Everybody feels stress and knows it intimately, but very few of us think about what stress actually is. Stress is a thought. That’s it. No more, no less. If that’s true, then we have complete control over stress, because it’s not something that happens to us but something that happens in us. And when things get out of control, which they do, simply make a gentle U-turn. It’s like a GPS for your soul. Your GPS doesn’t yell at you and call you stupid or judge you for taking a wrong turn. In the sweetest voice imaginable, the GPS reminds you to take the next possible U-turn. Each of us has to find out how to make our own U-turn. Here’s a few suggestions on making U-turns:
1. Move. The best way to burn off the stress hormones without having to change your thinking is to move and sweat. Run, dance, jump, ride, swim, stretch, or skip—do something vigorous and lively. Yoga is also fabulous, as it combines movement and breathing.
2. Breathe. Most of us hold our breath often or breathe swallow, anxious breaths. Deep, slow, full breaths have a profound affect on resetting the stress response, because the relaxation nerve (or vagus nerve and not the Las Vegas nerve) goes through your diaphragm and is activated with every deep breath. Take five deep breaths now, and observe how differently you feel after.
3. Sleep. Lack of sleep increases stress hormones. Get your eight hours no matter what. Take a nap if you missed your sleep. Prioritize sleep.
4. Think Differently. Practice the art of noticing stress, noticing how your thinking makes you stressed. Practice taking deep breaths and letting go of worry.