There are many kinds of stress. Physical stress of an illness, injury or being exposed to toxins or allergens. Emotional stress stemming from relationships with family and friends. Work stress like trying to meet deadlines or please a difficult client. Stress from traffic, loud atmospheres, over booking our schedules…it seems to be everywhere.
Certain chemicals and hormones are released in our bodies when they are stressed, regardless of what kind of stress we are under. They raise our blood pressure, put stress on our hearts adrenal glands and generally wreak havoc on our systems. We don’t always realize how much stress we place on ourselves, all day every day, with our own thoughts – and that our bodies react to stressful thoughts or remembering stressful situations exactly the same way they do when the event is happening. All the same chemical and hormone reactions get triggered with the same negative physical effects.
Here are some things to pay attention to that can help you master your thoughts and reduce your stress:
Notice how often you re-tell the stories of stressful situations in your life. For instance, if you nearly got into an accident while driving, how many people do you tell that to? And do you tell it with great emotion and possibly embellishing the situation to expand the story? Many of us will talk about a disagreement we had, a bad day at work or some other stressor over and over again to anyone who will listen. It’s one thing if you are talking about something to process it or gain some clarity, but if you are just telling the story over and over again for no apparent reason, you are causing yourself excessive stress. (Even if you are just going over it in your head.)
Realize that what other people think of you is none of your business. Many of us spend a lot of time worrying what others think of us. Did I say the right thing? Was she mad at me? Why is he so quiet? Did I do something wrong? We can spend a lot of energy going over these sorts of questions and making ourselves upset. Learn to notice when you are doing that and let it go. If you did your best in the situation, that is all you can do. You cannot control what another is thinking. You can’t go back in time and change things. If you really need to know if someone is mad or if you accidentally gave offense, go to the person and talk to them. Going over it in your head solves nothing.
Remember this phrase: It has nothing to do with me. Again, you can’t control how another person thinks. Sometimes, even the best intentions in an interaction lead to a misunderstanding or angry words. If you find yourself on the receiving end of someone’s angry outburst, know that that is not about you. It’s about them and what is going on in their heads. Sometimes people bottle up emotions and run so many upsetting and angry thoughts through their heads and it all just gets to be too much, like explosives waiting to be detonated. One minor infraction on your part and they blow! Was that about you? No. It was about a person reaching maximum density and needing an outlet. It has nothing to do with you. Unless you internalize it and play it over and over in your own head. Then you are the one who is making it about you.
Know that you are the only one living in your mind. It’s yours and you can have control over it. Learn to pay attention to your thoughts and find gentle yet firm ways to steer them in a positive direction. Meditate, pray, journal, learn some mantras or affirmations to use when you can’t seem to let go of your stressful thoughts. Find something else to replace them with.
By paying attention and using a little effort, you can make your own mind a better more comfortable place to live.