Another word for ‘Stress’ would be ‘Challenges and demands placed on your system’, as this word is an umbrella term covering a variety of demanding forces which are subjective and objective, from fears, memories of trauma, cultural expectations, to environmental toxins, difficult people, to wars.
In ideal living conditions, there is a harmony between challenge and support, which allows an individual to be ‘in the flow’, elegantly dancing with life’s demands, always returning to centre and restoring lost balance. Intense stress or prolonged exposure to stressors delays and even impairs one’s ability to recover physically and psychologically, ultimately leading to emotional and biological ill-being. The more stressed we are, the more vulnerable we become, and more factors get at us, like the proverbial last straw that broke the horse’s back.
Of course, the number ‘Zero’ step is to eliminate all possible stress factors from your experience, starting with the easy-to-do ones, such as food stressors or participation in heated arguments or destructive conversations working your way to cleansing your life from the heavier stressors.
If you go through a short-term period that places unusual demand on your body and mind, here are five S.O.S. emergency steps you can take:
1- Willingness to Feel (pain, discomfort, emotion). The worst you can do is to hold your breath, and try to mask the tension. Locate the tension in your body – where is it? Head? Neck? Shoulders? Examine the tension as if it were an object, and breathe into it.
2- Express it! Use voice, breath, body movement and narration (in first person perspective ‘I’) to express your internal experience. Having an unreasonable deadline at work is bad enough; trying to suppress the emotions arising with it makes it worse, so say it to a friend or therapist, write it in a journal, or sing it and dance it!
3- Wise Inquiry: Be mindful of the ‘Away From’ versus ‘Towards’ motives. Be aware of the problem but focus on the goal, solution and resource using wise questions, such as: ‘What can I do now, given the circumstances?’; ‘What is important?’; ‘What am I seeking to accomplish here?’ and ‘What is the kindest, most appropriate course of action I can take?’
4- Energy Management: Reiki, QiGong, Yoga – Hatha and Pranayama; EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques). Your biology follows the energy; Chi informs your brain, and your brain signals activate your body. Some of the energy management techniques are maintenance practice, but there is a vast number of methods you can apply for immediate relief: to cleanse and purify your energy from intrajections, such as someone else’s emotions; to balance your Yin and Yang; to connect you with the Earth’s energies for support and the Heaven’s energies for insight.
5- Ask for emotional support! Mental and emotional self-reliance is a dangerous myth, and the belief that an individual should pull herself out of difficulties on her own is as an impossible lie as the story where Munchausen Baron pulled himself out of the mud by pulling his own hair. The greatest medicine is Love, and Love is to be found within mutually caring and supportive exchanges with an empathic other.