Now this get’s interesting. So far, I have written exclusively about ways to manage stress from the perspective of it being mental and/or emotional.
But that’s not the whole picture. The way I see it, a simple model of a human consists of four, intertwined ‘bodies’ – or systems, if you prefer.
Spiritual. (by which I mean the aspect of you that is connected to
and part of, the sum of everything).
Now imagine these ‘bodies’ as carriages on a train.
The last carriage in the chain is the physical body. If
that gets derailed, everything else comes to a halt or
gets off track, sooner or later. And stress, by it’s very
nature, is a part of our physical body systems.
We know that body systems are complex. I am just going
to focus on two that serve us now: –
1. Sympathetic nervous system.
2. Parasympathetic nervous system.
They work as a pair. The ideal is when the Parasympathetic
(the Peaceful one, that keeps everything ticking along at it’s
optimum) is king. Or queen (I prefer ‘queen’ but that’s
From time to time, in this idealised view, the Sympathetic system
will be alerted when a stressor is faced. You would instantly feel
the rush of adrenalin in your blood. This would trigger an increase
in heart rate: the shortening and quickening of your breath:
dryness in the mouth and a tightening in the vocal chords.
Maybe your stomach would churn or even worse, you might feel
you just have to dash to the loo.
Well, this system, as you probably know, is designed to help you
flee or fight. Run or do battle. When your body calms down,
it should reset to the peaceful Parasympathetic way of being.
These systems are autonomic. They don’t need you to
think about them. They just happen.
But when stress is perpetuated, then it can become a way of life. Relaxation feels impossible. All sorts of wear and tear
is visited on your body as a result of a system that was intended for short-term use, being active for too long.
More of that in another blog.
The good news is that help is at hand. You can intervene.
There is a feed-back loop that enables you to process signals
coming in and choose how to respond. My last post, for instance,
gave you some ideas to play with about how to deal with
worries that are based on your beliefs.
There is a simpler level yet though, and it’s often forgotten.
Sometimes your body is not running at it’s best. You feel vaguely uneasy: snappy: tired all the time: something is worrying you
but you can’t quite pin it down. A little paranoia creeps in when someone gives you a glance.
I love simplification. In a world of such utter, blissful
and terrifying complexity, it’s my life saver, my soother,
my anchor. And one of the simplest ways to tackle stress, is to ask yourself if your mind is responding to distress signals
from your body, and then you are slapping a label on them.
We humans love to be right. We just love to ‘know’ what is
wrong with us.
But so often, there is nothing much going on at all.
Here is my personal check list:
1. Is this thing I am focussed on happening to me right now and if it is, can I be sure my interpretation is accurate?
2. Am I in physical danger (actually, it’s probably not very p.c. but I say “has my leg fallen off?”.
3. Am I thirsty? When did I last drink water? (You’d be amazed how often a glass of water calms things down).
4. Am I hungry? What did I last eat? (and if it was high carb. sugary and high G.I. you might just be experiencing a sugar crash. Do not, repeat, do NOT eat more sugar. At least, find a banana).
5. Do I need to urinate? (The meridians for the bladder pass over the top of the head and pressure in the bladder gives discomfort there as well as in the bladder itself).
6. Do I need sleep? Or even 30 minutes lying down doing nothing (i.e. no TV/PC/Music. You need to calm, not stimulate, your hard-working personal hardware).
7. Do I just need to stop what I am doing, count to ten, and take 3 lovely, deep breaths?
8. Do I need to express myself? (It might be you are withholding words. Take a moment to find the response.)
9. Do I need to leave this situation?
10. Do I need a cup of tea?
This is part of self-soothing. We need to learn to self-soothe. I have raised a son who I have taught this process to. As a baby, I would of course, soothe him and as he grew, I passed on those skills. He is a master at it and a very calm, collected and successful 17 year old.
All too often, we are simply not doing this, because someone else either didn’t teach us, didn’t soothe us, or didn’t give us a clue
how to do it for ourselves. It sounds simple, right?
And that is what makes it powerful.