Sift Out the Significance

Man sifting flour.
Photo by Klaus Nielsen from Pexels

Learn to sift out the significance to achieve a greater feeling of calm and wellbeing.

Stress has a way of assigning significance to things that don't necessarily require the importance that you ascribe to it.

With chronic stress, the "emergency button" is frequently activated, regardless of whether that threat is real or imaginary. Your body then floods with hormones that are designed to deal with the threat. That flooding mimics what happens when you flood the engine of your car with gas. Your vehicle just doesn't go like it's supposed to go!

From WebMD:

"Fight-or-flight mode refers to all the chemical changes that go on in your body to get it ready for physical action. In some cases, these changes can also make you freeze.

While this stress response can still help us survive dangerous situations, it’s not always an accurate response and it’s usually caused by something that’s not actually life-threatening. That’s because our brains can’t differentiate between something that’s a real threat and something that’s a perceived threat."

What is your typical reaction to stress? Do you fight? Are you prone to being more short-tempered, argumentative or belligerent? Perhaps you flee by retreating to a place of safety. If you have ever encountered a deer while driving on a dark country road, you're familiar with freeze. In fact, "like a deer in the headlights" is an idiom that is commonly used to describe someone who is frozen by indecision.

Little Things Can Nibble Away at Your Equilibrium

Under chronic stress, little things begin to take on huge significance. They can nibble away at your sense of equilibrium; you may no longer feel like you. When you are normally naturally you, you can more easily let go of "stuff." Keep in mind that natural is different from normal; natural is the way you are meant to be, before stress gets hold of you in its icy grips.

You may notice that you are frequently triggered by things that are beyond your control; things that would ordinarily fade away faster than an equatorial sunset. For example, someone recently told me that they were concerned about a routine lab test. It was announced that there was a potential for strike action by employees. As a result, they were worried that the doctor would not have their results at the time of their appointment. Instead, anxiety took over and the simple solution (postpone the doctor's appointment) was not apparent to them. Instead, they spent days worrying over a situation that was out of their control (the possibility of strike), rather than focusing on the thing they could control (changing the doctor's appointment).

During a stressful event, logic can often take a back seat because a different part of the brain is used. If you continually soak in negative thoughts and emotions, you reset your nervous system. You may discover that it takes less and less to trigger your stress response. Worry may beget more worry. Anger, more anger. Frustration, more frustration, etc.

Start with Awareness

When you become aware of your stressors, you can practise techniques to help you undress your stress. This allows you to use your brain's "CEO", the prefrontal cortex, to approach life's situations in a more effective way.

On Improve Your Energetic Signature, I listed an example where I was able to sift out the significance when a dog owner made an off the cuff comment. In the past, this would have bothered me for days, if not weeks.

In my case, worry was a constant. I had no idea how much I actually worried until I started paying attention. I was then able to wrangle my worries and replace them with more resourceful thoughts and behaviours.

"Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere." - Erma Bombeck

Learn to dampen your stress response. As a result, you strengthen your ability to sift out the significance. You are better able to discern what is important and needs attention, and what things you can release. As you practise, you are better able to shift your perspective, much like looking out of the narrow end of a funnel, as opposed to the broad end.

Your homework

Observe yourself when you find you're triggered by life's events. What is your normal reaction? Is it worth the significance you assign to it? Will it matter in a few days, a week, or...?

When you get curious about your reactions, it's a powerful agent for change. If you're not aware of something you're doing, it's pretty difficult to make a change. What would it be like if you got back to the business of being who you naturally are?

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