In the last week, I've experienced the pile-on of stressors. Three distinctly different stress-inducing scenarios exploded simultaneously!
Perhaps you can relate?
Individually, these situations tend to cause my heart rate to spike, my mind to wander and this compulsive need to drop everything else so I can "do something about it NOW!" Collectively, the effects can be devastating. To say it's distracting is putting it mildly. The potential effect is more akin to derailing me entirely by commanding all my attention and draining my energy.
It is because I've experienced devastating effects from similar stressful situations in the past, that I know I need to approach them differently. That is to say, instead of following a patterned reaction, I make the choice to respond mindfully and intentionally.
I am in the process of completing a coaching certification program with the HeartMath Institute that has offered me new perspectives and tools for dealing with stress constructively. For example, they encourage us to separate the stressor - the stimuli or situation that's causing a stress response, from the stress - the feelings and physiological reactions that deplete our energy. This subtle distinction has the ability to create a powerful shift from perceiving oneself as a victim of a stressful event to claiming ones' agency.
We have no control over the stressors or situations we encounter. But we can choose how we respond so that those circumstances do not cause us to become depleted.
To take control of our own responses to stressors starts with deepening our awareness of the situation, our feelings and how we typically respond.
This is where I personally find journaling to be an incredibly valuable tool. For years, my journaling practice has been a safe-haven for navigating stressful situations. Journaling helps me to pause, to name my feelings and to shift from reacting in ways that deplete me to identifying ways to renew my energetic and emotional wellbeing so I may respond with intention. Slowing down through journaling is helpful because the physical - including physiological and mental - reaction to stressors happens instantaneously.
Another benefit to journaling through stressful situations is that the practice allows me to notice things I would otherwise overlook. By making the choice to bring my attention to my thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations while writing, I am priming myself to be more aware of those things in the moment when I experience a stressor later on.
In that way, journaling deepens our awareness on two levels. First by deconstructing the situation and our reaction in retrospect. Then by inviting a keener awareness in the moment, when it matters most.
Additionally, by slowing down my automatic reaction, I have the capacity to uncover alternative and more effective solutions in the pages of my journal. That is because my automatic reaction to the vast majority of the stressors I encounter tends to be counterproductive and not in my best interests long-term.
So, as I've been navigating these stressful situations, I've taken to the pages of my journal. And in doing so I've not only learned a lot about myself by uncovering some unhealthy patterns I've developed in reaction to stress.
I've also been able to respond constructively, from a place of calm and ease. More specifically, I'm staying in alignment with my values, making meaningful progress, and managing my mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
Journaling helps me to process and navigate STRESSful situations with more calm and ease and it can help you too. Here are some prompts to get you started:
Situation - What's happening?
Trigger - What specifically got you fired up?
REaction - What do you do now?
Sooth - What if you practice self-compassion & listen to your heart?
Shift - How might you change how you respond?
Want support leveling up your journaling practice? Join us for a Journal Jam and give yourself the gift of intentionally navigating stressful situations so you experience calm and ease!