PROLONGED STRESS – Neuroscience and its research shows OUR BODIES WERE NOT BUILT TO SUSTAIN PROLONGED STRESS – If this has happened, it is BECAUSE WE HAVE ACTUALLY TRAINED OUR BODIES TO REMAIN IN A STATE OF STRESS – THIS BECOMES OUR STATE OF BEING! Then it automatically reacts because THIS IS HOW WE HAVE TRAINED IT TO DO! This then escalates over time into high levels of stress chemicals of adrenalin and cortisol in our body for a long time, which are TOXIC!
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Sleep hygiene – sleep study done recently – 1959: 8-10 hours, 1992: 7-8 hours, 2006: 6-7 hours, NOW: 4-5 hours) WHY? (Ask!!) Addicted to technology!! Phones, pads, computers, keeps the brain active before sleep, blue light disrupts circadian rhythm – so best to put it away awhile before sleep!
Eating well – junk food – eating on the run tends to make our bodies sluggish.
Exercise – improves cognitive function, elevates mood, and strengths learning ability, releases toxic “stress energy” from the body!
Meditate - Be in some kind of meditative state – The brain needs restorative time and rest! Four levels of brain activity (low beta – reading, medium beta – working, high beta – taking a test; alpha – imagination (creating, like when we were kids playing for hours; theta – almost trance-like, light right before you go to sleep, kind of aware, but directed totally inward; delta – sleep. NEED TO BE IN ALPHA OR THETA EACH DAY!)
STRATEGIES AND SKILLS
What are the obvious things you can do to help reduce stress? What have you heard before?
Good amount of sleep!
Deep breathing and relaxation!
Get help when needed – talk to someone!
Some we don’t think of as often:
Changing negative or destructive thought patterns! We’ve all heard of positive thinking, but I like the term “reframing” best – looking at failures as new opportunities, looking at your strengths instead of mistakes, being understanding with yourself, challenge black/white thinking – see the grays, focus on the present, not the past, look for the good or positive in each situation no matter how challenging, looking on the future as an adventure instead of an uncertainty! I used to hike with my dog, Ginger. She wasn't afraid at allo! She focused on the adventure that could be found around each bend of the trail! A favorite author and teacher, Mike Dooley says: Thoughts become things, so choose good ones! Ponder that! If we are focusing on negative thoughts, what things might they become?
Visualization, meditation, prayer, social connections, share your thoughts with someone you trust, each out to someone when you feel overwhelmed, engage in some activities you love to do, or explore some new ones!
Work on your internal stress manager – Ask questions of yourself – In a situation or relationship – Is this a good thing for me? If not, may want to reevaluate it! Or Is this going to be important 5 years from now? More times than not it won’t be, so let go a little bit! Or What can I control in this situation? Most times, it is YOU! That’s all you can control, your choice, your response, your reaction!
FIVE PRINCIPLES OF RESILIENCE WHICH REDUCE STRESS
Predictability – Stress is lower when you can predict the outcome, higher when you don’t know what to expect – so when you can make as many facts known as you can, research, ask, gain information!
Controllability – Stress is lower when you can identify areas you can control – know the difference! Discussed prior. Anyone play sports? Nothing is guaranteed or says it’s SUPPOSED TO SUIT YOUR GAME! Sometimes we have to adjust our game to the “field,” the people, the situation!
Relationships – Neuroscience shows our brains are WIRED FOR CONNECTION WITH OTHERS – if we don’’t our mind decays and our brain atrophies! Harvard study (TED Talks) – started in 1938 with 724 men – carried out for 75 years! Interviewed all these men, their children, spouses – came from all walks of life, some became homeless, some high government officials including a president – medical studies, brain scans, blood tests, saw home and work environments – THE THING THAT CONTRIBUTED MOST TO OVERALL FULFILLING LIFE AND HAPPINESS WAS RELATIONSHIPS!
Trust – Stress is lower when you can trust the people in your life have your best interests at heart! Be predictable and consistent in relationships, and likewise, choose others who are trustworthy and consistent!
Meaning – Stress is lower when you believe what you are doing is meaningful and has purpose! You are serving our country and protecting our people – that is the greatest meaning! Remind yourself why you are doing this in the first place!
Marla Joy Hoffman