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Stress Awareness Insight #6 - And then what?

So far, we’ve talked about the significance of stress, the manifestations of stress, to pay attention to how stress feels in our bodies, and so on. But what are we listening for?

“It’s all well and good to pay attention to by body, but what am I supposed to do with that information?”

I got you.

Listen for what your stress is telling you. I know that sounds simple, but all too often we get stuck in the feeling or the reaction and we stew and simmer there, justifying ourselves or stoking the coals of our resentment or frustration. We hardly ever go deeper.

Once you’ve identified that you are feeling stress (that’s huge!), and paused to attend to what you are feelings (incredible! well done!), take a moment to listen to the feeling (or thought, or reaction, or behavior)… listen to what it is telling you in its reaction. Is it frustration? Is it feeling unsafe? Is it overwhelm? Is it perfectionism paralysis? Is it a trauma response? So on….

Oftentimes, simply identifying the feeling (sadness, anger, frustration, vulnerability, isolation or lack of support, or other) is enough to tell you what the need is that the feeling is trying to communicate to you. Sometimes we need to dig just a little deeper. If it is sadness, that means we’ve lost something important (literally or metaphorically) – what can we do to find it or protect it the next time we have it? If it is anger, that means we feel we are being mistreated – are we truly being mistreated (sometimes we jump the gun and are mistaken), and if we are, what can we do to make things right or protect ourselves from being mistreated in the same kind of situation in the future? If it is frustration, that means we’ve been trying the same thing over and over and it isn’t working – we need to think creatively, perhaps with a trusted colleague? If we are vulnerable or feeling unsafe, what or who is bringing up that feeling, and what are some concrete things we can do to protect ourselves? If we are isolated, where can we find camaraderie, sympathy, or support?

Notice that in each of those, I moved from identifying the feeling to identifying what the feeling is telling us (about our needs or desires), to identifying some ways to address the underlying need. Listening to what the feeling is pointing at implies that we are willing to do what we need to in order to satisfy our own needs.

This is radical responsibility. We are not wallowing in the stress. We are not giving in to the stress and surrendering our thoughts or productivity or time or emotional energy. We are taking the time to intentionally listen to why we are feeling what we are feeling, and responding to meet that need.

This is not a “continue to feel stressed” strategy. If you want to wallow, this isn’t for you. If you want to use stress as an excuse, or justification, or distraction, or a weapon (against others or even yourself), this isn’t for you. However…

If you want your feelings to trust you, so you can trust your feelings…

If you want to meet your own needs that your subconscious is working hard to bring up to you…

If you want to experience stress as a momentary stepping stone toward greater health, self-awareness, and productivity, then this is where the tire hits the road. This is for you.

It may take some practice, but probably not much. In fact, you may notice the same kinds of things coming up fairly regularly, even. When that happens….

(be sure to come back on Monday for the next Stress Awareness Month Insight!)


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