The dictionary says stress is a state of mental or emotional tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.
The dictionary is wrong. How do I know? Because stress is a feeling – an emotion – and the only place our emotions come from is from the thoughts we think.
Adverse or very demanding circumstances will absolutely cause some people to think thoughts that lead to feeling stressed. Those exact same adverse or very demanding circumstances will cause others to think thoughts that lead to feeling exhilarated.
Our Thoughts create our Emotions, which drive our Actions.
We each brew our own TEA.
Since this is absolutely true, we want to select our thoughts with great care and intention.
Self-chosen stress vs normal, natural stress.
What is a “normal” or natural life stress? These are stressors that we cannot control, like aging, health concerns, natural disasters, financial setbacks. Those kinds of stress show up in every life, and Google can offer myriad advice on how to handle them. I want to talk about optional stress – the stress we choose that is completely unnecessary – yet is often MORE damaging to our health and peace of mind than natural stress.
Self-chosen stressors include, but are not limited to:
- negative self-talk
- self body shaming & body hate
- adopting weight loss strategies that are stringent & impossible to maintain
- artificially controlling appetite
- limiting a needed macronutrient such as protein, fat, or carbohydrates
- believing we are unlovable, and will never be loved unless we lose weight or look different
- trying to create an impossible-to-have body
- unfavorably comparing oneself to others
- believing we are alone in this world, or that the universe is against us
The list goes on, and is different for each of us. When we choose these stressors, we live under a constantly higher level of stress than is necessary.
Most of us have plenty of natural stress in life, so why would we choose this type of self-harming thinking? We have been conditioned over a lifetime to choose these stressors. We didn’t make this stuff up. We didn’t invent thinking negative thoughts about ourselves. The world we live in trained that behavior into us, some more than others.
Other than the fact that stress feels crappy, why do we want to begin learning how to let go of these self-chosen stressors? Constant stress causes increased insulin, and increased cortisol which can lead to:
- weight gain
- inability to lose weight
- inability to build muscle
- decreased calorie burning
- increased fat deposits at midsection
- increased inflammation
- gut microbiome die off
- nutrient wasting
- decreased energy
- appetite deregulation
- desensitivity to pleasure
- decreased metabolism
- decreased Thyroid function
- decreased oxygen uptake
- poor sleep
So how do we begin to let go of these self-chosen stressors?
Awareness is always the first step.
We cannot change it if we do not see it.
The Grow on! section below includes a way to begin cultivating more awareness around self-chosen stress.
Don’t beat yourself up for thinking stressful thoughts! It’s a conditioned human behavior. Give yourself some grace, practice letting go of self-chosen stressors, and see what happens for yourself!
How does stress show up in your body?
Write a physical description of how it feels when you are STRESSED about something. For some people it will include sweaty palms, or a racing heart. For others it might feel like a twist in the solar plexus or a kick in the gut. Whatever it is for you, take a minute to describe the physical sensations that arise for you when you feel stressed out.
Practice awareness by noticing these physical symptoms each time they show up. As you become aware that you are feeling your symptoms of stress – ask yourself what thought you were thinking that caused the symptoms. Then ask yourself if it is a life stress, or a self-chosen stress.
If it is something you are choosing to think/believe, what will it take to give self permission to let it go?
Reframing thoughts is a superpower that grows with coaching!
If you are ready to let go of some of your self-chosen stress and need some help or guidance, I would love to chat with you! Click THIS LINK to schedule a free conversation to see if I am the right coach for you!