I always find it strange that we live day to day with so much to do, constantly busy and hate rushing around but also thrive on it?
For many women I coach, they fall into the trap of knowing they can cope well with stress, even if it’s not healthy. And yes, many women do cope well with a bit of stress, and yes, for most women it leads to an unhealthy and unhappy lifestyle in many ways.
Let’s understand that the stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life—giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.
The stress response also helps you rise to meet challenges.
Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, keeps you motivated, helps you get complete all the little jobs round the house, (even though it feels like there is so much left to do).
But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your sleep, your relationships and your quality of life, and this is why so many of us get stuck in the love/hate relationship with stress. Why would we want to reduce something that is helping us get through the day?
So for those of you reading this and wondering, yes why?! Let me ask you…
Do you regularly find yourself worrying about something small, for days or weeks at a time?
Do you feel guilty for taking time for yourself?
Do you get to the end of the day and feel like you have still not done enough?
Do you feel you miss out on enjoying yourself because you’re worrying about how something will turn out?
Are you needing reassurance from others to make decisions?
Are you regularly worried about what others think of your actions?
These are the symptoms of chronic stress and anxiety, and its these feelings and behaviors holding you back from feeling happy, free and confident, (yes, I know you can fake it if you have to).
But this is the downside to thriving on stress, although it might keep you on your toes and help you get things done, it also prevents you from relaxing and going with the flow of a day out. It’s stops you from really appreciating yourself and what you do, and can feel like you are trapped in your thoughts, worrying about problems, over and over.
The fact is that long-term exposure to this kind of stress can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the aging process. Long-term stress can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
So why would we want to change the stress that we thrive on? That is something each person has to weigh up individually and decide.
Reducing our stress levels doesn’t mean we suddenly become inefficient at our job, or as a parent, or lax or lazy in some way. But there is balance to be found. I believe there is a kinder, more loving and compassionate way to be with ourselves. A way of life that allows us to appreciate who we are and all that we do, even as we grow and even if we have much more left to do.
We are constantly told to look forward in life, but I invite you to look back at your life, and appreciate the journey so far. Doubtless it will be filled with lots of good times, bad times, hard times, challenging times, sad times and a whole lot more.
Look at how you’ve grown as a person, especially though the challenging times, you’ve learned so much about yourself and about life. I wonder what learning you can take forward and use now? I’m sure there have been moments when you wondered, how will I ever get through this? And yet, here you are. Because no matter what happens, we always find the best way to deal with it.
You could write down some of the challenges you’ve faced, (it doesn’t matter if they are big or small, whether you did your best or felt you behaved badly, or whether it was a physical challenge or an emotional one) and write down something you gained from it, even just a knowledge about yourself, about someone else or about your own expectations perhaps?
These learning and understanding you've gained are going to help armour you through the everyday worries. It’s going to help you say, “I’ve got through worse, so I will get through this now” and “I know I can do this”.
The main thing to remember is that you are not alone feeling this way.
Many people struggle to reduce their stress, because just like you, at some point it has been helpful in some way.
Only you can decide if what you gain from being stressed is more important than the unknown feeling of calm, relaxed confidence that you could have.
For those who do wish to begin reducing their stress, it’s time to teach your brain and body what relaxed actually feels like. Why not try one of our free relaxation audios or meditations via the website.
Love & Light Jennifer x