Breaking the Stress Habit
“Harmful habits can be broken. You can break a bad habit of thought, just as you can break a bad habit of action. And you can develop new habits that are more helpful and healthful for you. ”
— Dr. Aruthur Freeman and Rose Dewolf
Without awareness, it is all too easy to fall into habits that heighten your stress arousal and ultimately exhaust your physical, emotional and mental resources. Do not despair, there is an alternative, and it is never too late to start; however, there is no time like the present! By recognizing the signs that you are over extended or stuck on the proverbial gerbil wheel – mindlessly running without an end in sight – you can apply these six suggestions to reclaim your well-being:
- Turn off your electronic devices when they are not required. Being available 24×7 is an unrealistic expectation and is sure to drain your internal resources. Just because you have the technology doesn’t mean that you need to be using it indiscriminately; otherwise, you may find yourself at the end of an electronic leash. Consciously choose times when you are available to others and times when you are not.
- Carve out 10-30 minutes each day to do nothing but sit in the present moment. Bring your awareness to your breath or another aspect of your moment-to-moment experience (sound, sensation, etc.) provides you with the opportunity to let your mind settle. Doing so allows you to see your moment-to-moment life more clearly so that you can make better choices for yourself rather than getting caught in reactive patterns.
- Say “No” to engagements or commitments you do not really choose to participate in or when you just don’t have the energy to do so. Make sure to reserve energy to take care of yourself. Selectively saying “No” is not selfish; instead, by preventing yourself from becoming depleted you may have the resources to be useful when you do engage.
- Connect with nature on occasion. Being in natural settings can provide a sense of renewal that enables you to reset yourself back into a balanced state.
- Pet an animal or play with a young child. Petting an animal has been shown to decrease blood pressure. In addition, domesticated animals provide unconditional acceptance that is rare to experience from other people. Similarly, engaging with young children can be very freeing since they live in the present moment and may help to bring you there, too.
- When you find yourself in states of heightened stress, anxiety, or anger, stop for a moment to take several deep breaths. The easiest way to do this is to exhale completely. Once all of the breath has exited your body, allow the next inhalation to enter naturally, from your abdomen. Repeat this three times in a row. Taking a few deep breaths will bring your mind and body out of stress arousal, back towards a balanced state.
“Cultivate only the habits that you are willing should master you”
— Elbert Hubbard