29 Apr Breaking the Stress Loop
When you are feeling stressed and anxious do you feel overwhelmed by physical symptoms too? Does your heart race? Do you feel pressure on your chest? Is your digestive system disrupted? Do you feel as though you have lost control over your body and your mind?
When you feel anxious, the brain responds to the potential threat by sending a message to release adrenaline and cortisol which flushes through your body and triggers a fight or flight response. This physical sensation creates more stress and tension in your body, which in turn makes you feel even more anxious and sets off an adrenaline-release loop. These feelings can continue in an endless cycle unless you have a way to break the loop..
The good news is that there are ways to break this cycle and once you learn the techniques to disconnect from the adrenaline-release loop, you will find that stress starts to lose its power over you.
The following three-step exercise is a gentle and effective way to break the stress loop. It will only be effective if you do it without self-judgement or criticism. Set your judgemental internal thoughts aside, and speak to yourself as if you were speaking to your best friend.
Three Steps to Break the Stress Loop
Step 1 – Become mindful of your anxious thoughts
Identify your worrying thoughts. What does the anxious voice in your head sound like? How loud is it? What is the tone? If they were a person, what would they look like?
Step 2 – Become mindful of your physical sensations
Drop down into your body and become aware of how it is feeling. Where are you feeling the emotions most strongly? What is the emotion? Describe the feeling to yourself. For example, is it a constricting feeling, or a hard rock inside? (I often use the example of an elephant sitting on my chest.)
Step 3 – Offer yourself comfort and care
What message would be the most comforting? What do your anxious thoughts need to hear most? You could tell yourself, ‘It’s OK,’ you could say, ‘I’m with you,’ or simply place your hand on your heart, if that gives you comfort.
Then take some time to experience this new way of being and feel the release of the energy that has been stored.
During the process, you might find the emotion increases before it reduces. Just breathe deeply into it and remember this is a chance to show yourself real self-care and love. I recognise that this process can seem scary and you might want to resist. But know you are gaining control by doing this. What often imprisons us the most is the fear of facing our fears and anxieties.
When you try this exercise, start with an emotion that isn’t too strong. For example, on the scale of 0-10 (10 being very strong emotion) start with a 2 or 3. Once you are comfortable and confident with the process, then start working with your stronger challenges.
Give this exercise a go and please comment below to say how you found the process.