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Guest Column

You’re stressing me out 

By Vidya Reddy

Hello, this week I have the pleasure of welcoming you not only to the Happiness Corner but also to the Chill Out Corner. 

How often do you use this statement: “you are stressing me out?” It is commonplace on a daily basis to hear people using such a statement. While what we say is primarily true, on a deeper level, the truth is, stress is actually something else. 

The dictionary defines stress as “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.” And in a medical or biological context, stress is a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. Stresses can be external (from the environment, psychological, or social situations) or internal (illness, or from a medical procedure). Stress can initiate the “fight or flight” response, a complex reaction of neurologic and endocrinologic systems.

Our response

So, stress is primarily our response to an external or internal unpleasant or unwanted trigger. The keyword here is not external, internal, or pressure, but “our response.” And since stress is our response to a given person, situation, or event, it logically follows that since each of us is different, our responses will be different, and hence our ability to cope with stress will be different. It is said that one man’s meat is another man’s poison. What this means is that something that is stressful to you might not be stressful to me and vice versa. In fact, I might actually thrive in the very environment, using that stress as a positive motivation, in which you struggle, suffer, and agonize. 

What happens when we feel stress is that we usually blame a person or an event causing the stress. We want that person or that event to change, to behave differently, so that we can become comfortable. Our ego blocks our perception, and does not let us understand or accept that the cause of the stress lies within us. It squarely blames others, so that it does not have to do anything, to combat the stress. Others are responsible, they are stressing me out, what the heck can I do? 

Youre stressing doctor

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Photo by Johnny Antezana

Dr. Vidya Reddy

I am perfect, others are not, is what the ego makes us believe, and we believe this. Which gives us permission to throw the responsibility for our stress on outer triggers. We often seek to escape these triggers by turning to distractions – alcohol, smoking or drugs, shopping, foo – and hope and pray that the stress will pass. It does, since everything in life is subject to change, given enough time, but then very soon we are confronted by a new set of triggers, and we are back to square one. 

Imagine that there are two buildings, A and B, standing side by side. A is built with poor materials and workmanship, while B is built with excellent materials and brilliant workmanship. After a few years, building A has all its paint peeling, there are leaks from the roof, the plaster is falling, and then the termites descend. The building has become dilapidated. Building B, on the other hand, looks brand new even after years. 

The story of stress

This is the story of stress. One who is internally strong and has great coping skills can withstand any stress. Like building B, it does not matter how much the sun shines, how much it rains, how much the wind blows, or how much salt there IS in the ocean breeze – building B is intrinsically strong, and all these factors, which created havoc on building A, are of no consequence to building B. 

If you are feeling stressed often (which in modern times, who isn’t?), instead of seeing where or who you can to throw the blame, and instead of protecting ourselves with excuses, it is better to sit, and introspectively look at our own selves. Find out where we are weak, find out why the various triggers are causing stress, and see how we can change ourselves, our thinking, our perceptions, our attitudes and beliefs, so that we become strong, like the building B. 

Youre stressing praying

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Photo by Pieter Baetens

How to practice body scan

Here is a great tool to use to become resilient to triggers of stress and become strong like building B: How to Practice Body Scan Meditation. If you would like more information, techniques, and meditations on happiness, please refer to my podcast at: https://naturally-happy.com/podcast/.

The body scan can be performed while lying down, sitting, or in other postures. The steps below are a guided meditation designed to be done while sitting. 

Especially for those new to the body scan, I recommend using the following script for guidance for yourself or for leading this practice for others.

Script for body scan

Begin by bringing your attention into your body.

Please gently and slowly close your eyes. 

You can notice your body seated wherever you’re seated, feeling the weight of your body on the chair, on the floor.

Take a few deep breaths.

And as you take a deep breath, bring in more oxygen, enlivening the body. 

And as you exhale, have a sense of relaxing more deeply.

You can notice your feet on the floor, notice the sensations of your feet touching the floor. The weight and pressure, vibration, heat.

You can notice your legs against the chair, pressure, pulsing, heaviness, lightness.

Notice your back against the chair.

Bring your attention into your stomach area. If your stomach is tense or tight, let it soften. Take a breath.

Notice your hands. Are your hands tense or tight? See if you can allow them to soften.

Notice your arms. Feel any sensation in your arms. Let your shoulders be soft.

Notice your neck and throat. Let them be soft. Relax.

Soften your jaw. Let your face and facial muscles be soft.

Then notice your whole-body present. Take one more breath.

Be aware of your whole body as best you can. Take a breath. And then when you’re ready, slowly and gently you can open your eyes. 

In Peace, Love and Gratitude. 

‘Til next time. 

Dr.Vidya Reddy, ND, AMS, DAC, CLC

www.Naturally-Happy.com