We all have stress in our lives. It’s unavoidable and can be overwhelming, but it’s actually not such a bad thing if you have the tools for stress management. eM Life’s Stress Less, Live More applied program can help change the way you deal with stress. Here are a few steps you would learn as a participant in eM Life’s Stress Less, Live More:
- Observe your reactions
- Learn better ways of reacting
- Make what you learn a habit
- Space is choice, and choice is freedom
- Get your freedom while you can
Observe Your Reactions
In the Stress Less, Live More applied program we spend a fair amount of time learning about the stress cycle. Once you have some idea of how the stress cycle works, you begin to see it unfolding in your everyday life. That’s where the real benefit is: when you start to see how you spin around in the stress cycle on a daily basis.
You also start seeing the points where you can step in and influence the direction of the stress cycle so you don’t fall into the same familiar patterns.
Can you identify the trigger points for your reaction to stress? We all have our autopilot reactions to different stressors in our lives. Maybe your autopilot reaction to traffic is swearing loudly and hitting the steering wheel; or when you are overwhelmed by work pressure you disconnect with Netflix and chocolate.
Think about some of the ways that you react to the different stressors in your life. When that is clear, it’ll be easier to see where and when you need to step in to break your own stress cycle.
Learn Better Ways to React
In this course, we learn about using mindfulness to react differently to stressors. Here, we use our awareness to see when we’re becoming stressed. Once we see we’re going into our familiar stress reactions, we have a whole host of tools available: body scans, STOP practices, mindful breathing, interpersonal aikido and more.
In the end, the most beneficial way to break the stress cycle is to simply be aware and not follow your thoughts and emotions.
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Thoughts and emotions very quickly carry you down the rabbit hole when you’re stressed, so be careful! And remember, we’re not trying to snuff out our emotions or cut off our thinking. We’re learning to be vividly aware of everything in our experience, thoughts and emotions included, without being swept away by them.
So even if that stress-related thought surfaces saying “Yell at my boss, NOW!” you can watch it and all the urges that come along with it.
Instead of acting on those impulsive thoughts, you can choose an appropriate action in that moment. If you’re aware of your stress reaction and you really think that yelling at your boss is the best thing to do, then go for it.
At least you make the decision consciously and at some level accept the consequences, which is much better than reacting out of habit and regretting it later.
Make What You Learn a Habit
Practice is repetition, and if you repeat something consistently over time it becomes a habit. When we practice, we keep coming back to the present moment, again and again.
Eventually this becomes more and more of a habit, and one day you catch yourself before you follow your autopilot stress reaction; suddenly you’ve become aware, and you have space to choose what to do — what a relief!
But this kind of benefit only comes through repetition over time, so during the 10 week course we spend plenty of time practicing, both together and as home practice. Live sessions give you a chance to deepen your practice and clarify questions with the instructor (and if you miss a live session, don’t worry.
You’ll also be able to watch a recorded version of the session if you happen to miss it live). By the end of the 10 weeks you’ll have a habit that still needs to be nurtured, but a foundation has been formed.
In the End, Space is Choice, and Choice Is Freedom
Awareness gives you space. When you can watch your habitual thoughts and emotions unfolding without going along with them, you have the space to choose.
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That space of being aware gives you the chance to make a different decision than you normally would. Without that awareness, we’re caught in our cyclic thoughts like always. So, when we’re training in awareness we’re actually giving ourselves a chance to be free from our habits. While not complicated, can be very challenging to do.
Get Your Freedom While You Can
Have you ever had those moments when you have a good idea about how you could benefit yourself, and then you decide you’ll do something about it later? And then you sort of forget, or other tasks seem more urgent so it gets postponed?
Breaking out of your stress habits requires a fair amount of willpower to get started, and then more to keep going. All it takes is for your aspiration to fizzle and the whole thing goes down the tubes, so it’s important to hold your aspiration close and nurture it.
Imagine how your life will be if you continue reacting the same way to the same stressors? Now, how would your life look if you managed stress like a boss? If you have any desire to make a positive change for yourself, go with it.
Hold that intention and keep it alive as you go through your process. If you do, then one day you might just find yourself with some new habits, habits that bring more peace and joy into your life.
Sign up for Stress Less, Live More today!
Learn the essential tools to manage stress, and deal with the challenges that impact your quality of life. By managing stress effectively, you’ll likely feel less physical pain, experience more energy, and also communicate in ways that are less reactive and more effective. Sign up now and get 20% off the course with code EMBLOG!
Written by eM Life teacher, Mike Engle