Hijacked by Stress

Rope wrapped around hands.
Image courtesy of Picspree.

How do you know if you are hijacked by stress?

Stress is running you when you can't pause long enough to do what you need to do to address and undress your stress.

It's true that it's far too easy to get enmeshed in the cycle of stress.

Do any of the following phrases sound familiar when someone has suggested that you pause to recalibrate?

  • "I don't have time to transform my stress!"
  • "I don't want to!"
  • "Don't you know that I'm stressed?"

If so, there's a good chance that stress has taken you hostage. The more you resist interrupting the pattern of stress, the tighter the ropes become. Stress is like a toddler in their terrible twos, demanding your complete attention.

S.T.O.P. the Hijack

When in a stressful situation, train yourself to S.T.O.P.!

Slow Time, Operate Productively. No, you don't magically stop time, but rather, you use time to your advantage.

Your sense of safety and security can be threatened when you are restrained by work issues, health concerns, family trials and tribulations and/or global affairs. Furthermore, time constraints pull those ropes even tighter.

In order to meet those demands, your nervous system ramps up until it (and you) can't. You expend a lot of energy, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

If you've had the experience of being stuck in snow or mud, you know that the best way to move forward is to ease up on the gas. It's futile to stomp on the gas pedal; tires squealing, engine roaring, the smell of gas permeating the air. Those are tell-tale signs that you're going nowhere...fast.

Similarly, stress in your system can hijack you; it prevents you from moving forward calmly and efficiently, while conserving fuel (energy).

Are You a Self-Identified Control Freak?

Do you like controlling all aspects of your life and that of the people around you? Are you holding on so tightly to those reins of control that your hands are permanently clenched?

Use that tendency to control to transform stress. Consider shifting control to your heart by learning and practicing techniques that improve your HRV (heart rate variability). HRV is the way in which your heart speeds up and slows down. A smoother rhythm equates to a higher HRV. That's better for your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health.

When you improve your HRV, you empower your decision-making skills, enhance your intuition, approach life's roller coaster with a greater sense of wisdom and calm, gain confidence and generally, be less fearful.

That urge to control is about safety. When you are creating such a rigid set of parameters about how you, everyone and everything must be, you create a false sense of safety. It's an illusion that can snuff out spontaneity and limits creativity. Nor is it fun for the people around you if every minute is micromanaged.

Like perfectionism, which often goes hand in hand with control, it can be crazy-making. How much is enough? It's exhausting to be ever-vigilant, often on things that don’t really matter in the big picture. (Dinner napkins MUST be folded a certain way. Yes, I was told that I wasn’t doing it correctly when I offered to help set the table at a dinner party.)

The wisdom lies in knowing what to control, how much and when to back off. When you are able to loosen those reins, you give yourself some breathing room, figuratively and literally.

Retreat to the safety of your heart and exercise control over your HRV. The dividends that come with practice will make a difference to you and those around you.

Recognize Where the Breadcrumbs Are Leading

If you are new to going within to affect without, attune your antennae and recognize when you are hijacked by stress. If you know that stress has you in its grips, you can take steps to mitigate it.

Pay attention to where the breadcrumbs are leading you. Hopefully not into the oven, where you're sure to get burnt (or burnt out from stress). If you're feeling the heat, pause.

When stress is running your life, your thinking becomes clouded. It becomes exceedingly difficult to find the exit or a solution. You may feel as if you have no power to stop, to spend a few moments to recalibrate your nervous system. However, when you practice this, your system begins to run more efficiently. Start with your breath and go from there. You get more done, with less wear, tear and grief.

Onboard tools and techniques that mitigate stress, preferably right in-the-moment, or shortly thereafter. (Ask me about coaching sessions.)

In the meantime, here are some questions for you to ponder:

  • Are you constantly telling yourself (and others) how stressed you are, yet fail to move forward?
  • What would it mean to you and your loved ones if you weren't tied up in knots; if you were less reactive and more proactive? Happier? Calmer?
  • Are you willing to disengage from the vortex of negative thoughts and emotions that hijack you from feeling and being the way you want to be?

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