The Incredibly Creative Stress Kit, part 3: Eliminate/Concentrate

Here is the link to part 1, the Stress Test

In this part 3 we continue with ways to reduce your stress:

2. ELIMINATE STRESS CUES

Get rid of stress cues in your life: Move to Tahiti, become a Monk, get a chauffeur, calm down—this category is more difficult than we originally thought . . . but not impossible.

Your bodymind wants you to live and prosper. It’s smart but limited. It can’t tell the difference between what is actually happening to you and what it perceives from the cues it receives through your sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, thoughts and mental imagery. Remember the rhino-cars?

So you need to eliminate, or at the very least avoid, cues that your smart but limited brain might perceive as threatening or dangerous.

Stress cues in your control to eliminate:

  • Reading tragic news stories (full of sight & sound stress cues)
  • Watching TV news or crime programs (particularly before bed)
  • Listening to certain rap music
  • Spending time with “toxic” or negative people
  • Worrying about what you can’t control (like earthquakes)
  • Thinking negative thoughts

You control what images, sounds, tastes, touches, smells, and thoughts you expose your brain to. Even if you live in a war zone or are a police officer on gang patrol, with no control over the images and sounds that surround you, the one thing you do have control over are your thoughts.

3. CONCENTRATE! ON CALM CUES

When stress is chronic, it’s most effective to periodically give your brain a calm cue though-out the day and evening. In other words, you “chronically” cue your mind that it no longer has to keep you on alert, ready to flee or fight, because you’re not in danger.

CONCENTRATE

These two favorite breathing cues of ours are quick, simple and can be done anywhere, anytime.

Super Simple Signal Breath

In order to do this anywhere, anytime keep your eyes open and breathe through your nose.

  • Take a deep breath, expand your lungs and hold the breath for a moment before releasing it slowly, gently through your nose.
  • Let your body relax, deepening a sense of comfort in any way that’s best for you
  • Breathe normally and naturally…until your next Super Simple Signal Breath.

Because our autonomic nervous system has our breathing on “automatic pilot” we easily can forget to take this purposeful Super Simple Signal Breath.Here are some reminders that have worked for others to take a Super Simple Signal Breath:

  • Every time the phone “rings” or you text
  • Wear a bracelet or your watch on the “wrong” wrist
  • Put a post it note on your bath room mirror, car dash board
  • Write “B” for breathe in your appointments calendar

One Breath Cue with Safe Thought Cue

Try it NOW as you follow the instructions:

  • Take a deep, full breath, expanding your belly outward. 
  • Hold the breath for a count of 5.
  • Very slowly, gently release the breath through your nose and relax your body in any way you choose contracting your belly inward.
  • Tell your brain (silently) “I’m safe, right now.”

Don’t wait to feel stressed to purposely breathe. The more you practice the breath cues when you’re not stressed the easier it is for the brain to respond automatically and the quicker it will work when you are stressed. We’ve taught many people with severe anxiety disorders to do these one-breath exercises. Everyone reports it is one of the most effective things they have ever tried.
The hard part is remembering to do it.

You already know how to breathe. It’s free and in your control.

Curious Coloring for Calming Down

Coloring books aren’t just for kids anymore.  Adults have discovered coloring provides a brief focus, away from the world within and the world around us. It’s a form of meditation:  Concentrated visual focus on color, patterns and repetitive motion are hallmarks of the meditative process.

We’ve picked out some Curious Critters that lend themselves for for quick & easy coloring. Embellish them, add patterns, squiggles and make them your own.

Click on the download at the bottom

Get out your crayons or colored pencils 

CREATE your own meditation.

(Don’t want to meditate?   Color with a child!)

 

Click here for your free coloring PDF

 

Scroll down for more posts in this series.

 

Can a good imagination make you anxious?

Anxiety triggers the stress response.  Anxious feelings are rarely about what is actually happening in the present but about the IMAGINED POSSIBILITY of what might happen in the future.  People with the best imaginations can create the worst possibilities.  

Anxiety and fear are “just” feelings in your body, they are not facts.  Your brain creates feelings to help you know how to respond to situations. Unfortunately, your brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and actual circumstance.  Fear and anxiety are there to help you cope, but they are made to cope with imminent danger.  However, your brain doesn’t do a good job of distinguishing among the past, present or future

When you are flooded with anxious feelings ask yourself, “Am I about to die or suffer severe bodily harm in the next 10 minutes?”

Take some deep breaths.  Getting oxygen to your brain will help you feel calmer.  

If the answer is no, take some time to look more objectively at the situation. (If the answer is yes however, run for your life.)   Separate your feelings from what is actually going on.  Examining the worst case, best case and most likely outcome will help you do this:

Worst Case

Surprisingly, looking at what the worst-case senario can help you feel better. This is because we usually don’t ask ourselves specifics of what horrible thing might happen and when we do, sometimes the most horrible outcome is not life threatening.

Best Case

Next look at the best-case scenario. What could go right? How could the situation turn out well? Doing this helps you imagine good possibilities signaling your brain that everything is ok.

Most Likely Outcome

What ultimately plays out is usually somewhere in-between the best and worst case.  Often, what happens is something you haven’t even planned much less imagined.  Based on past & present circumstances (not future imagination) what would be a neutral or ok outcome?

In Your Control

Make SPECIFIC action plans
Plan “A” is what you could do if the worst case you are imagining really happens. What is in your control? What is NOT in your control? Who might help you? What resources would you need? Do you know anyone who has been through something similar?

Plan “B” is about what action you can take right away. What is in your power, your control, to do now to impact the outcome?  Ask others for ideas or looking at what other’s in similar situations have done that worked is helpful.

Here’s the outline to use your imagination to create less stress.  

Write your answers down – it helps empty your brain:

1.  What is the worst case?
2.  What is the best case?
3.  What is most likely to happen?
4.  If the worst occurs, what is your plan/how can you cope?

How often have you felt anxious at best and terrified at worst from your own imagined possibilities?  

More importantly, how often has what you imagined actually happened?

 

 

 

 

 

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