Understand that everyone experiences stress to some degree. For each of us, it is different. What triggers my stress certainly doesn’t trigger my child in the same way. The stresses of my parents are not the same as mine. The best part is that we have this beautiful built-in warning system when there is too much stress in our body. That mechanism is our emotional system. If it is out of balance, our emotional system acts like a circuit breaker. When something happens, we experience emotion. This is the guidance that a release of some kind is necessary to restore balance.

Stress exists as a way to provide balance to our lives, like a warning signal giving us an indication something is not quite right. We can be thankful it exists, because otherwise we wouldn’t be able to flex our emotional systems in the first place and would be walking zombies. It protects us from danger, helps get the adrenaline going when we’re about to talk in front of a group of people, helps us win games and keeps us on our toes to meet deadlines. Success stress, as I like to call it, shifts the body’s chemical system so those nerve-bending situations don’t pummel us into oblivion. So after you win the race, give the best speech of your career and meet the proposal deadline with flying colors, you can restore your more balanced state of being naturally.

The opposite of stress is peace. Avoiding stress altogether is not the key to a peaceful existence. Being in the stress and managing the emotional responses is the key to peace. I’m not talking about wearing a smile and being unresponsive. However, what happens when the stressors of life cause intense emotion and that intense emotion is acted out on others is where the lack of peace exists.

How we choose to react in any given situation causes or delays our stress response. For example, I have a 5-year-old son. He is the light of my world. However, he can challenge me. When he bounces his basketball in the house and destroys my favorite vase, rather than allowing the reaction to create stress, I instead choose to stop and breathe deeply. This shifts my perspective that no vase is that important to send my child all sorts of negative energy. That doesn’t mean that he is free of dealing with the consequences of the house rules. However, I am skipping the step of allowing my anger and emotion to control the scene of the crime. No sense in causing others stress just because I am unhappy about a situation.

Reacting to emotional responses creates a snowball effect that compounds stress for everyone around you. A large part of the peace you are craving begins with you. Peace within creates peace in your environment.

The following are simple ways of building this shield to reacting in those moments of stress:

• Live in the moment. You can deal with situations much more effectively than when you are not thinking about what’s next.

• Breathe. Whether yogic or some other meditative breathing practice, you will find your emotional responses gradually slowing down, your circuit breaker growing stronger with each breath.

• Exercise. Those wonderful chemicals in the body that maintain emotional balance are released naturally through rigorous aerobic exercise.

• Establish a support team. Talking about your life and having others to process it with is a great way to keep the body free of negative thinking.

• Laughter. Experiencing joy through laughter is a great habit. Settle in with a good movie and bowl of popcorn, see a play or share a joke.

Building your shield so you can handle moments of stress is a great way to spend your time and energy. Recognizing stress as something that is a part of life, rather than trying in desperation to make it go away, will save you…a lot of stress.

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