It’s an emergency. When someone screams “FIRE”, or we feel a quake, we know what to do. Remember the safety steps to stop, drop and roll if your clothes catch on fire? Having a plan makes a terrible event or situation more manageable. So what can we do when faced with the stress from tragedies, natural disasters, and life-changing events? How do we stay out of the vicious stress cycle that depletes our energy, fogs our minds, escalates our anxiety, and zaps our happiness? Every negative thought, feeling, and emotion creates unhealthy chemicals in our bodies and impacts our immune system.
Coast to coast calamities
Already in the state of California in 2022, we’ve experienced flash floods, mudslides, wildfires, and an earthquake, while Southwest Florida was recently devastated by Hurricane Ian. If we add on our own personal challenges like job changes, health issues, or the loss of a loved one, it’s easy to get into overload mode. Even positive situations like having a new baby, a job change, or a new home brings more tasks, and responsibilities that have their own stressors.
The great news is that we can take action and build resiliency in even the most difficult situations. We can STOP—BREATHE—AND LOVE. This is a simple technique that you can implement anytime, anywhere for yourself. Oftentimes, when we’ve experienced a trauma, we can get triggered for days, weeks, and even years later. For example, after surviving a flash flood, years later if there are major storms predicted, your body may automatically start to become anxious and nervous. However, you can use this technique to calm your body down and shift your emotions.
First, when you become aware that you’re thinking negative, worrisome, and unproductive thoughts, say, “STOP!” out loud. If possible, raise your hand in a stopping motion, to reinforce getting the message into your subconscious, that place where we think, feel, and act automatically-from patterns built over our lifetime.
Secondly, become conscious of your breath. One of the fastest ways we can calm our minds, bodies and emotions is to change our breathing patterns. Start by breathing in for a count of four and exhaling with a sigh, get that negative energy out. After that you have a large menu of breathwork techniques but here are a few simple ones.
Try the box breath; this is where you breathe in for the count of four, hold for four, and then release for four, now pause for the count of four and repeat the pattern. Another method is to breathe in for four counts, and slowly exhale through the nose for the count of six. Do what count method feels good to you, as what feels comfortable for one person, may not for another.
Thirdly, is to feel love for yourself. Close your eyes, breathe slowly in and out, then place one hand on your heart and one on your gut and ask, “What do I need?’ Stop and listen and act on it. If you feel resistance because of feelings of selfishness or guilt, remember that just like on a plane, you need to put that oxygen mask on yourself first, and fill up your lungs before you can take care of others.
This can be easy as you start with small acts of self-love. You can sit in your car, close your eyes and soak in the silence for five minutes before going into the grocery store. Another powerful tool for self-love is to praise yourself. The first thing in the morning, before you get out of bed, begin with gratitude, starting with yourself. Use “I am” statements such as, “I am strong, I am intelligent, I am love, and I am resilient.” Go one step further and record your “I am” statements on your cell phone and play them throughout the day. Hearing your voice triggers receptors in your brain and reinforces these messages making them even more powerful.
Make it fun and see how many you can create and then build that resilience by acknowledging your gifts.
From the mind to the body
Remember, research from various fields in psychology, health, and science has proven that every thought and feeling produces physical reactions in our bodies. So, when we are in the middle of a life challenge, remember to STOP—BREATHE—AND LOVE. This will build your resilience, boost your immune system and shift your mental, physical and emotional states to give you the skills to conquer your stress and hopefully put you on the road to happiness.