Stress. It’s all around us. Consuming us. Interfering with our happiness and success. Compromising our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Stress has become so normalized that we accept it as a way of life, something we just have to deal with.
WHAT IS STRESS?
Stress is the body’s natural response to physical, mental, or emotional pressure. It is a necessary survival response. When our body experiences stress, it can set off our fight/fly/freeze response which includes increased heart rate and breathing, and the release of stress hormones. Our body is ON!
Stress can be a very helpful thing when say, a car is coming right at us. We need that stress response to help us move out of the way of that car. It can also help us by giving us the energy to push through if we have a deadline or a task that needs completing.
Although stress is a common and even necessary part of being a human, it feels awful! The experience of stress is one of feeling overwhelmed, agitated, unable to cope, pressured, and maybe even powerless, like we don’t have any control.
HOW DOES STRESS INTERFERE?
When we’re constantly stressed, our bodies experience physiological responses such as shallow breathing, increased heart rate, nausea, sweating, heart palpitations, and indigestion.
Our bodies are meant to experience stress in short bursts, not for extended periods of time. Research confirms that ongoing, or chronic stress, compromises our physical, mental and emotional well-being. Our bodies are simply not designed to constantly be in survival mode.
Stress can impact our emotional well-being and manifest in a variety of behaviors such as:
Trouble making decisions
Withdrawing from others
Avoidant Behaviors (excessive phone/device use, alcohol/drugs)
Digestive Issues (Research has linked chronic stress to gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
This cycle of stress usually leads to us feeling bad about ourselves for “losing control”. We then go down a rabbit hole of beating ourselves up and asking over and over again, some version of “What is wrong with me?” or “Why can’t I just…?” We blame ourselves.
WHAT IS THE SECRET?
One of the most important tools in managing stress and what I consider to be THE MOST important one is…drum roll please…self-compassion.
Self-compassion is treating yourself in the same way you would a good friend. The practice of self-compassion involves an acknowledgement, and acceptance, that you are an imperfect human, and a commitment to treating yourself with love and kindness.
When we are experiencing stress and our body feels taxed with all that it’s doing to try to manage, the last thing we need is to be unkind, judgmental or critical of ourselves. This perpetuates the stress response, as the threat is now us beating on ourselves. This keep us in survival mode and the fight/fly/freeze response. This feeds anxiety. The cycle goes on an on.
Since stress is a human response and we are human, it doesn’t make sense to ask, “what is wrong with me?” Belittling yourself, putting yourself down, seeing yourself as the bad guy, are all things that will only add stress and anxiety.
When we treat ourselves with self-compassion, with kindness and grace, the opposite of survival mode begins to happen. Our breathing becomes more regulated and slowly, oxytocin, our calming hormone, gets released and we begin to calm. Our stress level comes down and our body moves more slowly.
Once we’re regulated and calm, we can look at a situation with a clearer set of eyes, a clearer head. Self-compassion decreases stress and gives us energy, instead of robbing us of it. It offers you grace and more ease as you move through life vs. making you feel bad about yourself for being human.
WILD WOMAN TIP
When you’re feeling stressed, put your hand softly on your heart and ask yourself gently, “What’s happening right now?”
Offer yourself a loving touch like your hand on your heart or stroking your cheek.
Take some deep breaths and stay mindfully aware of what’s happening for you.
Talk to yourself with a kind and loving tone. Offer yourself empathy, grace, and compassion, for your very human struggle.
Self-compassion is a critical tool for stress management and ultimately, for personal and professional success. By giving yourself the grace, respect and love every human deserves, you can keep your stress level in check and live a life with more ease and enjoyment!
Myriam Martinez is a Licensed Psychotherapist, Registered Art Therapist, Women's Self-Compassion Coach, and stick figure artist based out of Northern California. She gently guides women to embrace their Woman-ity© and love themselves fiercely through the power of self-compassion, artmaking and creativity. Her calling in this life is to teach women the power and importance of putting themselves first, loving themselves fiercely, and tapping into their creativity in order to bring more happiness, success, and ease into their lives
. To learn more about Myriam click here: https://www.myriammartinezcoaching.com/