Living in a stressed-out state is simply not good for us. We know this. In addition to causing us not to feel good, research shows that stress speeds up cellular aging! So, how can we combat the toll it takes on our bodies and minds and break out of stressful cycles?
When we encounter a stressful situation, we have a choice. We can choose to react with that “fight or flight” cortisol-spiking instinct, or we can instead respond mindfully and decide whether that stress factor is worth our frustration and anxiety. It’s true that we may not be able to control the waves of stress, but we can learn how to swim or surf instead of sink. And the more we practice mindfulness and the better we get at living in the moment, the easier it will be to recognize when we are about to react to a stressor vs. realizing it much later after the fact when we’re deep into that cycle.
The acronym S.C.O.R.E can help you develop that ability to respond vs. react. S.C.O.R.E. stands for stop (pause your automatic reaction), connect (connect to your breath or another anchor in the present moment, i.e., your feet on the ground, the feeling of the sun on your face, etc.), observe (notice your reaction: Is your body tense? Is your heart racing? Are you clenching your jaw?), and finally respond (how will you handle the situation?). You might find once you go through this process, often your “response” may simply be to breathe and do nothing.
The next time you feel stressed, I encourage you to try this. It should help you to respond vs. react.
I have always loved Billie Jean King’s famous quote: “Pressure is a privilege.” So, if (like me) you’ve ever found yourself stressed planning a vacation or contemplating a big project at work, think of the privilege you have to be in that position in the first place. Consider that the stresses and pressures might really be privileges for which to be grateful.