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COMBATING STRESS
Attitude and Body Awareness

Our attitudes toward stressful situations and the resulting reactions those attitudes bring are what cause us dis-stress NOT the situation itself. That is a liberating concept!

For some people speaking to a group can be a very stressful and uncomfortable experience, for others it can be experienced as a challenge that invigorates and brings a sense of accomplishment. It all depends on our attitude toward the stressor.

It is our need to categorize and judge our experiences as good vs. bad or pleasant vs. unpleasant that creates this cycle of stress. Over time we may build up habitual patterns of stress reactions in our body that we are not aware off. When this happens we can find ourselves tightening our jaws, furrowing our brows or stopping breathing, all without a conscious awareness of what is happening.

Learning to practice body awareness can greatly reduce the impact of stress on our bodies.

Becoming aware of what causes you to experience tension -- when, where, and why -- is the key to learning to deal with it.

TRY THIS EXERCISE

You can print out this page and do the exercise off-line or do it right now.

After reading each question, close your eyes, take some slow deep breaths to relax your body and calm your mind, then begin to let the thoughts, images and associations flow.

Reflect back to a recent situation in which you were conscious of experiencing tension in the form of impatience, fear, anger, irritation, guilt, blame, etc. Allow yourself to re-live that situation in your mind's eye. Re-experience the thoughts that came: see the people/person involved.

Let the emotions you felt then flow back over you, as if it were all happening again. Only this time you don't have to control or hide them for social reasons. Just let them totally flow and envelop you.

Sink into them without judgment or rationalization. After a few minutes, notice what is happening to you physiologically. Has your breathing changed? Do you feel hot or cold? Is any part of your body tense (tight jaw, clenched fist, tight abdomen, frown...)? What are your thoughts? Are they clear and objective, or confused and blurred?

Ask yourself: "How do I feel about the person involved? Can I clearly see a solution? What is it I wanted and didn't get? Do I know exactly what to do next to remove the stress? What do I want to do, right now to feel better?" When these answers are clear to you, slowly open your eyes and write them down.

1. Physically, I felt/noticed....

2. My thoughts were....

3. About the person/people involved, I felt....

4. I wanted to feel better by....

5. In this situation, what I wanted (and didn't get, or thought I wouldn't get) was....

Repeat this for several situations to get a clearer picture of your reaction patterns.


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