Stress happens to all of us but that doesn’t mean you have to fall victim to its debilitating effects.
You can learn how to become more resilient, prevent toxic stress & overwhelm.
The exercise I’m going to share with you is a potent tool to start your day with. (however, you can use it anytime…the more the better at first).
Use this exercise anytime you are in a new environment or having a pleasant time. Or if necessary a mildly stressful time. You can also use this as a mindfulness exercise when you notice tension in your body, there doesn’t have to be a narrative attached.
If you notice your jaw is tight, try the this exercise. The more you use it, the more proficient you will become.
Curiosity is the antidote for overwhelming stress.
Curiosity taps into your very biology.
All mammals function in this way. When you become overwhelmed by stress your biology shifts into a threat response cycle.
Your autonomic nervous system is an automatic biological process and it is in charge of regulating you under stressful situations. You don’t even think about it, your body responds.
These are some of the ways you may respond to overwhelming stress:
- Tensing muscles to take a defensive or aggressive action
- Rapid and shallow breathing
- Shutting down digestion
- Feeling flushed, hot or sweaty
- Freezing in place and feeling disoriented
It is difficult to think your way into feeling calmer and present. You might have a Ph.D in aerospace engineering but your intellect is not going to help create calm. It’s almost impossible to think your way out of perceived or real danger (unless you’re a navy seal).
It’s impossible to be curious when you’re already well into a threat response. Our biological response to threat is governed by the animal brain, not higher cognitive rational thinking.
This exercise will help you communicate with your inner lizard 🙂
AND…again, the good news:
Which means your brain is resilient. That IS the good news.
You can train your brain…..don’t worry you don’t have to break a sweat. It’s simple…but not always easy.
How to create curiosity
You could say to yourself…”What might happen if I try the following exercise?”
The key is to notice when spontaneous curiosity arises. You can cultivate curiosity if you practice the exercise below. Use it before you become overwhelmed.
Let me say that again….
Practice the following 5 steps (under a minute) before you become overwhelmed. Yes, before things start to feel “out of control”, when you are moderately stressed.
Let me explain…
Once you’ve reached a level of intolerance your brain is now screaming danger, your biology is responding and you are more than likely out of your mind in fear, anxiety or panic and you’re probably now a reptile. I mean, at this point you’re probably reacting from the animal brain (even if you don’t have scales)!
This short exercise will help impede the threat cycle and allow a natural spontaneous curiosity to emerge. Changing your physiological response and changing your brain’s reaction to the situation or experience. (whether it is real or imagined threat….but stress is always real. That’s the kicker!)
Practice the following 1-minute exercise daily and your ability to settle and stabilize from stress will increase.
The 5 Step Process to Short-Circuit Stress in
1 Minute (0r less)
Let’s get to it…
1. Settle– You may be familiar with mindfulness. We’re going to add in an additional layer. You will become aware of your autonomic nervous system and the cycles of activation and deactivation, internally.
2. Notice – Keep your eyes open and allow yourself to stay connected to your environment, often under stressful situation, some people will “space out,” do your best to stay aware the room you’re in.
3. Track – Consciously notice what are you aware of. What do you see? Which is different than noticing at first glance, where you can miss details. Take a moment to literally look around.
4. Communicate – To yourself or another, describe what it is you see in the environment. Literally say what you see out loud (if necessary). Such as colors, objects, texture, shapes, etc.
5. Scan – This is important because remember….curiosity is the antidote to overwhelm….so, let your eyes go where they want to go, exploring the environment look for anything appealing. Literally as if they are magnets and the room and all contained in the room are iron filaments. Allow your eyes to take in what your eyes are most strongly attracting to.
When your eyes land on objects, colors or persons they are in preference of describe what they are seeing in detail. ***IMPORTANT***
Notice what is happening on the inside of your body.
Did anything change? Is the landscape within your body the same of different than a minute ago? Meaning what sensations are you feeling?
Tingles? Warmth? Cool? Waves or Movement through your body?
Does your belly feel more open?
Did you take a deeper breath?
Did your shoulders relax ? (even slightly, remember better is better)
Can you feel the support of the chair/couch or bed. If you’re standing can you feel your feet?
- How are you overall? More relaxed, calmer or feeling more present?
How are you doing overall?
Perhaps you notice a general feeling of well being or a specific pleasant sensation.
This powerful exercise invokes the power of neuroplasticity, you will stabilize and settle and your brain will change how it responds to overwhelming stress. (over time that is)
Commit for at least 2-3 weeks on a daily basis and notice the pleasant shifts.
Keep a journal, write down bullet points on what you observe that is different, better, subtle or more obvious. Track what is different, better.
Better IS better, it doesn’t have to be huge. We’re going for the antithesis of cathartic experience because research is now showing exposure therapies and cathartic experiences are re-traumatizing to most people.
But hey, as one of my instructors jokes, “A stopped clock is right at least twice a day!”
Be gentle with yourself.
It takes time to lay new neuropathways and changing the way your brain responds to overwhelming stress.
Download my free e-book 7 Simple Steps to Destress for a more in depth understanding of how to create change in your biology and heal your nervous system.
Feel free to share this resource with anyone in need of settling and stabilizing from stressful situations.