Emotions, the window into your inner stressful world
Stress for Success
September 16, 2014
How many people would you guess wander through life with little awareness of their own behaviors and subsequent consequences? Bull in a china shop comes to mind.
To some degree we are all self-ignorant. We all have blind spots and miss tons of clues as to how our own reactions often cause more of our stress than the event we’re reacting to. Tuning into your emotions can expose many of these blind spots so you have a fighting chance of understanding how your reactions contribute to your stress.
An underappreciated window into your stress reactions is emotions. Psychotherapists are well aware that emotions are vital in identifying what’s bothering you. You can learn about your inner emotional world to help you navigate your outer world.
Tune into your emotions to become aware of which situations and people trigger your stress response. These reactions are always fueled by anger and/or fear-type emotions: impatience, irritation, intimidation, jealousy, insecurity, etc. Once you recognize these emotions kicking in it’s a short hop to feeling the tension they create in your physical body.
Who in your life easily triggers your stress emotions? When these emotions are swimming around in your body, what do you feel physically: Tension in your arms and legs? A queasy stomach? Pay attention until you can easily see the connection.
Once you make the connection between a stressful person and what they do and your emotional and physical signs of tension in response to it, you are closer to being able to choose a healthier response.
Try this: choose a person or a situation that consistently triggers your stress emotions. Choose one you can avoid for a while with no negative consequence:
1. Make the connection between your emotional reaction to a stressful situation or person and your body tension that develops from it;
2. For one week, avoid the situation or the person and pay attention to any greater sense of calmness and freedom from tension;
Doing this develops your “observing self;” you can observe your emotional reactions rather than be tossed around by them. Watching and witnessing your internal emotional states make the stressor less personal so you can dampen some of your drama and be more objective, which in turn, helps your body relax.
Over time, developing your observing self can also help improve your health. You’ll become more aware of your blood pressure, physical tension, and other symptoms. Consciously observing yourself can also lower the stress hormones thereby protecting your body from the ravages of stress.
Your observing self requires your conscious awareness of whatever you have chosen to focus on. Mindfulness teachings also advise you to observe WITHOUT JUDGMENTS.
Judgment of yourself or others is a fertile area for the observing self, as well. Observe without trying to change. Simply notice. Right behind your negative judgment, “I’m so stupid,” are your negative emotions aimed at yourself. It’s the same when the judgment is aimed at another person. The judgment triggers your anger/fear emotions. Close on its heels are your physical signs of stress and tension.
Your observing self can help break your dysfunctional, habitual and emotional reactions by distancing you from them giving you a brief moment to decide how you prefer to respond. This puts you into the driver’s seat of your own life rather than being a victim to your life-long internal insecurities. I call this a “space of time” between the stressful event and your reaction to it. With this little space of time a well-developed observing self can choose a more appropriate response.
Your defensive reactions (aren’t both fight and flight defensive in nature?) are much if not most of what feeds your physical symptoms and resulting physical and emotional maladies. Every desire to choke someone puts pressure on your heart and adversely affects you in a multitude of other ways.
In other words, it’s not just that jerk who puts stress on you, it’s also your own defensive reactions. And the only part of stress you can control is your own reaction.
Your growing observations of your own automatic, emotional and defensive reactions increase your power to decide if you want to change them for your own benefit. Your choice will influence whether your blood pressure shoots up or calms down, whether your internal inflammation grows exacerbating your arthritis or subsides and calms it. It’s always your choice and yours alone.
Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S. is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at email@example.com.