Turning Inward When Stress Arises
How It’s Become the Norm to Binge-and-Purge Stress And What to Do About It
I read an interesting stat during an MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) course that stated: 42% of Americans report lying awake at night due to stress.
Almost half of all Americans cannot fall asleep because of stress.
Let that sit with you for you a moment. That means half of the people you interact with daily are carrying around an insurmountable load of stress that’s hindering their sleep, work, and relationships. Maybe, that someone is you too.
Not only that but we have created a norm in our society of what we call “stress relievers.” You’ve heard them before: “I’m going to the gym to let out my stress,” “Yoga calms me down,” “I need a massage, it’s been a week!”
While this norm is well-intentioned, these “stress-relievers” may not get to the heart of the matter.
As a society, we’ve embraced the concept of binge-and-purge as it relates to stress.
We let stress pile up without addressing it (binge) and then we wait for a moment at the end of the day or week, or month to let it all out (purge).
Think about it this way, you wake up and are immediately pressed with demands. You get to work, manage multiple tasks, multiple people, personal errands, rushing to beat the clock. As each moment of the day passes, stressors arise. It could be sitting in traffic, or the guy who cut you off; getting interrupted at work, making it impossible for you to finish your project; A coworker who makes a remark that doesn’t sit well with you; forgetting your lunch. The list goes on.
I point these specific situations out because they are examples of small triggers that don’t get the attention they deserve. Some of them you might not even think are stress inducing; it’s just a way of life. But this “way of life” that you’re accepting is working behind the scenes, not in your favor.
Each of these moments presents an immediate threat in the present moment:
The guy who cut you off in traffic: Threat → accident
Interrupted at work: Threat → missing your deadline
Unsettling remark by a coworker: Threat → risk of social safety
Forgetting lunch: Threat → you’re going to starve
Your body is producing the SAME stress hormones in each of these moments. They will vary in intensity but it’s being created in each situation.
What happens when you let this build up throughout the day? Let’s use the analogy of snow, because, believe or not, I actually miss snow. (We haven’t seen snow in Atlanta this year and speaking from a New England gal, winter is not winter without snow).
Anyway... As snow falls throughout the day, it piles up. 1 inch turns to half a foot then a foot and so on. If you don’t go out and shovel the snow consistently, when you are ready to get out of your house, you’re trapped because there’s 6 ft of snow on the ground.
Think of snow as your stress. Each stress inducing moment is snow falling. If you let the stress build up (stress binging), there will be too much to take care of when you head to the gym at the end of the day (stress purging). Your stress may be so colossal that you’re so frustrated you don’t even want to make it to the gym so you sit on your couch and watch Netflix for hours (stress purging).
However, when you handle stress the moment it arises, it’s like you’re shoveling the snow as it continues to fall so it doesn’t pile up.
I say all of this to encourage you to recognize when those stress triggers arise throughout your day. Especially the ones that quietly affect your stress. Instead of waiting to take care of it later, look inward.
How might you look inward? I thought you’d ask.
Here are some practices to try:
Become aware of your own stress triggers - what are they? Is there a theme? What happens to your body?
Silently tell yourself a stress trigger is occurring - Call that ish out!
Get the facts straight - Is this really a threat?
Ask yourself why? - Why is this stressing you out? How will being stressed help you?
Ask yourself how you’d like to handle the situation - Who has the power? YOU or the STRESS TRIGGER?
Will your reaction get you what you want or hinder you from it
Let it go - release that stress right then and there
Learn from previous encounters with stress so you’re prepared for future ones
Press pause - practice intentional breathing
I understand that this is more easily said than done, which is why these are “practices.” They are tools to continuously strengthen and learn from. Over time, they will become easier to use in the moment.
Next time you’re stressed, try one of these out and see what happens. And then go to the gym.
If you want to be in control of your stress, know that it’s possible. If you need a champion to guide you towards making that last, let’s make it happen together! I offer 1:1 coaching programs that will get you on your way to making self-care nonnegotiable. Schedule your complimentary 15-minute discovery call today!