How to Decrease Stress

I’m sure you’ve wondered at some point in your life, how can I decrease my stress level?

Unfortunately, it seems a common problem in modern society to be chronically plagued with high-stress levels.

What happens in your body when you experience stress?

A stressful event leads to thoughts that create biochemical changes in the body’s chemistry. The primitive brain reacts instinctively to stressful thoughts, releasing hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. These act on the body to create a heightened state of awareness. Blood pressure rises. Heart rate increases. The immune system and digestive systems are suppressed. In short, the body enters a physical state of stress. 

These protective reflexive changes in body chemistry would be helpful to us if we were actually in physical danger. But in modern times, often our stresses are often more chronic, subtle issues that are ever-present in our lives–

We must meet this deadline.

We must face this cancer diagnosis.

We must be the perfect mom/dad/friend/daughter/son/husband/wife. 

Living in a chronic state of high stress is damaging to our psyche and our bodies. 

Fortunately, there are things you can do to reverse chronic stress.

For one, you can pay attention to the thoughts you have that create the stress in the first place. Check in with your mind and notice the thoughts.

Second, you can practice detaching from the stressful thoughts that create this toxic biochemistry. To do so, it’s best not to argue or struggle against the thoughts. Instead of identifying with the constant stream of thoughts going on in the mind, try instead to identify with the observer of those thoughts. You get a lot of practice doing this in meditation.

Third, bring in your higher brain, the cortex, responsible for rational thinking to help recognize the negative stressful thought pattern and offer yourself an alternative thought. For example, one I find helpful is “My mind is offering these stressful thoughts, but I know my true self is calm.” 

Lastly, regular meditation can help you become more in touch with the true essence of yourself, as well as the present moment. Our mind’s natural state is calm, and it wants to return to that state if we can only learn to get out of our own way. The trick is giving up the struggle and surrendering to what is. 

I invite you to join me this week in practicing this centering thought when you notice stress arising:

“I choose calm when faced with stress.”