A Google search for “stress” yields 933,000,000 result. This blog will save you from a lot of reading that will probably be stressful!
According to the Center for BrainHealth, part of The University of Texas at Dallas‘ School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, managing stress is critical to brain health. And we all want healthy brains that age slowly! Any stress – chronic or acute – “can be detrimental to your health – physically and mentally. In fact, chronic stress can impair thinking, shrink the brain’s memory center and accelerate aging.” YEOW!
This applies to how we connect to ourselves, how we interact with people we love – our partner, family and friends – and with people at work. If you want to be a leader in your work and your life, you must be aware of what you are saying, your emotions, and how you are reacting in each moment. Remember what you practice grows strong, so being nice at work and stressed at home, or the reverse, means you are still practicing being stressed!
Our Language Matters. Our Words Matter.
Did you ever learn the rhyme “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.”?
We do let the words people say to us, or we say to ourselves, impact us. When someone calls your stupid or you say it to yourself, after a while you believe it. When something is hard for you, instead of figuring out how to do it, you might just say to yourself “You are stupid.” Words matter. Words do hurt. When you say that words do not hurt you, you are denying the feelings and that is a recipe for suffering and disconnecting from yourself and others.
Try this experiment: Think of a typical, stressful situation for you.
- Say and act out the conversations you have out loud or to yourself. Here’s an example of several things you might say to yourself: “I can’t do this. This is so hard.”; “I hate this.”; ” Why are they like this?”; “Why do I have to do this?”; “Why can’t I do this? What’s wrong with me?” If you say these statements with feeling and mean it when you say it (just pretend you are an actor), notice how your body reacts. My right hand is in a fist and my shoulders are tense and I feel a lot of pent-up energy. What about you?
- Now, say while smiling: “Wow, this is easy. I am figuring it out now. No problem. I can do this. Everything is working out perfectly.” If you say this and similar statements with an optimistic, confident, or peaceful feeling, notice how your body reacts now.
Can you feel a difference between the two? Aaaahhhh. I feel the tension leaving my body (and I just yawned) as I say, “Everything is working out perfectly.”
When we are stressed out, we say things to others or ourselves that often increases our stress and hurt others. Our words can cause us to spiral out of control in stressful situations or help calm us down.
Here are some practical things you can do in a few minutes that can help calm you down throughout the day, think more clearly and take care of your big, beautiful brain and your beautiful relationships. Stress is contagious and so is confidence, happiness, optimism, etc. These strategies are about making our words support, calm and uplift us.
Updating during the COVID pandemic, after being home for 3 1/2 months, and talking everyday with others, I feel these are even more important practices. These practices are daily not occasional just when we need it. Our resilience is diminished in times of stress unless we are intentionally focusing on releasing the stress as we observe and feel it!
1. Be Grateful.
Focus on what you have not on what you don’t have or have but don’t want. Try it now. Think of something you complain about. How do you feel? Cranky? Upset? Some other negative emotion? Now think of something you can be grateful for about the situation – your or someone got hurt but didn’t die, your car battery died but you were close to home not on a road trip. You are frustrated by all the technology you are having to learn to do your job. We get upset when things don’t go our way but it’s crazy to think we can control everything. Trying to control others is crazy-making and doesn’t work in the long run (or even in the short-run).
Now here’s the trick. To really BE grateful you must FEEL THE GRATITUDE! Thinking “I’m grateful” is nice but the more intense emotion changes your brain by laying new habits of gratitude instead of complaining or worrying. Frustrated about your job. Feel the gratitude wash over you and fill your heart – you have a job, you like the people you work with, you have a high learning curve and surely you are warding off Alzheimer’s my challenging yourself, you’re so proud of what you have accomplished. And gratitude is powerful when what you are grateful for is something you want in the future. You see, your brain doesn’t know that when you are grateful for something that you haven’t achieved, such as being an international best-seller or cured from a disease you have, that it hasn’t happened. If you create the gratitude as if it has already happened, you are happy and take different actions that if you are struggling to do.
2. Stop Complaining
The more you complain or are around others who complain, the more you are likely to complain. Complaining has significant risks to your health and the health of those around you. It triggers the stress hormone, cortisol, which gets you ready for fight or flight. Great for the prehistoric man who needs the cortisol to run from the bear. Unlike us now, if he was lucky enough to escape, he’d calm after he was safely in his cave. We rarely calm down – we go from one to another – getting your kids out the door, driving to work, realizing your watch is 5 minutes late, doing a new task at work you are unsure about, dealing with difficult customers or clients, rushing to buy groceries for dinner, driving home in rush-hour traffic, fixing dinner quickly, burning dinner, doing dishes, working on your taxes, trying to find your favorite earring that is missing. (Get the picture? There’s no safety in the cave anymore.)
Complaining doesn’t work. If complaining worked at getting what we want, we’d be so amazingly happy – but it doesn’t. Complaining keeps you stuck on what you do not want.
3. Be Kind
When you are making an effort to change, you need to be super kind to yourself. It takes courage to change. Give yourself a pat on the back. If you beat yourself up, you make it harder for yourself. Words matter so use words of kindness to yourself. And if you are supporting other people to make changes, then be kind to them, too. (Just like you, they beat themselves up, so they don’t need to hear it from you.) You can ask yourself or others, what do you need? Then do your best to provide it. Listen to or sing a song that inspires you. Put on some music and dance for 3 (or more) minutes. Call a friend, and connect and feel the support. Do some mindful breathing or one of the other suggestions for dealing with stress in the blog Stress is Optional – Strategies for Happier Family, Work and Life.
Cortisol is not good for us when we are in constant stress driving in traffic, strategizing to keep your budget at work from being cut, worrying about your kids or your parents or both, trying to save money for emergencies, praying your old car will last.
4. Practice Self-Awareness and Intentionally Observe What You Say
These are three of the top practices my clients work on with me. Before we can attract love or reconnect or deepen the love with have with our partner, we have to be self-aware. Awareness requires observing how we show up in the world, and a big part of that is what we are saying to ourselves and others. These three practices have us tune in to what we are saying and the world that we create through our words.
If you do these practices consistently, over time, your experience of life would radically improve. I know that because it happened to me.
How could practicing observing what you say, expressing gratitude (and experiencing it), stopping complaining or being kind to yourself support you in your journey to lasting love. Please comment below or contact me. I’d love to hear from you.
If you would like to radically improve your experience of life and your relationships, then I invite you to fill out apply to work with me.