How we can work with stress

Stress picI was listening to Tara Brach’s podcast about stress. She talks about how stress has a non-stop quality of feeling a constant pressure to always be on the go.

Stress triggers anxiety, and the fears that go along with it. We worry, become agitated, avoid or deny what we find painful or run towards something that we think will alleviate it.

We see stress as negative, and often interpret these signals in a way that negates who we are, making us feel badly about ourselves. This contributes to low self-esteem, and thinking of ourselves as “small”, and not being good enough.

What if we thought about stress as a signal to transform our lives and recognize that we can learn something and evolve through stress because it helps us to grow.

Stress is apart of life. It gives us information that can help us to transform. When we’re under stress, we have habitual thinking patterns. Emotionally we feel conflicted and physically our bodies become filled with tension. When we’re in this pattern, our ego is running the show and we feel vulnerable, separate and threatened. Our flight, fight, and freeze responses are activated. In these areas of high activation, agitation, jealousy, greed, and depression are expressions of the stress response that can create habitual patterns of responses that we identify with. What areas do you find trigger you and cause you to react?

We go into fight, flight and freeze responses when we feel unsafe and threatened. This further adds to feelings of rejection, vulnerability, fear, uncertainty, low self-esteem and of course it impacts our relationships. The biochemistry of the threat response increases adrenaline and cortisol levels, and decreases endorphins, serotonin and dopamine levels. We perceive our world differently when we’re in the threat response.

How do we shift out of this threat response?

If we can change our perception of these responses and begin to observe our behavior, we have the potential to change, and transform.

Instead of acting out impulses, the potential to make choices and have different outcomes and options becomes available. .

If we don’t judge ourselves and instead support our process with compassion, then we have an opportunity to change and stay connected to ourselves instead of loosing who we are.

Stress can wake us up instead of shutting us down. It can help us to see what’s there instead of denying or avoiding. When we start to recognize and observe the pattern, and how we get triggered, the shift is already starting to happen. We can bear witness to the chain of activity that happens in the threat response. Our body tenses up, we blame others or ourselves, we may worry, feel sad or depressed, react, become agitated or angry, lash out and all of this makes us feel like we’re not ok. We become the victim or the perpetrator.

We evolve by recognizing our habits over time, and with patience and compassion, we can see how these patterns impact our lives and our relationships. Observing helps us to see how we’re suffering, and creates the space for something else to emerge. We don’t even need to think about it. If we can pause, take a breath, listen and pay attention then the nervous system can shift towards less activation and more stabilization.

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