Stress, I hear you knocking but you can’t come in!

Published on 24-02-2016

You’re on the road of personal development and all is going well. You listen to the lectures. You read the books. You even have the t-shirts. You’re committed to the practice, feeling the calm and peace, then, boom out of nowhere comes upset, turmoil and stress, and lots of it! Life throws you a curve ball, sends a big wave crashing down on you, and the forecast says a huge storm system is approaching the shore. You ask yourself, “Why the #$%& is this happening?” You’re meditating, praying, and trying to connect to the calm place within. You know it exists; you were just there yesterday. Now it feels like your internal GPS is directing you to take every possible wrong turn. Peace is totally evading you and calm is hiding in a place unknown.  

What can you do to regain your internal sense of stability?

Internationally known author, lecturer and neuroscience researcher, Dr. Joe Dispenza says when challenges arise, and you forget to regulate your internal state the body’s stress response system is immediately activated.

“When you get knocked out of balance, you move into a state of stress and into a state of survival, a very primitive state. When this happens, your entire body chemistry changes, as do your brainwaves.” He adds the key to feeling centered and calm is to practice mindfulness, which will help you become aware of your reactions to stressors. You’ll begin to see your behavior is being dictated by repetitive response patterns.

“The concept of mindfulness is becoming conscious of your own unconscious thoughts, becoming aware of your automatic thoughts and responses, and noticing that those thoughts drive your behavior.” 

Dr. Dispenza explains that when you create the same thought pattern continuously, it becomes hardwired in your uncoscious mind. This causes your body to have the same response to a particular thought or feeling, which in turn causes you to carry out the same behavior. Think of your unconscious thoughts or feelings being a plane stuck on autopilot mode. It’s impossible to change your flight plan no matter how great your desire. You just can’t. You keep circling the airport. You can’t change the plane’s direction until you take control of the instruments, much like your mind. You’ve got to rewire your brain in order to create a new way for your body to respond!

Stress can come at you in fast and furious ways. It can show up as a disagreeable boss or a nosy neighbor, and as quickly as a toddler having a tantrum. Your internal thoughts or feeling, such as worry, fear or anger, can be one of your biggest stressors.

Dr. Dispenza says, “Left unchecked, the unconscious mind views all stressors, whether external or internal, as the same.”  Over time, seeing a lion or worrying about losing your job will send your body straight into survival mode. 

But what happens when you have to face something from the past? It could be a person, place or event to which you have a strong connection. For example, say you’re going home for a reunion. You can anticipate the outcome but being around family can unleash a series of reactions that send you straight into the inner recesses of your formerly hardwired self. You know, that feeling you get when your mom asks why you’re still not married, or when Aunt Anne says for the millionth time, how much she misses your ex. You start to feel emotions that ricochet you back to the past. You may feel a physical sensation or find yourself squirming. You think to yourself, “How did I get here?”

”The moment you see a person that you have past experiences with, and your emotional buttons are being pushed, you unconsciously return to the past,” says Dr. Dispenza.

How do you get quickly back into balance? Staying in the present moment and not thinking about the future or the past is key. “When your body is in the present and stays there, your physiology changes, the production of stress hormones slows down. You start to feel more like yourself,” says Dr. Dispenza.

It may seem counterintuitive, to send yourself deeper into the present moment while trying not to scream at your mom or Aunt Anne, but by doing so, you can recognize old patterns. You can collect and center yourself quickly and you’ll have a much more pleasant visit with your loved ones. 

Dr. Dispenza recommends building new neural architecture to help you view stressful situations from a different place in both your mind and body, and advises using a meditation practice to do so. The more you plan and rehearse your behavior, the more you prime your brain and body to be in new state, and create a new self.

“Look at your emotions and what you want to change. Decide how long you want to stay there, and as you become more aware of your emotional state during meditation, you will be able to shorten the time you spend on your emotional reactions. Self-knowledge is self-empowerment.”

When it seems like stress has the upper hand, take a moment and close your eyes. Take it from the man who has helped thousands of people transform their lives and has the scientific data to back it up. Focus on your breath, a meditative practice, and anything that disconnects you from your environment.

It’s the way to build a stronger you; one that can handle any curve ball, crashing wave or storm system life throws your way.