4 proven ways to turn stress into a friend—instead of a foe

Are you dogged by deadlines, responsibilities that seem to multiply faster than rabbits on Viagra and a To Do list like a treadmill stuck on fast forward? Does your life feel like a hijacked jet and you’re just a helpless passenger?

A silhouette of a plane with a question mark flying above a gps type land map depicting a missing airplane

Of course we all have the odd groundhog-day. You know the wake up late, spill coffee on your clothes, trip over the cat, hear something depressing on the news, one of the kids are sick, the car won’t start, and you haven’t even begun to deal with your killer workload kind of day?

But what I’m talking about is when this kind of thing becomes a norm—a lifestyle.

What me—no way you say!

But what if you’re not aware of it? It’s never been easier to get caught in the crazy-busy-stress trap, because it’s become so accepted; even admired—a trendy tag for success. For many it’s become something to aspire to; part of the high achiever package. So you don’t see it coming, until you’re well and truly trapped.

We have bought the lie that being constantly plugged-in and obsessively busy means we’re valuable.

This couldn’t be further from the truth!

It just shows a lack of emotional intelligence. As a culture it seems we’re becoming an emotionally illiterate species.

Admittedly test-driving your body under extreme conditions can be good for a laugh in a sitcom, but unless you’re a confirmed masochist, (given that at least 80% of all illnesses are stress related), isn’t this inability to unplug playing roulette?

So, what part are you playing in this dangerous game?

If you tell yourself hey I’m the one taking strain, it’s not my fault, you never get the message that stress comes to deliver. As the message is usually along the lines of your battery is low, recharge immediately with radical self care or run emotional anti virus scan or upgrade mental operating system, this is like turning the smoke alarm off when the house has caught fire.

The thing is if you put it down to the way life is, or blame it on external circumstances, other people or bad luck, you’re missing the plot. If you fail to take ownership for your part in helping to create this pattern, then you will stay a helpless passenger on that hijacked jet.

When stress speaks it’s an invitation!

It’s an invitation to start asking questions, refocus your attention, evaluate your priorities, push through limitations or challenge your habits and strategies.

And what happens if you don’t?

You can become a dopamine slave, in a constant state of hyper-vigilance.

Your body’s automatic timer switches get stuck in the high-alert position, through over use.

It no longer feels safe to switch off. Your body and brain are always waiting for the next call, demand or expectation that needs to be fulfilled. Like an over stimulated baby, they don’t feel safe enough to relax. The result if you don’t heed the warning signs? Insomnia, burnout or a multitude of anxiety disorders.

Through repetition, many people unconsciously install a victim-of-stress program with some kind of “pay off”. And for as long as they are benefiting from this “pay off” they keep putting themselves in positions where the stress pattern repeats—like a lab rat pressing a button to get a reward.

Do you use stress as an excuse to evade responsibility or commit to action?

Do you move on too quickly from stressful experiences, before evaluating the part you have played? Do you shoot the messenger (stress symptoms)—then head straight for the next disaster?

Sometimes it’s not what you are actively doing to keep this stress cycle repeating—it’s what you are NOT doing. It can be negligence, impulsiveness, procrastinating, people pleasing, addictions, distractions, avoiding issues that need to be addressed, or not setting personal boundaries.

Whose life is this and who’s the boss—you or stress?

Since your brain tells your body how to respond, quit the knee jerk responses to people and events in your life. Press your mental zoom out key and get things into perspective before consciously choosing an empowered, solution oriented response that serves, instead of sabotages you.

Set boundaries – don’t allow yourself to be “on call” 24/7. Set aside certain times of the day where you are unplugged. Unless you’re a neurosurgeon in the middle of an operation, nobody will die, I promise.

Remember that you are the director of your life movie.

You get to decide what scenes to edit, what scenes to cut, and what scenes to create.

If your life has an unhealthy emphasis in a particular area causing a stressful imbalance—install a new priority filter.

If you’re feeling drained, numb, or empty—cut back on serving and nurturing others and invest in recharging your mental, emotional and physical batteries. Isn’t this what you’d do if your balance sheet showed too many expenses, and not enough income generation?

Maybe you’re confused and overwhelmed and don’t know where to start? Reduce that psychological Everest you’ve created to individual rocks. You’ll find that many of these issues are not related. Now find solutions—one at a time.

Sometimes isolating yourself when under extreme pressure is an automatic response—but it’s the worst thing you can do. Clearly, you need help. So reach out and get it. The majority of people aren’t mind readers.

It’s up to you.

Stop buying into the Super(wo)man lie! We’re all perfectly imperfect, so cut yourself some slack. You might enjoy it.
Take a break! Get right away. Unplug. Leave all the responsibilities, demands and deadlines—even for a day or two. Put yourself and your wellbeing first during this period. And if the thought of this fills you with dread instead of desire, you’ve got a problem that needs addressing.

Maybe you’re not expecting a return on your efforts—undervaluing yourself and feeling resentful?

You see, learning to manage stress is a bit like learning to drive a Ferrari—beyond exhilarating done with expertise, but potentially lethal if you don’t know how to handle it. Speed and momentum build exceptionally quickly. Emotions are too powerful a tool to use irresponsibly. Slamming them into drive and flooring the accelerator without being in control does not (as you may have discovered) create happy endings!

So if you want to turn stress from an enemy into a friend:

1. Stop! Tune out the noise, evaluate where you are, how you got there, and how its making you feel.
2. Refocus! Decide how you want your life to be, based on your unique values.
3. Commit! Make moving forward in a healthier, happier, more balanced direction a rock solid, non negotiable priority.
4. Take Action! Reach out for help immediately.

It’s your choice – is stress going to be a friend and guide – or a slave driver? Are you living your life, or is it living you? Would you like to shift the balance of power and get back in that Director’s chair? http://breakfreeandreclaimyourlife.com/

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