Do you ever get upset about something and later you aren’t sure why? Do you notice a surge of anxiety in high-stress or even everyday situations? There’s a good chance your fight or flight response was activated.
Animals have various types of stress responses (that’s another word for fight or flight). Some change colors to trick predators, some actually pass out to appear dead (think possums), and some get a surge of energy and run away.
To better understand this response in humans, think back to our cave days. We might have had to fight a bear or run from a lion, and we’d get a surge of chemicals to help us do that better.
All kinds of other body systems are affected by this as well, like reflexes and digestion. These days, it’s unusual that we’re fighting for our lives or running to survive, although that can happen occasionally too, or can be more likely in war-torn regions.
More commonly, our fight or flight gets activated when our bosses make a decision that interferes with our ability to work, or we get stuck in a traffic jam. Our brains are a bit confused in these circumstances, and our bodies respond as if we’re in actual physical danger. In other cases, our systems get confused and keep us in a higher state of anxiety in general — this can tie into anxiety disorders.
Fortunately, you can actually interfere with your inaccurate stress response, training your body not to respond when it doesn’t need to. The most effective strategy is to practice mindfulness, to start to calm down your body in general. Practicing mindfulness in the moment you feel anxious can be very helpful, and so can practicing it on a daily basis.
Basically, mindfulness is simply slowing down, and concentrating on the moment, here and now, without trying to fight or change it. This activates the calm parts of the brain, while slowing or stopping the stressed out parts.
To get started, you can try the Grounding Stone Exercise, found here, and the Watch the Waves meditation (coming soon), exclusive with your Basic Palette Membership.
Once you get the hang of it with these practices, then try applying it to your everyday life. You can be mindful while washing the dishes, playing with the dog, or even taking a walk. As you walk, see how many shades of green notice. While you’re showering, notice how the water feels on your skin. Don’t be surprised if you notice all kind of things you didn’t before!
Lesson 1: Stress &
Art & Mind
by the Counseling Palette
If you like, you can decorate your grounding stone or add a word that helps you remember to be mindful or relax.
Sharpies and fingernail polish work great
Share a picture of your stone on the Facebook page.
Grounding Stone Practice
1. Take a deep breath and choose a stone or another small object nearby.
2. Hold the stone in your hand and notice it through your available senses, beginning with touch. What does it feel like in your hand? What’s the texture? Is it smooth, hard, or cold? Take about a minute to notice through your touch.
3. Continue holding your stone, but now look at it closely. What textures do you notice? What patterns and colors? Take about a minute to notice through sight.
4. Continue holding your stone lightly, but now notice the sounds around you. What do you hear near you, or far away? Take about a minute to notice what you hear.
5. Finally, broaden your senses to be aware of both the stone and your own body sensations. What does your body feel like in your chair? Is your mind calm or racing? Take about a minute to notice this.
6. Bring your awareness back to the solidness of the object. Take a deep breath and finish this exercise.
7. Notice what you noticed about this exercise. How do you feel? Share it if you like on the Facebook page.