The Power of Awareness

By Nicky Vanvalkenburgh

Have you ever gotten all worked up about something, and said something (or did something) that you later regret?

Perhaps things would have been different if you had recognized your “stress reaction.”

Awareness may be the key to having less stress. That sounds simple, but it is true. Half of the battle in reducing stress may be increasing our awareness of how we react to people and situations.

What kind of stress do you experience on a daily basis? Almost anything in your environment can trigger stress. Consider the following stress triggers:

Your workplace. Do you have a disorganized boss, or a co-worker who you can’t get along with? Or perhaps your subordinates are unreliable, lazy or deceitful. If it isn’t the people at work, it’s the threat of downsizing, merger, take-over, acquisition, etc.

Your home. If you’re a stay-at-home parent, you may feel that your dreams and aspirations have fallen by the wayside. Your total focus has become cooking, cleaning, and caring for your children and spouse. There may be little or no time left for just you.

Relationships. It is stressful to have conflicts between you and your spouse, children, relatives or friends.

Poor nutrition. Do you eat fresh fruit and vegetables? Do you take vitamins? If not, your body is not getting the vital nutrients that it needs to survive and thrive. In other words, your body is suffering from nutritional stress. If you improve your eating habits, you will have more energy and feel better during the day.

Overeating. Eating too much or the wrong foods puts a strain on your heart. Paul Bragg once said, “You are what you eat, drink, breathe, think, say, and do." Many people over-fuel their body. They eat too much, and their lifespan is shortened because of it.

Water. Do you drink eight glasses of water every day? If you don’t drink enough water, your body will be physically stressed and susceptible to disease. Our body is made up of over 70% water. Water plays an important part in nearly every body function, from circulation to digestion to elimination.

Chemical substances. Do you smoke, drink alcohol or take drugs? Do you take prescription medicine or over-the-counter drugs? This can put physical stress on your liver, lungs and kidneys.

There are many other things in our lives that trigger stress. Awareness may be the first step in putting things into perspective. Awareness causes you to realize that you’ve got a challenge on your hands.

It may be impossible to eliminate stress, but you can respond to it in a healthy and constructive way. It is better not to respond with anger, lashing out or even “stuffing” your feelings. Don’t feel sorry for yourself either. Take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds and exhale slowly. Do this several times, if you need to gain composure.

When you’re calm and level headed, you’ll be ready to think clearly. You’ll also be able to respond appropriately. Ask yourself: “What am I going to do next? What actions will I take to change or resolve matters? What can I do differently? If something is not working, how can I adjust my approach?”

Whatever you decide to do, awareness (and taking action) will help you get on your way to less stress.

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