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Hello, Heal Hub community! I’m Alex Zashtitin, the chiropractor known as Ninja. Today, let’s delve into the rollercoaster ride of stress – a topic that resonates with everyone.

You might be wondering, what is stress? I’ve faced that question for a while. Last year, Lisa Feldman Barrett’s book, “How Emotions Are Made,” shifted my perspective on stress, highlighting its intensely personal nature. Stress, she reveals, is a unique experience shaped by individual interpretations.

In my three-year journey into this elusive subject, I initially aimed to give it the “SCIENCE-approved” stamp. However, a transformative epiphany hit me after extensive research – stress isn’t a one-size-fits-all prescription. Stress is an emotion, and it requires a nuanced understanding beyond simplistic labels.

Initially, my approach to stress resembled a scientific rollercoaster, filled with endless definitions, complex jargon, and a 3-step stress-diagnosing marvel extracted directly from gold-standard double-blinded research articles. A year later, looking back, it was clear that diving into overly intellectualized language was a trap. Relying solely on scientific explanations proved useless in the majority of cases, leaving us with more questions and a feeling of being trapped by our body’s fight-or-flight reactions. It’s time for a face-lift for this model of “stress.”

This article aims to unravel the intricate nature of stress beyond scientific jargon, exploring personal experiences and effective stress management strategies.

Understanding stress plainly:
Let’s cut through the complexities and state it plainly: stress is the sensation of being distanced from one’s happy, confident, and genuine self. It’s akin to shouting into a void, feeling invisible, undervalued, and unappreciated, feeling low in frequency and all spectrums of “I can’t do anything about it.” The struggle intensifies when caught in a victim mindset, where change seems an impossible dream or where you begin to rely on others to change first before you can feel better.

For a substantial three years, I devoted myself to enhancing and expanding upon this elusive subject, striving to grant it the coveted “SCIENCE-approved” stamp. However, a transformative epiphany emerged after delving into learning and embracing the art of emotional intelligence. Stress defies simplistic intellectual labels; it demands an understanding that goes beyond prescription fixes and what we are taught to avoid – emotions.

Beyond Fight-or-Flight:
Contrary to conventional beliefs that stress is solely a result of ancient fight-or-flight instincts reacting to external triggers, my findings suggest a different reality. Stress is not an external force; rather, it is self-imposed. Yes, you read that correctly. Stress reaction and experience are taught to us by our families, society, and the entire educational system in which we were brought up. If you are lucky, you would have had a great model for stress management. However, the high probability is that you have been taught and shown to swallow your emotions and repress them as a mechanism to evade change, sidestep emotions, and shun tough decisions. In this narrative, we are both the architects and the actors, weaving tales and evading our own truths, with no external lion in pursuit.

The Art of Stressing Ourselves Out:
Delving into the various ways we excel at stressing ourselves out, here are a few key elements that contribute to our stress response:

Avoidance of Change: The resistance to embrace change contributes significantly to stress as we cling to the comfort of the familiar.

Emotional Sidestepping: Suppressing or neglecting our emotions builds internal pressure, heightening stress levels.

Decision Avoidance: Procrastination and reluctance to make tough decisions significantly contribute to the stress we experience.

Dispelling the Victim Narrative:
Your boss is not a fearsome lion pouncing on you; that’s the victim narrative speaking. What stresses you might make you want to tell your boss to go where the sun don’t shine – your authentic reaction, but you are forced to suppress your authentic expression in fear for your means of survival – salary or promotion. The crux lies in relinquishing your ability to act, abandoning authentic decision-making, and believing that someone else must intervene. Seeking out a person who will agree with you that you are right and they are wrong as a short-term dopamine hit relieves you from the internal discomfort of self-abandonment, but it never goes away. It doesn’t go away because you lose internal authentic power every time you interact with your boss and don’t express your true self; you leak more power. The profound desire for either external validation, exposing your boss as the villain, or hoping for a miraculous transformation in their behavior begins to distract your consciousness on how you betray your authentic self.

Taking Control: Unpopular, Hard-to-Hear Truth

No knight in shining armor is galloping in to rescue you. Simply, because no one can. If you keep denying, repressing, and criticizing your real self – no one can help you. No one can walk your path of self-acceptance, self-empowerment, and self-love. No one! While help and support exist, you must take the reins and seek them. Similar to learning a new language, no one else can achieve it on your behalf. Likewise, no proxy can fix your stress. A massage won’t transform your boss, and vacations won’t magically make you feel appreciated at work or home.

Here is a technique that I personally found useful when facing the scary-stress-situation:

Why did I attract this situation? What does this situation teach me or show me?

How does this situation challenge my internal power?

What am I being guided to do?

Can I do it right now?

a. “I do not have what it takes to embrace the change and take action right now, which is okay. I am accepting this with kindness to myself. The answers and the courage will come to me if I keep focused on finding it.”

b. “I am making a choice to take a chance to create change that supports my self-empowerment. And with every chance I take, my self-esteem grows stronger.”

In this exploration, we transition from the intricacies of scientific jargon to a plain understanding of the human experience. Stress is not merely a reaction to external stimuli; it’s a nuanced interplay of internal choices and evasions. By recognizing our role as both creators and actors, we can unravel the complexities of stress and embark on a journey towards authentic well-being.

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