Without diving straight in and using the C-word (and I think we all know what C word I’m referring to!) it’s worth taking a moment to remind ourselves that we are still living in a time of profound and ongoing stress. The word ‘stress’ is thrown around a lot which can lead to a misunderstanding of how we define it.
Stress can cause an absolute plethora of ailments, ranging from mild to debilitating. And one of the most important things to note about stress is that when it is ongoing it becomes ‘chronic’. This is when it can create physiological effects on the body. If the autonomic nervous system does not have a chance to reset and is constantly dominated by the sympathetic (the fight/flight/freeze response) then the body begins to prioritise based on what it sees as an ongoing threat and functions to keep us healthy are put on the back burner.
If we can notice when our stress levels feel high and take a moment to reset then we will be helping the overall problem and counteracting the chronic stress we are all under at the moment. 💜
5 minute stress reset.
1. Awareness – notice your body’s cues that you may be in a heightened state (my chest feels tight and I’m clenching my jaw, my body is trying to communicate)
2. Accept and label – after you’ve noticed the physical presence of stress, accept that it is there and give it a name (I can accept that my body is telling me to stop and listen. This is anxiety/stress)
3. Self-compassion – this is an important step as many of us don’t allow uncomfortable states to exist within us for very long. Allow yourself whatever you’re feeling with the same level of kindness and compassion you’d allow your best friend.
4. Stay with curiosity – stay with the feelings and sensations for a few moments and allow yourself to be curious (I notice that my chest is feeling tight and my breathing is shallow, I wonder what I might need at this moment)
5. And breathe – you’ve noticed that your nervous system needs help to reset and over-thinking and avoiding the sensations will only intensify it. The answer is to use a practical method to actively switch on your relaxation response. An extended exhale will do that for you. Breathe in, to the count of 4, hold just for a moment and then exhale to the count of 8. Repeat as many times as you can manage or until you start to notice the body letting go of the stress.