Name, Tame and Reframe to Stop Stress from Taking Control
Our hectic and crazy world makes it difficult to not feel stressed. When those stress hormones are constantly present, they can erode bone and muscle and build up fat, especially belly fat.
It is imperative to find ways to alleviate chronic stress in our life.
Our body/mind’s stress responses are a vital warning system, producing the fight-or-flight response. When the brain perceives some kind of stress, it starts flooding the body with chemicals and this creates a variety of reactions such as an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Plus, the senses suddenly have a laser-like focus so you can avoid physically dangerous situations — such as jumping away from a speeding car or a snake on your path. It’s purpose is to keep you safe.
Stress can also help you meet daily challenges and it motivates you to reach your goals. In fact, stress can help you accomplish tasks more efficiently. It can even boost your memory.
These responses can also go into overdrive and hurt us more than they help us when left unchecked. So, how do we ‘check’ our stress responses?
Have you ever noticed how a cow or other animals when ‘spooked’ will jump and run. But then once they realize there is no danger, they simply to back to grazing as if nothing happened?
When the perceived fear is gone, the brain will automatically tell all systems to go back to normal.
Well… at least it should do this. We humans have a little trouble going back to normal in the way that a cow seems to be able to do so effortlessly. When our central nervous system fails to return to normal, or if the stressor or perceived stress doesn’t go away, our response will continue; becoming chronic.
As a Health Coach I can help you find the techniques that work for you to stop stress from taking control.
Often our stress is caused by our own inner critic. When we think negative thoughts, our automatic response is to release those stress hormones to protect us.
Here is one way that my clients find works really well to tame that automatic stress response:
We all have an inner critic. We experience this “voice” as a negative internal commentary on who we are and how we behave.
The inner critic is that self-judging voice that undermines our accomplishments, diminishes our self-esteem, and makes us feel inadequate.
Why do we listen more to the nagging inner critic than we do to our own hearts?
The inner critic, subconsciously sees its task as keeping us safe, and it will do everything in its power to do that, even feeding our fears and self-doubt.
Common critical inner voices include things like: “I’m so stupid.” “I’m so out of shape.” “There’s something wrong with me.” or even “I’m worthless.” or “I’m lazy.”
These statements feel terrible for me to even write and a kind person would never say them to someone else. But how often are we unkind to ourselves?
Often it is this untrue, unkind, judgmental self-thinking, that determines our feelings and how we live. For example, if on some level we believe that we are a lazy human being, we will feel lazy.
Have you experienced this critical inner voice?
Let’s try an experiment to feel how this critical inner voice affects us:
Take a few moments to entertain a judgmental thought about yourself and then think about its opposite. For example, “I am so stupid.” and then “I am so intelligent. I make thoughtful and smart decisions.”
Notice what you feel and sense with each opposing thought and how they differ.
The self-judgment will always generate a feeling of contraction on some level and some corresponding constriction in our body, usually in the heart center and often in the gut.
When this happens, we then take these feelings and sensations as evidence. We tend to consider our own thoughts as confirmation that we are the judgmental statement and we tend to think, “If I feel this way, it must be true.”
But, this is a common misunderstanding. We mistake the impact of our judgmental thinking as proof that something is wrong with us. And as we think this, we then have feelings of deficiency.
But the truth is: our judgmental thinking is not the truth. It is a habit of critical self-talk. It is a lack of clear thinking about the truth of who we are.
The following is a three-step process to help you free yourself from the inner critic and release that stress it causes:
Step 1: Name that you are self-judging
For example, if the judgmental thought arises “I am not good at this.,” take a moment and name to yourself that a judgmental thought is arising in your mind. Simply say to yourself, “This is a judgmental thought.”
Naming it as a judgmental thought helps to bring the prefrontal cortex of the brain back online and away from the automatic stress response. This helps you to bring your thought process fully into awareness. Being aware that you are having a judgmental thought allows you to disidentify from the judgment, creating space to allow yourself objectivity about what you are thinking.
Then you can say to yourself, “This self-judgment is not true.”
Step 2: Tame – Relax, Exhale, and Let Go
When you’re experiencing judgmental thoughts, your body is also impacted. Self-judgment activates the fight-flight-freeze response and creates actual contraction and tension in the body.
Step two is to take a moment to breathe, relax, and consciously soften your body. Take some slow, smooth, deep breaths, bringing your awareness into your body, noticing how it is reacting.
You can use your exhale to soften and release any tension you feel in your body as you release any negative thinking. You might even imagine the tension and judgmental thoughts leaving your body with each exhale.
Step 3: Reframe – Name a Positive
Now that you have a little space between you and your judgmental thoughts, take a moment and intentionally redirect your attention to something positive.
You might ask yourself “What’s going well in my life?” or “What is something about myself that I appreciate or value?”
Maybe it is that you have your health, you have friends and family who care about you, or you have a roof over your head. Whatever it may be, name a few positive things.
You might think of a quality that you appreciate about yourself; your strengths or a skill in yourself that you like. Maybe you are a good cook or writer. Maybe you enjoy helping others or have donated money or time to a cause you believe in. See what comes.
If you still find yourself caught up in the grip of self-judgment, simply acknowledging that you wish to be free from the suffering of this judgmental voice can help. Say to yourself, “I wish to be free of this judgmental thought. I wish to change it to a positive thought now.”
Reframe by repeating your positive thought slowly a few times.
Allow these positive thoughts to replace the self-judgment in your mind until you begin to feel the truth of these positive thoughts and feel them land solidly within your body.
Take a moment and try it now.
1. Name: Name a judgment your own inner critic has about you.
2. Tame: Take a moment to pause, take a couple of slow deep breaths, relax and soften any tension you feel in your body.
3. Reframe: Ask yourself “What’s going well in my life?” or “what is something about myself that I appreciate or value?” Repeat your answers silently to yourself a few times.
Now I’m going to give you a challenge:
Practice this at least three times a day for the next seven days.
What you practice and repeat over and over, starts to become more automatic and it replaces the automatic response that has been creating chronic stress.
With just a little effort, you can instill this as an automatic healthy habit for working with self-judgment anytime it arises in your life.
Many of my clients report better control of their negative thoughts. How did they do it?
There is such a positive synergy with group coaching! Many say it is just knowing that you are not alone in your journey to a healthy diet and lifestyle.
During our meetings, I present information to help you transition to a whole foods diet, reduce stress, increase movement and enhance sleep. Most importantly, I present information on WHY these lifestyle changes are important and all is backed with studies and articles from experts in the fields of health and nutrition.
But if information is all you need to have a healthy lifestyle, you can have information with a click on your Internet browser, right?
I will guide you to focus in on WHAT you want to do and HOW you can go about doing it and most importantly, WHY it is important to make changes.
By the end of each group coaching meeting, you will walk away with a next step for yourself as a focus or goal for the next week. Sometimes this can be just thinking about something or reading more about it. Most likely it will be an action step that will move you closer to your vision for your wellness.
Group coaching sessions are 90 minutes long and are held once a week for 12 weeks. Why so long? It takes time to turn new actions into a habit that you can maintain. You are not alone in this journey to wellness.
I have new groups beginning frequently.
Message me to arrange a free initial consultation to answer your questions and determine which group fits your schedule.