Because I want what I share to be practical, much of what’s here is focussed on concrete, specific tools to help you transform stress. I don’t want to offer high-level theory that your poor, overwhelmed brain has to struggle to translate into something that can be useful in the everyday.
I teach the three principles and four keys in all my classes and to all the people with whom I work 1:1 on reducing their stress.
When your nervous system has been overstimulated by chronic or extreme stress, your brain can get stuck in “pedal to the metal” alarm mode and you just can’t seem to find the brake. These principles are the way to work with a nervous system that just can’t seem to shut down.
And it’s true that when you apply them daily (both in moments of stress and as regular stress-reduction practices, whether or not you’re stressed), your overall experience of stress can shift.
But there’s a problem with these practical tools.
The problem with what I’ve been teaching
As I teach these three principles and four keys over and over and over again, I can see that, despite their best intentions, women use these ideas to beat themselves up, to push themselves onward.
So many people end up adding a multitude of new tasks related to each principle onto their to-do list. The volume overwhelms them, and they collapse, feeling worse than they already do.Most of us think if we don’t kick our own butts, we’ll end up going nowhere- that's not the case Click To Tweet
This is not surprising in a culture that is always sending us “not good enough” messages. Most of us also think that if we don’t kick our own butts, we’ll end up lying on the couch, doing nothing and going nowhere.
So my clients and students, instead of relieving their stress, are adding to their burdens by pushing themselves to recover from stress, and pushing themselves to do more and more on a daily basis.
The one secret to reducing the effects of stress I’ve never shared.
The real secret to transforming stress is to be kind, patient and curious with yourself, instead of harsh, shaming and blaming, impatient and punishing.
On the simplest of levels, nasty inner talk registers in the body-mind as a threat, and you end up engaging the gas pedal, the so-called fight-flight response, yet again, and your body-mind mobilizes in response.
When we beat ourselves up, we are emotionally abusing ourselves. We are making ourselves feel bad and flooding our bodies with stress hormones. This activates the stress response and we end up with even more stress internally and externally than we had before.
When we are kind and caring toward ourselves, even if nothing else in our lives changes, this self-kindness deactivates the stress response. When the inner environment changes, our experience of what’s happening to us will also shift and our sense of stress can transform.
I’d love to be kind to myself, but I don’t know how
I’m not going to lie, transforming the inner environment from a nasty, stressful one to a kinder, calmer one is a slow process, but you can start with a simple gesture.
The next time you’re feeling stressed out, try this brief exercise… or maybe even try it now!
Maybe you might like to place a gentle hand on your chest and take a breath.
Maybe you might like to pause and say to yourself, “This is a moment of stress… I’m noticing I’m feeling stressed…”
Maybe take a moment to feel the gentle touch of your hand on your chest… the contact between your hand and body… and take another breath or two… and notice what happens.
If you’re intrigued, maybe you’d like to sign up here to receive a free .pdf of some additional self-kindness exercises you can try.
Or maybe you’d like to share your experience or challenges with self-kindness below.