Monday, July 14, 2014

Why We Ignore Stress and How to Ensure We Don't Using an Easy 3-Step Technique

Is it possible to go through your days in a state of numb chronic tension and not recognize you're about to get hit by the Stress Express Bullet Train? For virtually everyone, the answer is absolutely yes!

How can that be? Isn't stress something we notice, something we feel, something we are always aware of? The answer is - like so many areas of life - it depends on focus and habitual mind patterns.

The Good and Bad News: You Are Wired to Survive:

As a key part of evolution we are programmed to survive. One of the mechanisms that helps us do that is habituation, or habit.

Think of habituation as a form of learning. As a given stimulus is repeated, we're less and less likely to respond to or consciously notice the stimulus. 

The brain is on alert to notice what's new, novel, and threatening. As we get used to a given stimulus over time, we tend to pay little or no attention to "old news". We tune out old signals in favor of attending to new and potentially threatening situations.

Ignoring Chronic Stress Signals:

As we habituate to internal signals we at first may have recognized as stress alerts, our overall stress levels increase. The physical body may take on a chronic muscular tension. Blood pressure becomes chronically elevated. Emotionally, we are frequently on edge, short of patience and less considerate. Life seems to become more of a struggle, so we feel the need to push harder. And we do.

Soon, another round of stressful circumstances hits us. Yes, we may for a time recognize that we're "stressed", but the business of life takes our attention away from internal signals of stress. We habituate to yet higher levels of tension and dis-ease.

Sadly, this ever increasing stress spiral can continue for years. Our physical and emotional health will likely deteriorate and lead to acute medical conditions such as heart disease and stroke. We can become profoundly unhappy to the point that life seems far more a burden than a joy.

Apply the Stop - Look - Listen Technique:

Fortunately, we can harness the power of positive habituation to recognize and release stress in real time throughout each day. 

Choose to get into the habit of taking a one-minute stress break several times a day. At first you'll likely need to schedule these breaks in your daily calendar or set your email program to send reminders. You can also use sticky notes or other items as prompts until the Stop - Look - Listen habit becomes automatic. That will likely take about three to four weeks of daily practice. After that time, you will have created a new, habitual healthy pattern you can benefit from for the rest of your life.

The Three Easy Stop - Look - Listen Steps Are:

Step 1: STOP: Stop whatever you're doing when it's time to take the Stop - Look - Listen break. Notice any sensations, tightness, or uncomfortable feelings in your body. Touch those areas gently and say out loud or silently in mind, "Soften, soften and flow. It's only blocked energy, release and let it go." After a few seconds move your hands over your heart. As you place hands over your heart (right hand over left or left hand over right is fine) take three gentle, long, easy breaths as if breathing into and out of your heart.

Step 2: LOOK: Raise your head up or - even better - stand up and take a few steps. If a window is nearby, look outside. Soften your gaze and look off into the distance. Returning attention to the space nearby, if you have a photo of family, a loved one, or pet available, look at that photo. Really, really look at the photo and allow positive feelings of appreciation and gratitude to flow through you. Feel those feelings and smile. In the absence of photos, find something to look at that creates positive feelings. Flowers, a stuffed animal, a special award or a thousand other items can all work. Really feel the positive energy flow.

Step 3: LISTEN: Pay attention to your self-talk and notice if your self-talk is positive, helpful and upbeat or critical, judgmental, and energy depleting. Choose self-talk with phrases, and commentary that are upbeat and encouraging. Use phrases that include words such as, "can", "choose", "positive", "happy", and "success". Positive power words change our state and allow us to get onboard the Success Express train bound for Joyville, Abundance, and Peace.

There you have it. Three simple steps to help avoid getting hit by the Stress Express while ensuring you enjoy a first class seat on the Success Express for daily travel. 

Acute or serious chronic stress may require help from an appropriate professional. But choosing to take charge of your daily stress challenges with Stop - Look - Listen and other techniques described in posts on this site - and in other authoritative sources - offer wonderful ways to help assure stress mastery becomes a healthy habit everyday.

Your Suggestions:

How do you ensure you stay on top of stress in your day-to-day life? Please add your voice to the conversation in the comments section below.

If you would like to contact me privately, please email me at

Stephen Carter

Stress Solutions, LLC |

Important Note: This and all other postings to this blog are for informational purposes only. This and all other posts are not intended to diagnose, treat, or otherwise recommend any treatment for any medical or psychological condition. Anyone using any of the information contained in this or any other posting on this website does so at his or her own risk. You are urged to seek competent medical consultations with appropriate licensed medical professionals for any and all medical or physical conditions.