Stress is a Choice

What do you say to members of The Royal College of Surgeons about stress?

Yikes! These people are masters of stress aren’t they?

They experience stress on a daily basis that would make most of us buckle at the knees.

These were the thoughts going through my head when I was invited to give a talk about managing stress at The Royal College of Surgeons.

I am someone who is happiest in jeans, T- shirt and the tranquility of nature.  Yet here I was in the centre of London trussed up in a three- piece suit – the full Gareth Southgate waistcoat and all! And it was on one of the hottest days of the year.

Plus, they were videoing and live streaming the entire thing. What was going on with my own stress levels you might ask!?

I started by asking some questions, always a good strategy to get the attention away from you …

  • Do you realise that stress is a choice?
  • Have you noticed there are times when stress is beneficial?
  • How often does stress get in the way of you performing your best and enjoying life as fully as you would like?
  • Would you say that you are closer to your best self when you are relaxed?

They shared the typical sources of stress that people experience almost daily: arguments, unreasonable demands, time pressure, health issues, challenging e- mails and phone calls, lack of sleep and insufficient rest.

They also recognised the ways in which they responded to that stress in mind, body and behaviour: distracted and poorly focused, trouble sleeping, tension in stomach, shoulders and neck, migraines, irritability, tiredness, self- focused (a sense of “me me me” and an awareness of how things are for me rather than anyone else) and difficulty breathing.

Together they concluded what we all know already- that stress did not bring out their best selves.  And these are people who need to be at their best to help the people they’ve been trained to serve!

It’s all too easy to conclude that all stress is bad for you but that’s just not the case. When faced with danger, it’s the stress response that can give us a burst of speed and strength.  It can save our lives.

Fortunately, most of us do not experience that kind of danger at all.  Therefore, stress when we are in a rush, irritated by an e- mail, anxious about a difficult conversation or over worked actually makes us perform less well.  Experienced long- term, it is highly detrimental to our health and wellbeing.

For most situations, keeping the mind and body in a relaxed state will get better outcomes.

Over time and with practice, its possible to respond to situations we previously felt were stressful.  With calm and peace.  The key is to be aware of what we’re feeling in any given moment. And learn some simple techniques to change those feelings.

So we put it to the test……….

I subjected them to an instant stress test (by throwing a tissue at them!).  Then I asked them to notice the changes in their bodies and how they responded.

Then we did a centreing relaxation exercise.  By bringing awareness to their bodies, balance to their posture and relaxation to their muscles along the centre of their bodies.  They noted the difference in the way they felt.

Finally, we repeated the first step so that everyone could highlight the changes they’d experienced.  They could deliberately start the relaxation process rather than stay in a stressed state.

The results were startling.  Across the board, their responses through stress were diminished or even non- existent. This centreing exercise, devised by Paul Linden, is one of the corner stones of the Mindful Movement courses I run, facilitating people’s growth and empowering them to exercise choice.

Stress is a Choice

Once we are aware of our responses, stress becomes a choice.  We don’t need to be a slave to it, as long as we have the awareness to recognise our state of being and the tools to alter our state so that we can choose a different way.

Fortunately, with almost 30 years of practice, I was able to not only get through what could have been a highly stressful experience, but to enjoy it!

The icing on the cake for me was getting fabulous feedback from the people in the room, and most especially, this letter from the CEO …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’d like to know more about Mindful Movement and stress control, just give me a call ….

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