So now let’s look at how to cope with stress.
So first I want you to imagine that you are walking down the sidewalk and you trip. You would probably have a mild reaction but you would recover quickly and you’d keep walking. But now imagine that you were walking two feet from the edge of a cliff and you trip, you would be terrified and your body would go into a complete panic. Rightfully so.
Now I want you to imagine a time when you were feeling pretty good and things were going well and someone you love did something that annoyed you like left out the dishes or left the soggy floor in the bathroom. And in that situation, those were mildly irritating.
But then remember a time when maybe you had a horrible day at work and you’ve been feeling sick and your back was hurting and you were behind on your bills and then you walk into the bathroom and you step your socks into that nasty soggy floor. So at that point, it might make you a little bit more upset.
So why does that happen?
Well, the difference in your reaction wouldn’t be because of the difference in the level of whatever annoyance or stress that was because the stressor didn’t change. What changed was that you were closer to the edge of your stress cliff.
So you see stress is cumulative both in your emotions and in your body. Stress from work and family and traffic and in vibrant mental pollutants and things you’re exposing your body to.
And in this case, isolation and fear and life disruption add layers and layers and layers of stress which compound. So as you face additional stressors throughout your day you begin to feel weighed down or overwhelmed or frustrated and you become more and more sensitive to each additional stressor.
And this is because our bodies are bombarded by an assault of stress hormones which then increase hypertension and impact our heart, digestion, energy levels, and more. And they deplete our reserves further adding to our stress by adding illness to our list of things to be stressed about.
So you can see how it would all compound. So the question is “What can you do about it?”
Well, you have to back off the cliff. During times of extreme challenge and especially isolation or life the disruption it’s more important than ever to release your stress and to minimize it.
So the first part of reducing stress is to prevent it such as practicing self-care, avoiding conflict, taking time to do the things that bring you joy, minimizing time spent worrying, and being fearful.
And that’s why we address them so it’s important to remember that how you feel or your emotional state matters not only because the better you feel through this period, the better the experience will be, and the more you can take advantage of the opportunities. But also the worse you feel and the more stress you have in your body and your mind then the more each stressor is going to impact you.
The goal is to make a conscious decision to create a positive spiral of upliftment and avoid a negative spiral of stress.
So let’s look at how to vent stress healthily. Because one of the best ways to reduce stress is to express your emotions or to vent them. But unfortunately, it can be too easy in the midst of life challenges like this to be constantly talking about the thing that stresses you out, and talking about it and feeding the fear and anxiety and confusion makes it worse, not better.
There are a right way and a wrong way to vent or express your emotions. So I want you to think about the stress that you experienced kind of like a balloon that every time you experience stress it’s like you’re blowing another breath into that balloon. It just gets bigger and bigger and eventually what’s going to happen. It’s going to pop, leading you to some sort of an outburst or an extreme reaction either emotionally or even physically.
And this is why you need to vent or let out the pressure and you can do this by venting to yourself for instance by writing about how you feel or even saying out loud to yourself like in front of the mirror and you can also do this by talking about how you feel to someone that you trust.
Now notice that in both of those examples either you or with someone else that I mentioned expressing how you feel. So this is not about discussing what is happening.
It’s about discussing how you feel just the emotion itself but because by expressing the emotion you release the emotion instead of bottling it up and holding it inside of that balloon. So if you’re going to express how you’re feeling to yourself after you write it down or say it mentally acknowledge yourself and affirmed yourself that the way that you feel makes sense and that it’s okay to let it out.
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And in the same way, if you’re going to be venting with a trusted person, established ahead of time that the goal of the discussion is to express emotions to release them not to try to solve any problems or to talk about the situation.
And this can be a two-way venting session if you want to.
So if you do this with someone else make sure that you affirm and acknowledge each other for the rightness of how you feel and for the willingness to express it.
This can be very freeing. So you want to be processing your emotions deliberately in a way like this rather than waiting till they happen and having some sort of a knee jerk reaction to them.
So really what it comes down to is that your mission from now on is to do everything that you can to continue to back away from the stress cliff.
You want to minimize as much as you can so that then when things that are highly stressful happen they don’t push you over the edge.
They don’t make it so it’s more than you can handle. So you can have a really strong sense of agency and control in this situation by doing the things that you know are going to help you stay in a good state.