How To Build Awareness Of Stress In Your Body

Let's talk in terms that we can all appreciate a little bit better. No sugar coating and no excuses. What is stress? Anxiety?

For many years, though especially in the last four or so, I have been practicing meditation on a somewhat serious basis. I have spent many, many hours sitting on my mat with my shins as parallel as can be, my shoulders rolled down my back, the top of my head reaching for the sky and then I let my body fall into a comfortable place and close my eyes. 

This morning I saw a post on Facebook that stood out to me. It had a list of six different tell tale signs that you must be very stressed out. Immediately I thought, well if you're willing to admit you're having some troubles surely you'd be willing to find some solutions, but we're looking at stress the wrong way. I have always been looking at stress the wrong way. Today I wanted to talk a little bit about that. 

If these six surefire ways to tell we're stressed are true, wouldn't it be even more factual to say, they're all even better related to a lack of awareness? As human beings, we aren't inherently stressed, are we? So what if we stopped for a moment to consider what it really means to have awareness. Signs of an ailment usually are demonstrated long after stress is initiated. Chances are, there might be a bigger problem if you are:

  • perpetually sick and just can't seem to get over it
  • having trouble concentrating
  • experiencing hair loss
  • having problems sleeping
  • experiencing sore back or neck muscles
  • having constant headaches

What if we treated this like a math problem from elementary school when we first learn how to show our work when finding a solution to a long division question, do you remember doing that? The answers are the six problems above. The solution is not the same for everyone (aha, see what I did there, I'm showing my work), nor is it ever cut and dry. Some people know the answer and fly right to it (less points are given, you forgot to teach the rest of us), some people are told the answer and how to get there but the connection just wasn't quite shown to them when they were willing to hear it. Finally, there's the person who doesn't know the final answer but understands and explains the theory. 

The answer is awareness today. We are the problem (stress) and somehow we have to get ourselves all the way back to a level of awareness . We have to sit down and do some long division. You're stressed right now. What does that look like for you? What if you could recognize for the next 30 days every time you feel your body alert you to this exact feeling and acknowledge it every time before you react. Simple enough, so it seems? That's the sort of meditation practice I began to implement into my daily routine. I just sat and let my mind wander and focused on my body's sensations. instead of focusing on the emotion, I focused on the long division. All of a sudden memories would pop up in my thoughts and one in particular send a wave of energy up my arms and into my chest. The first sensation I felt was my hair standing up on end and then thumping in my chest. I stayed neutral to the emotions this could have evoked but understood immediately this kind of awareness would be a key to me finding peace and eliminating much stress 

The memory was of a person I knew I didn't want in my life anymore and a recent situation that we'd be in together that was less than ideal. My body, only thinking back on this moment, knowing full well that I was safe in my home, reacted in the same way as it had the day of the incident. understanding for the first time that my body's sensations sent signals to my brain that increased my heart rate and lowered my body temperature were all getting my reaction ready for fight or flight. Stress can sometimes be a good thing - like if I'd actually been in danger. I wasn't in danger, I was just in a less than ideal situation that continued to cause me stress. Unnecessary, overwhelming stress. I did the long division and the answer changed (I'd always been getting that part wrong anyways). I practiced and practiced this sensation meditation until I recognized how my body was sending signals of stress and of pleasure. I'm not saying this is for everyone - but anyone can do this long division to truly release themselves from stress. Placing a few drops of a very soothing and spiritual essential oil like Sacred Frankincense or Northern Lights Black Spruce would be helpful to ground you as well. 

What can you introduce in the next 30 days that could help you identify your stressors? Listen to your body and stop the narrative in your head as immediately as you can. What if you're in your car? Name 5 things you can see, 5 things you can hear and 5 things you can feel. What if you're in a board meeting? Same thing! The first step in relieving stress for me, if I can catch it before a full on panic attack, is being aware of the signals my body is sending to my brain and vice versa. When you're home, sit down and turn off all other senses and pay attention to just how your body responds. We're not trying to calm the mind, but rather understand the body. It's a miraculous place and you have the privilege to live inside of it for only a short amount of time, Let's learn to drive them around a little bit more efficiently. 

With Purpose,

Tonia and Colin

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