Employers lose $ 200 billion a year due to stress-related ailments and 75-90 percent of employee visits to hospitals are stress-related, according to the National Institute of Health. What amazing statistics!
Why we are not attacking stress with the same vigor with which we have attacked drug addiction or drunk driving, I know not. After all, stress is one of the core factors that leads to dangerous behaviors in adults.
Most American adults are operating past their stress thresholds on a weekly basis. Driven to distraction to placate their suppressed and often intense feelings of anxiety and worry, they eat, smoke, drink, stare at the television, video game, etc … to temporarily remove themselves from unwanted feelings. What is interesting is that we obsess over our addictions but often do not look at the root. What is underneath the need for distraction?
Distractions are "state variables" . They make us feel something different than what we were previously feeling. For people who default state is anxiety … state variables are life savers, though they may not be healthy.
Knowledge is the first key to unraveling your stress spiral.
1. Identify when you move toward distractors; when your emotions are such that you choose to eat, drink, smoke, etc … to change your state. I am not talking about taking care of hunger or thirst. We're talking about neutral or negative behaviors we choose to make us "feel better", to move away from an uncomfortable emotion, thought or general state.
2. Notice Patterns in this behavior. Is it something you do everyday? After work? When you're with someone, or alone?
3. Work backward. When you recognize the distractor behaviors and then see the pattern, back up farther to identify what emotions you experienced that preceded the want to change your state.
4. Accept that adopted emotions are key contributors to increased stress levels. There are many factors to stress, however, unexpressed, unacknowledged emotions are very powerful. The answer is not necessarily to blow your top whenever you feel upset or cry your eyes out when your boss is a jerk, as those behaviors will most likely make things worse.
5. Learn to feel your emotions fully by finding a place and time to sit calmly and have your emotion. You may think that if you engage it or surrender to it, that it will take over, but that is not the case. Most emotions just need to be fully felt. They are like the hot air in a small balloon, once you make a hole, it does not take much time for the hot air to be released. Most emotions take generally 3-15 minutes. This is one way to release emotion. There are numerous processes that I use in coaching. You can Google the subject "Emotional Release Process" and find many resources. I will be posting more here soon.
6. Never again suppress how you really feel. The energy of a suppressed emotion is like a fireball stuck in your body …