Feeling Stressed? Try paying attention to it.
This might sound counterintuitive - but it works!
Life is full of stress and sometimes we get absorbed into it.
Even though stress starts in the brain, it becomes a whole body phenomenon as well. You might find that your hands start sweating more, your heartbeat starts to race, and your muscles get tenser and tenser.
This might sound counter-intuitive, but one of the best ways to tackle stress is to become aware of it and focus specifically on it. This is one of the key things you'll learn if you take up the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) Journey in this blog.
Here's an introduction to some of the things you'll learn - mainly that whenever you feel a negative emotion rising up in your lives, it's best to turn toward it and feel it for what it is, instead of trying to make it go away.
What do we normally do in response to stress?
If it's stress coming from work or school, one thing you might try doing is to start working faster. You might even start multi-tasking, trying to get things done as quickly as you can.
Yet somehow or another, doing so only makes the stress start to build. In the rush to get rid of stress, we turn all our attention to whatever it is we are doing. However, by doing so, we start to lose contact with our thoughts and emotions.
We stop paying attention to how we feel.
The more you get sucked into a stressful situation, the more you begin to lose contact with the present moment. What happens then? You start succumbing to your worries about all the things that can go wrong. You become even more stressed out!
Paying attention to stress.
Instead, here's a little thing you can try out whenever you are feeling stressed. If you're feeling stressed right now, stop whatever you are doing and try this out.
First, just put your hands and body in a comfortable position. Close your eyes if you want to and just take a few deep breaths.
Now start paying attention to that stress. See if you can feel its presence on your body - it might be a physical sensation, like a tightness around your temples or a tenseness in one of your muscles.
Bring your focus to that, and just simply be aware of it. You don't have to do anything about it, especially not try to chase it away - just simply focus on it and feel it.
You'll probably find thoughts creeping in, like "Is this really working?" If so, just simply be aware of the thought. Then let it pass. This is really important, we need to keep focusing on the sensation of stress.
Continue doing this for however long you feel comfortable, it could be a minute or even five. Then open your eyes.
As you regain your senses of the world around you, did you find that you have better awareness of your thoughts? Do you also feel more closely contact with the present - the here and now?
If that's a yes, then great! If not, don't fret, just keep practicing - go another round. It'll get easier and easier when you do.
Remember, the key point of this activity is not to make your stress disappear.
Rather, it's about learning to come into contact with the present, and to see your stress as it is - a bunch of thoughts in your head and feelings in your body - instead of unconsciously succumbing to it!
And if you're doing it correctly, meaning that you are simply learning to pay attention to it and not trying to calm yourself down, a magical byproduct is that you might find your stress slowly disappearing.
This then allows you to go back and slowly carry on with whatever it is you're doing. But remember, keep practicing this activity the next time you feel stressed! Practice makes perfect.
Thanks for reading Kaya Toast for the Soul. I hope you find these little activity helpful! Email me if you have any questions at all.