Employers lose $200 billion a year due to stress-related ailments and 75-90 percent of employee visits to hospitals are stress-related, according to the National Institute of Health. What amazing statistics!
Why we are not attacking stress with the same vigor with which we have attacked drug addiction or drunk driving, I know not. After all, stress is one of the core factors that leads to dangerous behaviors in adults.
Most American adults are operating past their stress thresholds on a weekly basis. Driven to distraction to placate their suppressed and often intense feelings of anxiety and worry, they eat, smoke, drink, stare at the television, video game, etc…to temporarily remove themselves from unwanted feelings. What is interesting is that we obsess over our addictions but often do not look at the root. What is underneath the need for distraction?
Distractions are “state changers”. They make us feel something different than what we were previously feeling. For people whose default state is anxiety…state changers are life savers, though they may not be healthy.
Knowledge is the first key to unraveling your stress spiral.
1. Identify when you move toward distractors; when your emotions are such that you choose to eat, drink, smoke, etc…to change your state. I am not talking about taking care of hunger or thirst. We’re talking about neutral or negative behaviors we choose to make us “feel better”, to move away from an uncomfortable emotion, thought or general state.
2. Notice Patterns in this behavior. Is it something you do everyday? After work? When you’re with someone, or alone?
3. Work backward. When you recognize the distractor behaviors and then see the pattern, back up farther to identify what emotions you experienced that preceded the want to change your state.
4. Accept that suppressed emotions are key contributors to increased stress levels. There are many factors to stress, however, unexpressed, unacknowledged emotions are very powerful. The answer is not necessarily to blow your top whenever you feel upset or cry your eyes out when your boss is a jerk, as those behaviors will most likely make things worse.
5. Learn to feel your emotions fully by finding a place and time to sit calmly and have your emotion. You may think that if you engage it or surrender to it, that it will take over, but that is not the case. Most emotions just need to be fully felt. They are like the hot air in a small balloon, once you make a hole, it doesn’t take much time for the hot air to be released. Most emotions take generally 3-15 minutes. This is one way to release emotion. There are numerous processes that I use in coaching. You can Google the subject “Emotional Release Process” and find many resources. I will be posting more here soon.
6. Never again suppress how you really feel. The energy of a suppressed emotion is like a fireball stuck in your body and can do a great deal of harm, directly and indirectly. Learn how to experience your feelings in safe ways. A “safe way” might be different for each person. Perhaps, you learn to sit with the emotion such as described by Tom Stone and demonstrated audibly here, perhaps you exercise it out, write it out, draw it out with the “Drawing out Process” by Emily Eldredge or do a round of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) as demonstrated by this video intro.
It doesn’t matter what process you create or choose, it only matters that you learn some way to release the negative energy from your body. In the beginning it may feel unfamiliar and possibly even scary but once you learn to acknowledge what you have been suppressing, it gets easier and easier. Through personal and professional experience, I’ve also found that the negative emotions, when met, felt and released never seem to return with the same strength. What a relief that has been!
Once you stop suppressing your emotions, your stress experience drastically changes. The energy it takes to repress feelings (which is huge) is suddenly freed up and available for your mind, heart and body to more easily address what’s happening in the moment. All of the sudden, you find you have extra energy and extra reserves. Now doesn’t that sound good?
If you have any questions or would like coaching through any of these processes, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org