We've talked about eustress, the good kind of stress, and distress, the bad kind, but, regardless of the kind of stress, what do we DO with it? Even eustress can get your heart a-thumpin' Got a terrific grade? Got into the school you wanted? Won the game? All good stuff, but it can take its toll. Some people cry with good news. Others can't sleep for all the good possibilities at hand.
On the other hand, distress, the bad stuff, takes a more exacting emotional toll. Got fired? Victim of a crime? Didn't get what you expected? Going to the dentist? These and other distresses can leave you with a racing heart, jumbled nerves, sleeplessness, nausea, and other gastrointestinal difficulties.
When stressed, stay in the moment. This is called mindfulness. Take longer and slower breaths. Notice the hum of the air conditioner, smell what's cooking, notice how your back is supported by the chair you are sitting in. At the least, being mindful distracts you from the stress symptoms you're feeling. Think about smiling inwardly and with your eyes. What?? How's that work? Well, instead of focusing "out there," where your stress is, turn your focus inwardly. Notice your lungs filling with that deeper breath.
All stress and anxiety start in your brain with the thought, "What if?" What if my next grade is bad? What if my dental work is too painful? As you worry or stress, your breathing shallows, muscles tense, and heart rate and blood pressure go up.
While continuing deeper breathing, turn your "What ifs?" into "I wonders." Add a positive outcome to your wonder. In doing so, your stress and anxiety turn into curiosity, a much better feeling that prepares you for what's next. "What if my next grade is bad?" becomes, "I wonder how I well I'll prepare to get my next good grade. The message is, "I know I'll get a good grade and I will work to make it so."
Finally, as you are preparing to master your stress, enjoy a positive image, something that represents the best thing ever! Some people imagine soaking in a bubble bath. Others imagine a brisk walk in the woods, or sitting on the beach watching the sunset over the ocean waves. Use your creativity to enrich your imagination with sights, sounds, smells, touch, and taste. You are breathing deeply, taking your stress and turning it into wonder, preparing for a positive outcome, and rewarding yourself with a terrific positive image.
Aahh ! Life is stressful. Turn it to your advantage.