Is stress a habit?
Interesting question, isn’t it?
A typical response might be: How can stress be a habit when there are all these “things” and circumstances in our world that keep giving us stress?
Let’s explore this a bit.
You have a very busy schedule. You have almost no time for yourself, if any. You find yourself eating on the run or eating foods that are not necessarily nutritious, yet they are the easiest to grab while eating at your desk or running errands about town before you pick up the kids from school. You keep thinking you’ll get to the gym or get that walk in, but it never seems to happen.
During the course of your day, you probably have consistent thoughts such as these:
There’s so much to do; I never have enough time; I’m running late; I can’t think about taking my lunch because I have no time to make anything healthy; this traffic is driving me nuts; why are all these people on the road anyway; I wish I had more time….or somewhat similar ones, right?
You may notice how tense your body feels, how often you seem preoccupied, instead of being present. You may also notice how your body keeps wanting to hold onto weight; you feel sluggish, heavy and generally not light spirited and full of joy, eh?
What’s happening? Your thoughts and body are in a state of repetition of stressful thoughts and feelings.
Habits are formed by repetition. After the learning takes place in the mind and the body, it goes to the unconscious part of our mind, where it runs without us having to think about it anymore.
So many areas of our lives are habitual. We know how to tie our shoelaces without having to think about it anymore. We can drive a car, without having to think about how we do it. We’ve got it down. Our unconscious takes over and you know how when you’ve been driving and suddenly you realize “wow, where was I the last 10 minutes”?
Well, you were on automatic. One part of your mind was busy thinking about the conversations you just had or who you will be meeting with shortly, etc. The other part-the unconscious part-was driving! It’s a long learned habit.
Stress can be a habit, too.
When stress is constant, or chronic, when we keep thinking the same distressing thoughts over and over again, the same nerve cells keep firing together, causing a “hard wiring” of those same thoughts. It becomes a “loop” that keeps repeating itself.
Then our natural unconscious biological response to all the distress kicks in, too sending out the troops of stress hormones.
When there is no break in these types of thoughts, brought on by our perception of the external events, then we keep having the same responses from the body and the same looping in the brain.
And, it all becomes a neurological and biological habit.
So now what?
Good news: habits can be broken!
Here are some basic tips to break the habit of stress:
It all starts with your awareness!
Become aware of your stress. Know what’s happening in your body. Experience how it feels when you are stressed.
This is what you don’t want, isn’t it?
Take charge now by declaring you won’t let these stressful feelings be so automatic that they seem normal!
Become aware of the thoughts you’re having.
Be present to your self talk and you will discover those repetitious non supportive thoughts that are keeping you in the stress habit loop! It can help to write them down. Get them out of your head. It gives them less power and you will feel empowered!
Begin to imagine how you want to feel.
Use your imagination to get into the state of how you want to be: calm, relaxed, present, enjoying your life. Feel how that feels. Use all your senses when you imagine and feel these desired states of being.
Start to choose thoughts you want to have.
You do have a choice in what you think. When you bring awareness to your thoughts, you can really start to change the loop of habitual thinking. When you no longer keep the same neurons firing together, you can disconnect the old loop. You now can create a new loop. This loop is being created out of your awareness, your consciousness and your intention. This loop is a supportive loop.
Writing out these new wanted thoughts can keep you paying attention to what it is you want!
You can break the stress habit! You can change and create new ways of being, thinking and doing. It’s all there within you.
You are now ready to prune out the old thoughts and plant in the new ones in your fertile empowered mind!
Please share your thoughts on breaking the habits of stress below!
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