WATCH YOUR MOUTH. Stressed? Do you reach for a sweet snack, and get a quick boost? No. Sugar will zoom you up and then dump you into the lows, and leave you craving more. Up, down, up, down. You just put yourself on a roller-coaster. Try a glass of water, or eat some protein that will slowly give you energy. After all, in a time of stress, whether you are ready to fight, freeze, or flee, you need some body-help. And all of those body responses can cause your mouth to get dry, and the muscles to be alert or shaky. Come on, drink a glass of water, and fill your tank with high quality fuel.
JUST DO IT. Come on, just do something. Stress sets off alarm bells in our bodies signalling that it is time to do something: fight, freeze, or flee. The trick is to interrupt your mind and stop spinning in stress by doing something super simple. Walk a few steps and throw away some paper. Or, toss it and make a basket (or not). Put your glass in the sink. Un-tuck in your shirt and then tuck it back in. Tie your shoes again. Count the paperclips in the box. Count tiles on the floor or ceiling. See? Your mind went off of the spinning stress and onto the task for just a moment.
STAND UP TO IT. When we feel stress, our bodies slowly and subtly take on a more protective stance. This usually means we protect our chest by hunching our shoulders, dipping our heads a bit, crossing our arms across our chest, and bending our body slightly forward. Check your body’s posture right now. See? Now try pulling your shoulders back, uncross your arms and let them hang at your side with hands relaxed, and lift your head. It’s a relaxed and upright posture to face the world.
3 IS THE CHARM. Now that you have uncurled your body, take stock of the world. Look around and count three things you see. Now listen and name three things you hear. Now once again, mentally feel three parts of your body— your hand, your foot, your nose. This brings your back in your body and aware, again, of the “now”. You can do this, unnoticed in the boardroom, on a train, a sports’ field, or in bed after the alarm clock is shut off. It is a quick and invisible check, so you can do it anytime.
Focussing on your body instead of your mind can save you you from spiralling into a stress-packed moment. Our minds tend to spin quickly though thoughts and options if the mind is on high alert-status. Sometimes the mind becomes hyper-sensitive and gets stuck in this mode. This is often referred to as “Monkey Mind”, an adaptation from Eastern cultures to Western psychology. Spinning, jumping around, lots of energy, and no progress.
Recent studies show that more and more people are having problems with anxiety. Of these, 36% with social anxiety problems live with stress and anxiety for more than ten years before getting help.
You don’t have to let today’s stress become tomorrow’s stress. It can grow into serious long-term stress and anxiety. If it is already a long-term beast or bother to you, try the short interventions and also get some help dealing with it. Don’t wait until it takes over your life.
Dr. Patricia Philo Kopstein provides psychological services internationally, via secure teleconferencing, for sessions in any time zone. Contact her at www.blurton-fdc.com