In times of crisis it can be exceptionally difficult to remain calm and positive.
When we are worrying about the health of loved ones and paying our bills, it is easier to become overwhelmed and bogged down in negative mental patterns.
This week I am considering our perception to daily stressors and what we can do to feel more balanced.
Half full or half empty?
We all know what it feels like to feel overwhelmed and under pressure, and we have all experienced the heart-racing adrenaline during exercise or a before a hot date!
Both these emotions have ‘stress’ at their root. The key to whether we view a stressor as ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ lies in our perception on the effect it will have on us.
A simple example is missing a bus. If you dwell on your annoyance of running behind your schedule this affects your mood and you become anxious. If you perceive this as extra time to enjoy the sunshine and perhaps call a loved one, this will have a positive affect on your mood and add joy to your day.
What’s the science?
An interesting truth is that our bodies deal with positive and negative stress in the same way, the same biological process occurs. When the body is aware of a stressor it shifts from our rest state (parasympathetic nervous system) to fight and flight (sympathetic nervous system).
So our body does not differentiate between our daily life stressors, it is our perception of the effect the stress is having on us that sorts them into the ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ category.
Here is a fun Optimist or Pessimist test to see where on the spectrum you lie!
Help, I am a worrier!
An awareness of our current emotional pathways is really useful. We learn to notice our first reaction to a stressful situation. Do we assume the worst or feel unable to move on?
The next step is to acknowledge this default reaction and make a conscious intention to view the situation in a new light. To start the path towards resetting our emotional pathways, which in simple terms is neuroplasticity.
This doesn’t mean that we have to be happy all the time and embrace utterly crap situations with a big smile, however, we can give ourselves tools to deal with every day stressors more effectively rather than being paralysed with anxiety.
Here are two simple practices to build your resilience to stress:
Voluntary positive stress:
To optimise the body’s recovery, introduce some ‘positive’ stress while maintaining a regulated breath. This will help your body learn how to cope with the physical effect of challenging situations more effectively. Positive stress activities are invigorating and can be pleasurable, such as:
- Cold water swimming (or a daily cold shower!)
- Hearty belly laughing
- Challenging exercise
Your challenge is to do at least one of these every day!
A daily gratitude practice
Start a daily gratitude practice and list at one good thing in your life that you have to be thankful for. Put a notebook by your bed or in the kitchen and do this every day at the same time. What are you looking forward to that day or what was good about that day? What made you smile? They don’t have to be big or ‘worthy’, the little things count and seeking out the extraordinary in the ordinary is a game changer.
Wishing you a wonderful week,