Do you recognise the real levels of your internal stress and its causes?
One of the questions on our New Client Intake Form is asking to rate your stress levels on the scale of ten. Surprisingly lots of people will give 2-3 out of 10 justifying it as that they don’t have any significant negative events present in their life. Yet they come with anxiety, worrying, sleep & digestion issues and other signs of stress.
This is because internal stress is not easy to recognise. Especially if that internal stress is, in fact, created by your own mind.
Let’s uncover some of the causes and look at 5 effective strategies to reduce it.
What do I mean by internal self-inflicted stress?
- Do you have unrealistic expectations of self, feel like you need to achieve and improve all the time and would rather die than disappoint yourself or others, make a mistake or fail?
- How much would you do to avoid judgement and prove that you are enough? And do you judge yourself?
- How often do you use ‘should’ and ‘should not’ VS I would like to?
- Do you feel guilty to say no, selfish to prioritise your own needs, not deserving to simply receive?
- Are you driven by external validation and body image?
The list can go on. You can probably relate to some of it to a degree. But each of us will have 2-3 very strong unique underlying motivators that drive us to avoid ‘negative’ consequences or seek ‘desirable’ outcome. Accept that those motivators very often are subconscious and come from past experiences (age 2-8), parental, cultural, social conditioning and beliefs that are not even ours.
Why is this so detrimental?
It’s the brain than labels the ‘negative outcome’ as pain or danger and ‘desirable’ outcome as pleasure or safety. Now the fight & flight response is involved. The brains main function is to keep us safe and it will avoid the ‘negative’ outcome at all cost, including your health.
Certain emotions trigger our survival more than others. In tribal times it was never safe to be alone in the face of predators. We are programmed to want people to like us, to fit in, to belong. We need to feel loved and valued by parents to avoid abandonment (equals death). Accept that we are no longer in danger, inherited belief system might be outdated and that teacher who happened to call us stupid and kicked out of the class in 6th grade is no longer around.
Power of the brain
According to science, the brain in a resting state consumes 20% of body’s total energy! This is when we are asleep! It needs more when performing complex tasks and it never shuts down. The electricity it produces while functioning is enough to power a light bulb! Imaging how much energy it requires to constantly overthink, worry, predict, control etc to think its way to ‘safety’ in order to avoid ‘negative’ consequences! Where does it steel the energy from? Right, from all the other vital organs and bodily functions.
Good news? If our mind creates labels and attaches the meaning, it is in our power to change it. Our emotions and feeling (positive or negative) are always true to the context we created. By changing the context we can change the feelings and re-pattern the brains perception of what is safe. Retrospectively, it changes the body’s biochemical response to perceived stress and improves your physical health.
STEP 1 – Awareness. Find your motivators.
- Why do I do things that way? What am I gaining? How does that make me feel? What is the worst case scenario if I don’t? What am I afraid off? How would I feel about myself if I don’t get ‘desired’ outcome or allow ‘the worst case scenario’ happen?
- Notice when and where you use the words ‘should’ and ‘should not’. It’s always coming from conditioning, not from choice. Ask yourself, if I had no worry in the world – what would I rather do? Validate your true intentions VS automatic belief.
- Remove yourself from the situation. If it was your best friend or a person you love dearly, what would you recommend them?
EXAMPLE: Typical Perfectionist:
‘I should always do things well. I have to meet my unrealistically high standards to feel good enough.
If I ever stop – I feel like I don’t do enough.
It is important to improve, otherwise I feel like I am a disappointment.
I am afraid people find out I’m a fraud and reject me.
I should work even harder.
My worst nightmare is being a lazy blob, doing nothing – I can’t relax.
I will feel like a failure’ – very often is a result of highly critical parenting, limiting beliefs like ‘should work hard, ‘relaxing = lazy’ , etc.
STEP 2 – Freedom of choice.
As you become aware of your true motivators that drive your behaviour/feelings and create internal stress, you now have the power to change it.
Ask yourself a question: ‘Is this a fact or a judgement?’
Based on the example above: ‘If I do nothing and relax = I am a failure – this is a personal judgement and definitely not a fact.
Find out where this judgement originated.
Flip the statement into positive: ‘It is ok to relax. It is important to do nothing time to time to restore’. ‘Even if I fail – I am not a failure. Failure is not who I am as a person. Failure is a great positive learning curve’.
Every time you feel your mind going into the old pattern – practice interrupting and CHOOSE to replace with a positive statement.
STEP 3 – Deal with the unpleasant feeling of change.
- As we introduce a new belief or behaviour your brain will need time to catch up and create a new label. For some time it will ‘signal’ danger as a response to a new behaviour which can manifest in unpleasant physical sensations (think typical signs of stress).
- You might feel guilty for not working as intensely, saying no to a friend or worried about people’s perception. Whatever it is, DO NOT DISTRACT yourself from that feeling. Sit down, close your eyes, scan your body, find the feeling, breath through it, study it in details – it will shift and loose the intensity. Eventually it will disappear completely taking away unnecessary underline stress.
- Recognising our internal stressors could be tricky as they are often hidden in what we call a blind spot. Kinesiology is a wonderful modality that helps to uncover and resolve hidden stress. If you would like support please don’t hesitate to contact me through www.wisekinesiology.com.au or book an appointment directly through PH Clinic.
Written by our Resident Kinesiologist Natalia Savenko