Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Irma. Wildfires in the Northwest. News from around the globe. Often, we are releasing stress hormones not for something directly happening to us, but for something happening directly to someone else. It’s OK to watch the news if you can refrain from releasing stress hormones. But it’s the rare viewer who can remain calm and dispassionate. If you do trigger them, then you may have difficulty sleeping, feel irritated, take out your frustrations on others. And constant release can affect your ability to think clearly, cause your health to deteriorate, and lead to chronic mental and physical disease.
Second-hand stress also occurs when we empathize with another’s situation, and take on their pain. Educators, health-care workers, social workers and our uniformed professionals often suffer from second-hand stress. Professionals in these fields are reporting high levels of stress that impacts their personal and their professional lives.
Twenty-five years ago, I stopped watching television news. I read newspapers and listen to the radio for my news. When Katrina hit the gulf shore, I remember being at my mother-in-laws and she had the TV tuned in. I felt like I was watching some sort of sensationalized entertainment show that repeated the same images over and over and over. A far cry from the newscasters of my youth like Walter Cronkite, calmly reporting the news at a desk with a few still images.
This morning, when I awoke to a still, clear day in Michigan, and promptly got on my phone to find news about Irma, I listened to a newscaster from Naples report on how nice it was there at the moment, but how quickly it will change. If I had no way to access a broadcast, my feelings about this day would be far different than they are. What we choose to listen to, watch, read, experience, all has a profound effect on our emotions, our releases of stress hormones, and how we move through our day and impact others. I often tell myself to “guard my mind” – to be very selective about what I allow in. I encourage my clients to ask the empowering question, “Does this serve me?”
With friends and family in Florida, with their homes and all their belongings in Florida, I am keeping abreast of Irma, and using a few Pressure-Free tools to make sure that I remain free of stress hormones that will cause me to not be my best self, and lead to a host of symptoms I don’t want today, or any other day. I prefer to be in the mental state where I can develop solutions, rather than reactive and in panic mode. The tool I want to share with you here, to help you do the same, is to place a hand on your belly, and relax your abs. By relaxing your abdominal muscles, you send signals to your brain that you are not under attack, and therefore do not need to trigger the stress response. Plus, when you relax your abs, you will find it easier to relax other areas of your body.
Pressure-Free is helpful when you are experience physical storms and storms of your mind. Acknowledge, analyze and take action with Pressure-Free tools that fit your situation.