The Language of Stress

Image courtesy Jixue Yang

When you are stressed, the language you use and how you use it changes. Pay attention to the words, the structure, the intonation, the tonality and the volume and you might discover that a Mr. Hyde-like transformation occurs.

I don't care! I feel so old and tired! I have nothing left! Stop the world and let me off. Just leave me $%*@# alone!

Have you uttered any of the above, often in a voice that you didn't recognize? Perhaps your words are simmering beneath the surface, just like a volcano that is ready to erupt. When you finally blow, who and what is is covered in the red hot molten flow of your vent?

Learning to temper the temper by transforming negative thoughts and emotions may be like opening the dictionary and reviving dormant words that are in your lexicon. What would it feel like to regularly use words like peace, joy, and contentment? Perhaps you prefer the "ease" - eloquence, engagement, enthusiasm and expansion.

The art and science of addressing and undressing your stress takes practice and can be compared to learning a new word. Unless you make a concerted effort to install the word in your active vocabulary, it may be relegated to the shadows. You might remember encountering the word, but have forgotten the meaning or usage; it's in your passive vocabulary. Or the word did a supersonic fly-by - gone before you had a chance to enlarge your vocabulary.

The operative word, whether building vocabulary, or addressing your stress, is "active." You can read all you like about stress and how to transform it, but unless you take action to reset your nervous system, you can expect to continue to swirl in the seething froth of stress. You may be able to keep your head above water, but eventually you get tired and sink.

Reset my nervous system?

There are two branches to your autonomic nervous system (ANS) - the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Ideally, you want them to be balanced. When they are in balance, you feel better, emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. You have the energy to get through your day. When it's time to sleep, you do so with ease.

Today's fast-paced, rapidly-changing world prods people to experience all too-frequent activation of the SNS, resulting in fight or flight. Without techniques to restore balance, the calming effect of the PNS is diminished.

How do I do it?

Through the power of your heart. Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is the way in which your heart speeds up and slows down. When your HRV is functioning optimally, you have physiological resilience as well as behavioural flexibility. In other words, when a storm hits, you have "bouncebackability". A balanced ANS is key to a healthy HRV.

Your emotional and mental states directly affect your HRV. Whether an event is real, such as an immediate threat upon your life, or imagined as the replaying of arguments, concerns, frustrations or worries, it plays out in your body. Some people have a well-functioning reset button. They are able to let go and move on. The people I see in my work (that included me, prior to changing my ways!) had a system malfunction, which results in an increase in SNS activity and a decrease in PNS activity.

Treat the cause of your stress and not just the symptoms. Balance your nervous system and improve your HRV. Your emotional and mental states impact your HRV. They can get you into trouble, but they can get you out of trouble, just as easily. When you see how quickly your HRV responds to your thoughts and emotions, it becomes a catalyst for change.

How do I know what my HRV looks like?

By using the emWave® - technology that lets you see in real time, the pattern of your HRV.

I'll share my story to explain my experience when I first began this journey. You can affect your HRV by soaking in positive thoughts and emotions. So, after a month of recalling the things, people and places I loved, I thought I felt better. Then, I bought the emWave and all was not as it seemed. I was still in the red zone (Stress Zone) with my HRV. That was discouraging. Here I thought I was doing better, but I hadn't actually made the physiological changes that come with huge benefits.

Back to the drawing board, er...emWave. I had to learn to get out of my head and not just think about those positive feelings, I had to feel them. The best way to describe that is that it's a willful letting go. You can't try too hard, or you end up defeating yourself.

I've had enough practice now, that I know what it feels like to be in balance. I still use the emWave on a regular basis because I like the feedback I get.


  1. The quality of being orderly, consistent and intelligible.
  2. A constructive waveform produced by tow or more waves that are phase - or frequency - locked e.g. lasers.
  3. An order or constructive distribution of power content within a single waveform; autocoherence e.g. sine wave.

- Rollin McCraty in Science of the Heart: Exploring the Role of the Heart in Human Performance (2001)

Take action with small steps

  1. Notice your thoughts and emotions. Do you get lost in toil and trouble? Awareness helps you make the change.
  2. I say: Thank you brain, my heart will take over now.
  3. Learn to feel the subtle "shift" in your body to a more balanced state. This is where I can help you.

Interested in "changing your language?"

Don't wait for a condition to change in order to feel better. Learn to feel better, to change your conditions.

You don't have to do it alone. Let's have a conversation to see where you're at and what you need in order to move in a new direction.

You can:

  • Puchase an emWave if you like to DIY.
  • Get a group of five (your program is half price) or ten people (your program is free) together for a five-week coaching session, either in person or via Skype.
  • Sign up for a One-on-One coaching program.
  • Organize a Lunch & Learn for your place of work or group.
  • Buy a book.

Let's talk!

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emWave and Personal Stress Reliever are registered trademarks of Quantum Intech, Inc.

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