This week, many parts of the country were walloped with a severe winter storm. For the Dallas-Fort Worth area, a wind chill warning (meaning it feels like below zero) was issued for the first time EVER! That's pretty big stuff! Plus, the week before, there was a 133 car pile up due to winter weather. As I write this blog, millions of people are without power and water for over 24 hours during some of the coldest weather "in a generation" according to the news.
Personally, the winter storms meant that I was unable to take my dog to the vet while she was having difficulty breathing and was barely eating. Her appointment was canceled and the roads are so dangerous that I doubt my little car would've made it anyway. There are a lot of ways that we weren't prepared for the severity of the weather in a place that barely sees temperatures drop below 30 degrees. Our infrastructure isn't designed to handle the amount of stresses that we've had in such a short period of time.
So, how do you handle unexpected stress?
There wasn't anything I could do about the weather or the consequences. I could sit there and be aggravated, or I could do something else. Luckily, I had a book, a full cell phone battery, and a handful of work projects. So, I kept myself occupied in a few different ways.
The purpose of distraction (used in a healthy way) serves to shift your energy away from the problem at hand (you may not be able to do anything about), and allows the brain to shift gears. However, some people take distraction to unhealthy levels. It's important to limit distractions only until you feel better, then start moving forward again. Letting distractions drag on for too long leads to procrastination....which actually worsens stress! Set a time limit on your distractions, to avoid falling down the rabbit hole of avoidance.
Make a plan
The survival brain is reactionary. It doesn't use logic to make decisions when faced with real or perceived threats. Your safety is important, and your brain can't afford the delay in a life-threatening situation. However, the stress that most of us encounter is from perceived threats. Getting rid of your anxiety in the moment requires you to shift brains from survival to logic. The logical brain doesn't take control immediately because survival trumps logic in your default operating system.
The logical brain loves to plan and problem solve, and shifting gears from one brain to another is actually pretty simple. If you're in the middle of an intense anxiety or panic attack, then start doing something like multiplication, or saying the alphabet backwards. This engages the logical brain and breaks the strong hold of the survival brain. Once you calm down a little, then you can start solving your problems creatively instead of feeling overwhelmed by them.
It's common to hold your breath when you're feeling anxiety or intense stress. Make a special effort to breathe deeply in through your nose for a count of four and out through your mouth for a count of four. Repeat this for 1-2 minutes. Getting more oxygen to your brain is both relaxing and stabilizing. It also helps you think better!
Everyone has stress, but it doesn't have to ruin your life! Learning a few basic coping techniques PLUS understanding WHY you're being triggered in the first place helps you to finally release stress and achieve peace.
April Darley N.D. is an Emotional Strength Coach specializing in helping Empaths/Highly Sensitive People (HSP's) feel better, and function better by releasing stress, anxiety, pain, and sabotaging behavior. Through the combination of coaching and emotional release techniques, you'll learn how to step into your own power, comfortably deal with life's challenges, and stay calm and balanced.