STRESS! Some say it is a four-letter word. Stress is defined as our body’s reaction to stressors from a challenge or event that results in a fight-or-flight response. We all have experienced different kinds of stress from all categories of life. How we respond to stress in our life can have major impacts on our physical and mental health.
The Father of American Psychology, William James said, “The greatest weapon against our stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” Through mindfulness we practice the art of self-awareness, mind-body connection, emotion regulation, and attention regulation. By identifying our thoughts and we can choose how we want to respond to the wave (stressor) we see approaching us.
Stressors cause our bodies to be thrown out of homeostatic balance. This is normal and how our brains are wired. Responding to the stressor is how we can control our balance. The key element is that we all have a choice of how we want to take on the wave. Do we let it crash into us, or do we surf it?
Surfing the wave will create much more neutral and positive outcomes to help keep our mind-body balance. Medical studies have shown that by incorporating mindfulness into our lives, the amygdala in our brain actually gets larger. The amygdala plays and important roll with anxiety and stress. This structural change in the brain increases memory, self-awareness, and empathy functions while reducing anxiety and stress.
Think of an example of a stressor you have had recently. How did you react to it? Did you recognize it for what it was? Did you ruminate the endless possibilities or dwell on the negative outcomes it may bring? Did you allow space or time to understand and process your thoughts and emotions? Did you make judgments or have expectations from this stressor? If faced with it again, would you respond in the same ways?
Stress is part of life. We do have a choice of how we think and respond to our stressors. When you see that next wave approaching, CHOOSE to surf it. Your outcomes may surprise you. Let me know your thoughts on how mindfulness has helped you respond to your waves.