How the Body Handles Stress
Stress is something no one is immune to. We all experience it in one way or another, and have different triggers that set off our stress alarms. It all comes down to how we react to the situations we find ourselves in, and believe it or not, it’s not the situation we’re stressed over, it’s our emotional reaction to it. Personal triggers play a huge role in “why” we allow stress to overwhelm us. We’ll talk about personal triggers in detail in the next article.
Learning to deal with stress is difficult for most individuals because we are programmed at a very young age to react to certain stimuli in a very specific manner. Once we become aware of these programmed response patterns, we can overcome them. Managing stress has to become a conscious act on our part, otherwise, the patterns will continue to repeat themselves. One of the first steps in overcoming this programming is to become aware of our stress habits.
Stress habits can range from programmed emotional responses, like anger and fear, to physical responses, such as headaches and muscle tension. Our bodies are trained to react in a certain way, and they will always follow what the mind tells them to do. That’s why becoming aware of our thought patterns is so important. We literally need to teach our bodies to react differently to personal triggers generated by our minds.
We can change programmed emotional responses, like anger and fear, by catching ourselves the moment it begins. It may feel uncomfortable to some, but since our bodies react to our thoughts, we need to start internally talking to our bodies. When we feel ourselves becoming angry or fearful, we need to stop and ask ourselves why we feel this way. It’s easy to justify our own anger and fear by placing the blame on someone or something else, but at some point, we need to take responsibility for our emotional reactions. Sometimes people are going to make us angry, and we’ll feel we have every right to be angry. But if we’re ever going to control our reaction to stressful stimuli, we have to be the ones in control. A person or situation will only make us angry if we allow them to. That is something we’re always in control of.
We are also in control of our physical reactions to stress. Reactions like tension headaches and muscle soreness can be controlled once we allow our bodies to relax, and react in a different manner. No matter what situation we find ourselves in, we can usually take a moment to stop and get in touch with our mind/body connection. The key is to stop the stress response before it gets out of hand, and ask ourselves what about the situation is causing our emotional reaction. Why are we angry? Defensive? Fearful? Frustrated? Locate the answer to that, and we are suddenly in control of our emotions, instead of our emotions being in control of us. At this point, we can change the way we react to the situation.
Chronic, unresolved stress will lead to an overwhelmed nervous system, and an overwhelmed nervous system will lead to anxiety and negative physical reactions. Our bodies will always respond in this manner, and until we take conscious action to change it, they will continue to do so. Our bodies don’t know how to handle it differently until we teach it to. Our thoughts play a powerful role in how our bodies react. Telling our bodies, “No! We are going to react differently this time!” will start a chain reaction within the body. Most individuals feel our bodies are some separate entity that we have no control over. This is not the case. Remember, our bodies react in the way we instruct them to. So taking control of our emotional reactions, and telling our bodies to react differently, will lead to better control of our stress. Better stress control will lead to a healthy, well-balanced nervous system, and a healthy, well-balanced nervous system means less anxiety and negative physical symptoms.
Our mind and bodies are not separate. The thought process taking place in our minds will dictate how the body reacts. Reprogramming the mind/body connection takes effort on our part. But if we stay focused and consciously aware of what signals we’re sending our bodies, we can change this programming. It won’t happen overnight (at least for most), but keep at it. If our intent is strong and focused, our ability to handle stressful situations will be under control.