By Jenny Gallagher and Amy Kraft
Unfortunately no one really teaches us how to effectively cope with stress. As a child when something stressful happened to you, you may have heard “You’ll be fine”. Following that statement, you were probably given something to soothe you. Maybe it was or a lollipop, but it probably wasn’t a carrot stick. Perhaps you were even allowed to relax in front of the television for a while to calm down.
So at a young age you learned a few things: 1) Don’t deal with the problem: simply soothe 2) Stress equals reward!
By no means am I suggesting that you stop being kind to yourself and others. Soothing is a good thing and so are rewards. However, there are more tools you can provide for yourself. One particular tool may work well on some things but not well on others. Having only one approach creates a conditioned response, also known as habitual patterns that may result in unsatisfactory outcomes, such as gaining weight. Have you ever found you are half way through your favorite food or beverage before you even realized you were eating mindlessly? Did you ever want to stop a behavior but find it seems impossible because the craving is so great?
Over time, these “soothing” techniques will create imbalances. You may find you have gained weight, drunk too much, or are too sedentary. Sooner or later, you will come to the realization that these “soothers” are not helping much at all. What used to make you feel better now makes you feel unhappy with yourself and may even produce other symptoms like heartburn, headaches, poor circulation and so on.
Most people wait for the onset of disease to change their lifestyle. Yet, we want to help you to have the tools needed to live the best life possible. First, believe that it doesn’t have to be hard work. Second, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. There are many ways to reduce stress, improve your energy and be more successful, although a little self-discovery is required. One technique you can try is called Mind Mapping, which will help you to see, on paper, your mind’s thought patterns.
Your objective is simple: find alternative ways of dealing with stress. (Note: We are not going to do this by focusing on the “stressor”. It has enough power over you already–and this is another article for discussion.)
Step 1 – Sit down in a straight back chair and take a moment to feel aligned and comfortable in your body. Swallow once and relax your jaw. Close your eyes and enjoy a few long relaxing breaths. Allow yourself to be fully present to the Mind Mapping process.
Step 2 – Write down the habit you want to change in the center of a piece of paper. Let’s say you have a habit, such as snacking after dinner until bedtime. Write down ‘snacking after dinner’.
Step 3 – Start writing all the words you can think of that describe how ‘snacking after dinner’ makes you feel 12 hours later.
You may find what appear to be ‘contradictions’ because we are all very good at defending ‘our story’. So, one (or more) of the words that is showing up on the page may validate why you do what you do. That’s fine but let’s dig deeper. Some examples may be: ‘didn’t eat all day’; ‘tired’; ‘I enjoy this time of day’; ‘I like these foods’…
You may also find that you are unconscious about your beliefs. For example, you may say “I like these foods” but in fact you wake up at 3 am with heartburn or even worse, guilt and self-loathing. When you begin to be conscious about these beliefs, being mindful would strongly suggest that, in fact, your body does not like the foods. However, write these words down too.
Other words may surprise you. You may realize that, in fact, you are bored and wish you had a fun activity to do in the evening instead of sitting on the couch watching television and snacking.
(Note: If you would like to learn more about the power of beliefs read YenPath: Taking Steps Towards What You Want in Life by Business Success+ co-founder Jenny Gallagher.)
Step 4 – Review your Mind Map. Does anything jump out at you as a desirable alternative to implement? For example, you may realize that if you have a good breakfast and/or lunch that you will be less likely to binge at night. Or you may want to try a different evening routine that involves a walk outside, gentle yoga, taking a bath, journal, meditate or reading in bed. Or you may discover you have a creative side and want to take an art class. Maybe you will discover that you are actually thirsty, and not hungry, and enjoy an herbal tea after dinner. (Note: If a habit isn’t good for you and you cannot resist, you may have moved beyond habit to addiction. Find a support group and begin today to break the bonds that are holding you back from living your best life.)
Step 5 – Sit quietly for a few minutes as you make the shift. You have already begun to break away from old patterns that no longer serve you, and are moving towards a happier and healthier life. When you are happy and healthy, it is easier to deal with the day‘s stressors and there is less need to soothe.
In closing, habits are simply behaviors performed so frequently that they have become routine and are performed mindlessly. To break a habit requires mindfulness and awareness: and yet in as little as 21 days, you will see the new habit emerge. Habits are easy to acquire, can be healthy or unhealthy, and can filter into other areas of your life. Deeply engrained unhealthy habits are known as addictions and we all know the spiraling impact that addictions can have. The good news is that deeply engrained healthy habits also filter into other areas of life and this leads to total transformation. In other words, you become a new and enriched you.
Addiction-> Habit -> Behavior -> Habit -> Transformation
The small choices you make today will have a major ripple effect: it’s all within your power and a shift of perception and awareness.
About the authors: Business Success+ began when two successful businesses; Gallagher Solutions, Inc. and BoomerPlus® joined forces. Jenny Gallagher and Amy Kraft have dedicated their lives to the field of health and wellness and have a shared vision: provide a philosophical framework and the tools needed for good health, happiness and success. Their combined wisdom, knowledge, methodologies, and most importantly, enthusiasm, is refreshing and brings sustained results. If you want to learn more about our unique approach to wellness go to http://business-success-plus.com/. Or feel free to call 941.724.9922 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.