All excerpts in this blog post except where noted are from Destressifying: The real-world guide to personal empowerment, lasting fulfillment, and peace of mind. Hay House.
How to relieve stress?
We know it. We all have it. We all experience it. It’s the human condition—especially when you learn its simple definition: Stress is how we respond when our needs are not met. Human beings experience this phenomena 8 to 15 times a day. And assuming our typical eight hours of sleep, that’s an unmet need every one to two hours!
Every few hours throughout the day, you experience moments where your needs are not met, your expectations don’t unfold as predicted, or someone or something throws you for a loop. You say or do something you wish you hadn’t; what once seemed clear is now filled with a swirl of confusion; you keep running out of time; you start taking shortcuts when you should have thought through a solution more carefully. And your bigger issues, your career, health, money, and relationships—and even your lifelong dreams—seem to take a backseat to the hundreds of less profound but necessary daily chores, responsibilities, and commitments. As you try to juggle all these lower- and higher-value tasks with everything else swirling around in your life, the result is stress.
But it’s what we do with stress, it’s how we respond to our unmet needs—what we think, the words we speak, and how we react to each other and our unmet needs—that determines the fabric of our life.
The good and bad Effects of Stress
The consequences of stress can be devastating as you end up sacrificing the clarity of your thoughts, the impeccability of your words, the brilliance of your decision making, the potential of high performance, and the fulfillment of your dreams and desires. But these harmful aspects are not the only side of stress.
The most recent science is now demonstrating that stress can also strengthen us, build emotional resilience and mental toughness, help us forge deeper relationships, and teach us profound lessons. It’s all a function of our perception in the moment. Stress has now been proven to enhance performance by focusing us and pushing us forward in the direction of our goals, and with this stress-driven motivation comes increased productivity and greater satisfaction. Severe stress—such as in the aftermath of a trauma—has even been credited with birthing many of our Aha! moments, reinforcing our relationships, and elevating our journey of personal development. It’s even been confirmed that stress has restorative properties that can increase health and rejuvenate cells after the initial ordeal.
Embracing the Stress Paradox
Remember, stress can help us focus, take action, identify our needs that are not being met, enhance our performance, improve our memory, and manage a crisis more effectively. Stress can also push us over the deep end, filling us with anxiety, sadness, and overwhelm; testing our relationships; constricting our emotions; distracting us; and confusing us. This is called the “stress paradox.”
We now know that the same biological response that prepares us for battle when we sense a threat can have positive consequences, in addition to the obvious negative physiological and health-related effects. According to the 2012 research paper “Rethinking Stress: The Role of Mindsets in Determining the Stress Response,” by Alia J. Crum and Peter Salovey of Yale University and Shawn Achor of GoodThink, “the experience of stress elicits anabolic hormones that rebuild cells, synthesize proteins, and enhance immunity, leaving the body stronger and healthier than it was prior to the stressful experience.”
This continuing game-changing research is taking us into uncharted territory regarding our perception of stress and sparking an entirely new dialogue regarding the paradoxical—sometimes counterintuitive—impact it has on our lives. In fact, new terminology is taking shape as stress-related growth is now being referred to in some scientific circles as post-traumatic growth (PTG). Science is now finding that weathering the storm of extreme stress can cultivate our inner resilience (“what doesn’t kill us . . .”), making us mentally stronger after the fact and leading us to forge deeper relationships as we recover and connect with others. In the aftermath, we see the world with new eyes. We’re empowered and brought to a place of deeper understanding of gratitude and purpose.
This doesn’t mean that stress is all good or that it doesn’t damage, debilitate, and wound us, but it suggests instead that there is a fine line of interpretation during and after the stressful moment where we actually get to choose whether stress is harming us or helping us. This foundational paradox is why the process of destressifying makes so much sense. It’s a mind-set, a lifestyle—not simply arresting stress in the moment, but proactively shifting the way you receive, interpret, and respond to life by cultivating a deeper awareness of it and yourself. Ultimately, destressifying means learning to be your best and express yourself at your highest level in every situation. So whether stress is good or bad matters less than what you do with the moment when stress appears and what you do with your life from this moment forward.
Another article on the positive and negative aspects of stress: https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201203/the-perfect-amount-stress
What is the science of stress? Why is stress both good and bad for our bodies?
How do you respond to stress?
Stress is universal because our needs are universal. Yet the individual way each of us responds to having our needs met, and how we respond when they aren’t met, become this unique mosaic we call our reality. As we sway relentlessly between the realms of our met and unmet needs, the world swirls around us. And in critical moments when we crave clarity, the spontaneous right thought, word, or action . . . when we wish it could just slow down a bit so that we could make the best, most conscious choice for ourselves and everyone around us . . . boom! Instead, we may find ourselves swept up in a tsunami of thoughts, fears, confusion, overwhelm, regrettable behaviors, knee-jerk emotions, and conditioned reactions.
Hormones and chemicals surge through our body, constricting our blood vessels, shallowing our breathing, thickening our blood, heightening our sugar levels, and suppressing our immune system.
But the long-term implications of stress are all based on our perceptions of it. Under the guidance of Dr. Richard J. Davidson, researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison performed an eight-year study on perception of stress and its impact on mortality. More than 25,000 participants were asked to rate their stress levels over the past year and rank how much they believed this stress influenced their health. Over the next eight years, public records were used to record the death of any subjects. The test subjects who (1) self-reported high levels of stress and (2) believed stress had a large impact on their health had a 43 percent increased risk of death. However, the test subjects who self-reported a lot of stress but did not interpret its effects as negative had the fewest deaths over the eight years.
Physical Symptoms of stress (Source: http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-symptoms-effects_of-stress-on-the-body?page=2
- Low energy
- Upset stomach, includingdiarrhea, constipation, and nausea
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles
- Chest painand rapid heartbeat
- Frequentcolds and infections
- Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
- Nervousness and shaking,ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
- Dry mouthand difficulty swallowing
- Clenched jaw and grindingteeth
Emotional Symptoms of stress (Source: http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-symptoms-effects_of-stress-on-the-body?page=2
- Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
- Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
- Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
- Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
- Avoiding others
Cognitive Symptoms of stress (Source: http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-symptoms-effects_of-stress-on-the-body?page=2
- Racing thoughts
- Forgetfulness and disorganization
- Inability to focus
- Poor judgment
- Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side
Behavioral Symptoms of stress (Source: http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-symptoms-effects_of-stress-on-the-body?page=2
- Changes in appetite — either not eating or eating too much
- Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
- Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
- Exhibiting more nervous behaviors, such asnail biting, fidgeting, and pacing
- National Institute of Mental Health: How does stress affect overall health? http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml
- Causes of stress: http://www.wikihow.com/Sample/Ways-to-Manage-Stress
Mindfulness based stress reduction
The main reason most people suffer with stress is because they don’t have the right tools to address it. It is the reason I twisted for more than 20 years in the corporate world, struggling with restless sleep, living without balance, feeling overwhelmed, and searching for deeper fulfillment that rarely seemed to come . . . and was fleeting when it did. I didn’t know what the tools were—nor did I have the manual on how to use them. I didn’t even know there were tools! But right now you’re way ahead of where I was, and I have spent the past 14 years compiling the research and studying the wisdom needed to live a destressified life. There are five keys to living a destressifying life:
- Mastering your awareness
- Mastering your needs
- Mastering your emotions
- Mastering your communication
- Mastering your purpose in life
- First, I will teach you to master your awareness through the power of accessing the present moment. If you are new to meditation or have never meditated, do not be afraid—I have taught the toughest of the tough and the meekest of the meek to weave this easy tool into their lives. Having the skill to drift into stillness and silence when all else around you is loud and kinetic is a profound ability, and I will show you how to master it so the other benefits of destressifying have a bigger impact in your life. We’ll do it in very small doses, and incrementally your practice will evolve. But that’s just one piece of the process; the full practice of destressifying takes you deeper into other core aspects of your being .
- So after you’ve mastered awareness, you will learn to understand your needs at the deepest level and the motivations behind them. You’ll learn to master your needs by looking at your life through the lens of the Five Realms—a powerful tool to help you let go of what doesn’t serve you and to bring deeper fulfillment into the physical, emotional, material, relationship, and spiritual aspects of your being.
- Next, you will learn how to master your emotions as you cultivate your emotional awareness, heighten your emotional intelligence, and start to shift the way you respond to the world around you. This process alone will transform every interaction, collaboration, transaction, and communication you have from this moment forward.
- And to enhance these exchanges between you and others, we’ll embed the critical practice of conscious communication into your vocabulary, and you’ll start to master your communication. You’ll actually begin to listen more, express yourself more clearly, increase the likelihood of your needs being fulfilled, and interact with others at a higher level.
- You will also learn to use daily tools to help you master your purpose in life as we uncover answers to the age-old questions Who am I? and Why am I here? Upon finishing Part II, you will be comfortable using your tools, and you will have crafted your blueprint for living a destressifying life.
16 second meditation to destress
More short meditations with Davidji: http://destressifying.com/destressify-guided-meditations/
Video: How to begin a meditation practice
Click on time stamps to jump to your favorite answers:
0:03 Learn a 16 second meditation
1:37 How does meditation connect us to the present moment?
3:36 How to build your meditation practice slowly?
4:13 What happens when we meditate?
5:20 How meditation offers us space?
6:36 When to meditate?
7:05 How to build a practice week by week?
7:38 Listener Q&A
7:52 What is the worst case scenario for stress?
9:52 How can you recognize what is causing you stress?
11:08 How can we learn to listen to ourselves?
12:30 Do we have only one purpose in life?
13:40 What is one question we can ask to know if we are doing our purpose?
14:15 If we can help and heal others while we are doing the stuff we love and have time stand still, then we have a win-win-win.
Video: Stress during Life’s transitions
Finding your life purpose
Click on time stamps to jump to your favorite answers:
0:01 What should you do if your job feels meaningless? How do you find your purpose?
0:36 What do you do when going to your job is killing your soul?
1:58 How do we show up for our job in the spirit of giving?
3:01 What should you do if your job isn’t using all your talents?
3:37 What questions should you ask yourself in finding your purpose?
4:52 What are different strategies for pursuing your purpose?
5:25 What mistakes did Davidji make when moving from Merger & Acquisitions on Wall Street to being a meditation guru?
6:40 What is the first step you can take to finding your purpose?
9:34 How do you find your life purpose after a major loss or change in your life? (lost job, relationship)
Other Resources: How to relieve stress
What if meditation isn’t your thing? Don’t stress it! Several other methods have been identified as effective ways to manage stress. Check out some of the other methods below:
- Moving: Movement is a great way to restore breath and energy back into your body. By focusing on movement and exercise, like dance, yoga, running, or a walk with nature, we reset the cognitive symptoms of stress.
- Connecting: Chatting with friends, laughter, enjoying a great film, and listening to music allow us to connect with our hearts. These connections give us an escape from fear and puts distance between us and the problem at hand.
- Reflection: Writing, praying, getting a massage, creating artistic work, and just a simple breath can harvest a moment of appreciation.. Gratitude has the power to redirect our focus from the superficial problems to the innermost wisdom that lives on eternally.
- Space: Create your own spiritual vacation from the daily grind to just soothe the soul. Taking a bath, enjoying a cup of tea, and lighting candles are all nice ways of forging a tranquil atmosphere. If possible, make sure to schedule personal time out of your busy, full day of meetings to just sit and be.
- Lifestyle: A healthy nutrition, getting proper rest, and cutting down on caffeine and sugar are all helpful ways to reduce physical stress on your mind and body.
- Wisdom: Accept that you can’t change everything and learn to love what is.
- Change the focus: Sometimes the stress in our lives is caused by not knowing how to frame our problem.
- Face your challenges: If your expectations or needs are not being met, then try talking it out.