Feeling stressed? You’re not alone!
Chances are, it’s your own high standards that are causing the problem. You’re trying to do it all right, and it’s costing you. Any time there’s a pervasive ideal of how things should be, it’s going to rub up against the broken edges of how things actually are. And that gap can cause pain and stress.
Stress is one of the things that damages your microbiome, as surely as antibiotics, sugar and environmental toxins. When you’re trying to heal your skin or your tummy, managing your stress is just as important as managing your diet.
So, what can you do to protect your precious inner environment?
Here’s a few life hacks that we use on the farm, to deal with stress. (and I must admit I double up on my dose of goats milk kefir during this time, just to prevent fatigue, depression or anxiety levels from creeping up!)
Circle of control – what’s inside?
Draw a big circle on a piece of paper. Around the edges of the circle, write down all the things that are affecting your state, right this minute. For example: the weather. Finances. Your health. Your family. Traffic. Lack of sleep. Your boss. You get the idea – just download every single thing you can think of that’s causing you stress right now. Chances are, you can’t control these things. They just happen to you.
Now imagine a tightrope walker, or a competitive skier. On any given Tuesday, she might be experiencing very similar, unavoidable stresses from her environment. But she can’t afford to let those stresses affect her state, because if she does, she will come crashing down. So, how does a high performer manage her state, under pressure? I’ll show you:
Draw a smaller circle inside the big circle. This is your circle of control. These are the things that you – or our tightrope walker- can control. These are the ways that ballet dancers, race car drivers and Olympic athletes manage their state, when they can’t afford to disintegrate under everyday stress.
So what’s inside the smaller circle? What can you control, when everything around you is conspiring to make you crazy?
Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, breath is always with you. It’s the quickest, easiest way to shift your state. Fear-breathing is shallow, and will spiral your state down into panic. Instead, consciously take long, slow, deep belly breaths. Fill your belly with air like a balloon, inflating it fully with an in-breath, and then bringing that air up into your lungs. When you breathe out, your belly will flatten again. Practice a few times. Rest your hand on your belly, and push your hand out with the in-breath, letting it fall back with the out-breath. (Note – this is sometimes hard to do, because we spend so much time holding our stomachs in! Loosen your belt, and really push that stomach out when you breathe in.)
Our brains are like a camera – focusing in on certain elements, and deleting everything else. What is your brain focusing on right now? A healthy brain tends to leeeean towards the negative. That’s not bad – that’s just your ancient reptile brain, trying to keep you alive. The problem is that these days, with the lack of sabre-tooth tigers around, it’s more important to our well-being to keep our outlook balanced. Doing this isn’t so easy. Like any muscle, it needs to be exercised – especially as you’re hard-wired to pick out and concentrate on problems in your environment. So, how to change your focus?…
3. The questions you ask.
Your brain is constantly running a inner dialogue that consists of questions. Often, the answers to these questions leave us in a negative place. Questions like:
- How can I cope with all this mess?
- Why am I the only one taking care of everyone?
- Why can’t my family just get along?
- Why does this always happen to me?
- What did I do to deserve this?
- Can I survive this without going crazy?
will leave you in a negative state. Like a dutiful computer, your brain will go searching for an answer to the question, and the answer it comes up with will always be negative.
So, how to counter that? Ask a better-quality question. A high-quality question is one that has a positive assumption built into it. Your brain will still go scurrying off to answer the question, but the built-in assumption will make it lean to the positive side. High-quality questions include things like:
- How is this an opportunity?
- What excites me the most about the possibilities here? (Notice -the assumption is that there is something that excites you! If you ask the question, “Am I excited about this?” your hard-wired-to-be-negative brain response may well be: “No!”)
- What am I the most passionate about sharing?
- What makes me feel the most grateful?
- What’s the best way for me to find meaning in what’s happening right now?
- What personal traditions can I create that make me feel nourished?
The questions that you ask yourself, the things on which you choose to focus, and your breath are all inside your circle of control. Concentrate your energies on managing these things, and you’ll find unexpected joy, even in the midst of chaos!
Shann.x + The Goats