Learning to Let Go of the Things Beyond Your Control
It seems, these days, that many of us are dealing with a higher degree of stress. With the pressures of work, supporting the family, and managing self-care, now we are impacted by a pandemic, unemployment, and economic decline that the level of stress has increased substantially. People are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed and it seems very difficult to control. How do you strive to manage everything that is on your plate?
1. Stress is complicated!
Stress is comprised of several systems of the body and mind. Stress is an automatic response of the sympathetic nervous system. It can be triggered by an unlimited set of reasons and circumstances. When activated, the "fight-or-flight" response is triggered. Your heart rate increases, your pupils dilate, cortisol races through your blood stream, you begin to sweat, and your muscles tense. The body has prepared itself to either fight the existing problem or to run away from it. It is a very primitive response to a potential danger. This is the natural conditioning of the body trying to maintain a sense of balance and homeostasis.
However, it seems as if many things in our modern society can trigger this same response. Social distancing, filing for unemployment, paying taxes, home-schooling the kids, and even grocery shopping can activate this all-too-familiar stress response.
In a "fight" response, you may try to tackle all these responsibilities. Your mind races, your muscles tense, and the shot of cortisol in your system is the energy you need to push through the overwhelming list of tasks. But it seems never ending; each item has its own set of stressors and the list doesn't seem to end. What do you do?
Likewise, the "flight" response is that need or desire to escape the stressful situation. Instead of trying to endure the pressure of dealing with everything, you'd rather run away from it all. But is that even realistically possible?
2. The Inability to be in Control
It seems like whatever you do, the stressors do not lessen; they only seem to increase. Stress has become the normal state of being for many people. To counter this, the parasympathetic nervous system needs to be activated. This is another automatic response that stimulates the body to "rest-and-digest." But this can only occur when the body and mind are free from continuous stimuli. In order for your heart rate, pulse, and blood pressure to decrease is to reduce or eliminate the stressorsthat exist in your life. This, too, seems like an overwhelming task. Since it is probably nearly impossible to remove all the stressful situations in your life, here is a strategy that may help you: learn to let go of things that you cannot control.
We often feel that we must be in command of all the situations around us. We must play the responsible roles of taking care of all the necessities in our lives. This is true, but there are some things that tend to be on our to-do lists that we simply cannot control: traffic, the weather, the news, others' emotions, among other things. When you spend too much time on the things you cannot control, it only makes you more stressed. You certainly encounter traffic jams, poor weather, and negative news, but how you react to them is the real work.
If you're overreacting and becoming angry and upset every time you have to sit in traffic, this only adds to the "fight-or-flight" stress response that is unhealthy for your body in mind. Ask yourself the question, "can I control this situation?" If the answer is no, then you have a new choice to make. You can still react strongly to the situation or decide to change your thoughts and attitude about the circumstance. If sitting in traffic is a normal expectation, then find something to do, say, or think in the moment that will help you get through it. Listen to mellow music on the radio, take some deep cleansing breaths, remind yourself that this is a temporary situation. This can be practiced in many other circumstances, too.
3. Break up with Stress
The idea is to list your responsibilities; the obligatory tasks of the day: work, school, chores around the house, meetings, helping the kids with homework, etc.These are the items that remain a constant on your list, however, the things that are uncontrollable are all the things that can go right or wrong when performing these tasks. A plate may break while washing dishes, the internet may go out while doing a video conference, your kids may have a tantrum because they don't understand their math homework. These are the unpredictable events that can happen on any given day and you certainly cannot have control over them.
These are the normal proceedings in life. Worrying about what is to come is energetically draining and stressful. You cannot predict the future; doing so only produces more anxiety. Embrace and enjoy the moment as best as you can. Unlikely things are bound to happen. Surrender to that notion. That doesn't mean you allow those happenings to rule over you or dictate how you respond to the situation. It means to accept the fact that good things and bad things are going to happen. You get to decide how you thoughtfully and emotionally respond to them. This is certainly easier said than done, but there are some actions you can take to help steer toward this mindful way to dealing with unpredictable stressors.
4. Strategies for De-stressing
If the news is depressing and too negative, put a time limit on the amount of news you watch, then turn it off. Give your mind a break from all the chaos and uncertainty that is illuminated in the daily news. Do the same with social media; set aside your phones and laptops to reduce the content you encounter through these medium.
By doing these two things, you can then re-program your brain. With too much stimulation that triggers the stress response, you condition your body and mind to expect these types of physical reactions. Take the time to re-train yourself by engaging in healthier activities. Take up a yoga or meditative practice. You can find meditation pillows, yoga mats,and other equipment at www.majisports.com to support your de-stressing efforts. Play a board game with the family. Take a walk out in nature. Read an inspiring story. Go for a nice jog. Incorporate these activities into your schedule. When practiced over time, you develop the ability to surrender to the things you cannot control. You'll worry less about the future and ruminate less about the past, and you will experience less automatic "fight-or-flight" responses. You will trigger the "rest-and-digest" response instead creating a more peaceful state of mind and body.
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