How does your stress manifest? Maybe it’s not so much “stress” as it is mental or emotional clutter that elicits a physical response from you. How do you work through that? Do you even realize that you are responding to what’s happening internally? In other words, are you aware?
Here’s an example. I’ve been blessed with many wonderful new opportunities and possibilities this month…to the point that I was starting to feel overwhelmed. So many thoughts swirling around in my head and the realization that some things are out of my control for now. My internal clutter manifested in the need to clean. For almost 7 hours on Saturday, I wiped down cabinets, washed light fixtures, and scrubbed floors. I was very aware that my physical response matched my mental need…the need to organize my (head) space. Who knew vacuuming could be therapeutic?!
At the end of the day, I was tired, but having my outside space clean and organized left me free to organize my inside space. And somewhere between swishing toilets and washing rugs, my thoughts pulled together and I realized I do have a strategy for how to proceed and that I’m not overwhelmed. Now this is a long story to say, had I chosen to just say “I’m stressed out” and have a couple of drinks, it is highly unlikely that I would have dealt with my mental clutter. Instead, I was aware that my physical act of cleaning was making room for my mental cleaning as well.
Now I’m not going to tell you how you “should” respond, but I think awareness is such an interesting topic and one that could improve your life. I know, that seems like a big statement, but here’s another example. Do you know someone (or maybe it’s you) who’s an emotional eater? Does eating solve the problem? No…and it usually adds to the original problem because afterward the person regrets what or how much was eaten. Being aware of what’s going on internally can help you choose a more productive external or physical response. In this example, if the person is aware that he/she is so bored or frustrated with work, then he/she could choose to go for a walk and get a change of scenery. And maybe while on that walk think about if this is momentary boredom or frustration or if it’s time to talk to the boss about a new role.
While choosing healthier coping mechanisms is great, being aware is more about solving the problem. (But if you’re also healthier, BONUS!) The point is that being aware of what’s going on internally can help you choose a response that empowers you to deal with the root cause rather than cover it up or numb it. Finding better solutions through awareness starts with two basic questions: What am I feeling? Why? If the answers aren’t clear right away, try talking it out with a friend or journaling.
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