Completing the Stress Circuit
Mind and body team up once again to return calm to your system.
Stress (def) The body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental and emotional responses.
Most of us think stress resides in the mind.
The role of the mind when a stressful situation is presented is more like a clearinghouse than a storage facility. The mind perceives a 'threat', interprets that threat, and then hands the information off to the body so the body can respond with running, ducking, fleeing, fighting, playing dead, etc.
Here is a simple example:
You have to give a speech. Fact. You have performance anxiety. Interpretation.
Hand off to the body. Increased respiration and heart rate, sweaty palms, dry mouth, fuzzy brain, etc.
What happens after the speech is over? Does your body immediately calm down? Your heart rate might begin to slow and your breathing might return to normal, but many
of us would go straight to the bakery for a warm cinnamon bun or to the bar for a stiff cocktail?
Because your body didn't get the same memo as your mind indicating that the speech [threat] is over. Or it did but the memo was in the wrong language. If you want your body to understand something, you have to give notice in its language: body language.
You complete the stress cycle and release built up tension by calming the body, rather than focusing on the mind.
To do that, you can walk, jog, jump around in your living room, dance, practice yoga or tai chi, deep breathe, do progressive muscle relaxation, enjoy a 20 second hug, play with a pet, etc. Something to let your body know the 'all clear' has been issued and it can relax. Get it moving in a pleasurable way and it will understand in its language
that the threat is over and its time to chillax.
So what about all those awesome cognitive techniques you've been working on like positive thinking, mindfulness, benefit of the doubt, faith, perspective taking, etc? Are those worth anything?
They definitely are worthwhile. Cognitive techniques are most helpful at the onset of the stressor to mitigate the intensity of the interpretation before it gets handed off to the body. If you think positively and kept things in perspective, the stress response in the body will be much less than if you make a mountain out of a molehill.
One more tip on MindBodyStress...
When you feel stress building, notice where in your body it goes. Chest, head, shoulders, neck, glutes, gut, low back?
Can you get quiet and breathe into that area? Use your imagination to your advantage and picture your body in a relaxed place. Enjoy a few moments there and just breathe.