What If ....?

be less stressed Oct 07, 2019


What If ...? 

October 6, 2019 

For the next several newsletters, I will be posing the question: What if? 

What if…  we gave up worrying about the future and the unknowable? What if… we gave up losing our perspective of the big picture and getting stuck in the details? What if… we gave up being outwardly critical and inflexible? What if … we gave up emotional outbursts and being hypersensitive to criticism? 

What if…we could learn to be more aware of when we are stressed... and remind ourselves to take 7 deep diaphragmatic breaths and trigger our autonomic Relaxation Response? What if we knew the true source of stress was inside of us, rather than “out there” in the situation or the other person? What if … we could learn how to respond rather than react? 

Of course, we know the answer… we CAN learn. We can learn to take control. It takes practice. We could use some tools. And, some encouragement and love along the way is important. 

One of my favorite teachers, Dr Wayne Dyer, says:  

"If you change the way you see things, 
the things you see will change." 

What if by learning to be more aware of and reduce our everyday stress, we could change the way we look at the world? I did just that – and so can you! 

So, HOW do we change the way we see things? HOW do we shift from our being stuck and stressed….to living from our best Self?

For the next several weeks we will be taking a look at an individual’s Stress Mode based on their 4-Letter Personality Type. We will be reviewing the 4-Step Action Plan from our From Stressed to Best Program

I will also be bringing other resources – poetry, meditation, books, and music – that may help us better manage our chronic stress reactions and move to responding from our best Self.  

Let us start with a beautiful poem by Mary Oliver, written in her later years. 

I Worried 

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And I gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

© 2010 by Mary Oliver, Published by Beacon Press
in Swan: Poems and Prose Poems

To me, this poem – so eloquent – is the first step to awareness: “Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.” It is important that our new awareness be accompanied by acceptance of what is --- AKA, accept yourself just as you are in the present moment, in the NOW. It is also important to be nonjudgmental – because blame and resistance is the enemy of change, in my experience.   

So how is it – exactly – that we come to “just” give up worrying?  Does it just happen overnight? I suspect not, at least for most of us. I believe there is probably no one “right” answer that fits us all. This echoes a theme in our stress reduction coaching practice that there is no “one size fits all” approach to stress management.  I am finding my way -- learning and experimenting -- like we all are. 

In our program From Stressed to Best, we have a Four Step Action Plan for each of the 16 different 4-Letter Personality Types. 

Step # 1 is being consciously aware of your Stress Mode – your behavior when you are stressed. There are 4 Personality Types that, when stressed, tend to worry about the future. Catastrophizing – seeing a big picture of gloom and doom – is the Stress Mode for:

  • The Duty Bound Inspector: ISTJs
  • The Always Ready Helper: ISFJs
  • The Irresistible Promoter: ESTPs
  • The On-Stage Improviser: ESFPs 

One of the strengths of each of these 4 Personality Types is that they tend to be very good at details, Sensing – and when stressed they are using the “smallest” muscle of their mind – their iNtuition, or big picture, conceptual skills. People who have a preference for Introversion, tend to become expressive and talk out loud about their worries for the future. People who have a preference for Extroversion, tend to withdraw and silently go through their worries about the future. This is a very high level overview of something we usually take a couple of hours to teach. One major caveat: Your 4-Letter Type does NOT put you in a box – you can and do learn to stretch and grow. However, under stress, there are predictable reactions – and awareness is the key 1st step. 

Step # 2 is recognizing you have a choice – you can choose to stop or pause your reaction because you have learned that stress is not “out there”, in the situation or the other person – the true source of your stress is your reaction. 

Step # 3 is taking 7 deep diaphragmatic breaths which activates the Relaxation Response. This is the key reason why I recommend the 7x – 7x -7 Formula – 7 deep diaphragmatic breaths, 7 times a day at regular times, 7 days a week. When you make deep diaphragmatic breathing a routine – a habit – when you are stressed you have already trained your mind-body to relax. (For additional background see Just Breathe)

Step # 4 is to go to your Best Mode, the behavior where you are most effective, constructive and productive. Now you are in control – and will respond, rather than react. The Best Modes for these 4 Personality types are either Introverted Sensing or Extroverted Sensing – the opposite of their Stress Modes. Not surprising. 

If you have been through our From Stressed to Best Program or know your MBTI® great.  If not, you can access a free Self Assessment to discover your 4-Letter Personality Type by going to this page on my website: Manage Your Stress  Then call me and schedule a free 15-minute consultation. A word of caution: please consider using a trained professional that is a fit for you. In my experience, people doing this on their own, too often reach the wrong conclusions. I share this from personal experience because I got my 4-Letter Personality Type wrong on 3 different occasions, because I answered the questions from the perspective of who I wanted to be, rather than who I actually am. Easy to do. 

So far, we have talked about 2 alternative approaches. Poetry and inspiration to let things go and bring in greater awareness along with acceptance is one approach and may appeal to people with a love of poetry and who prefer less structure. A structured program with proven results, such as From Stressed to Best is another alternative. In a previous Blog I have reviewed this program as well as other programs available. For additional background, see: Destressifying. 

Now, for a 3rd approach: meditation. Remember the saying: 

                “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” 

In meditation, we are training our mind to create/expand/deepen neural networks, to let go of worry and gain confidence that everything is going to be okay. We learn to see the world through new eyes and understand that, as one of my favorite teachers, David Gandelman, says: “Only the end of the world, is the end of the world.”  

I would recommend you take a look at meditations available on Insight Timer, my go-to app for meditations because it has a large database of meditations, sourced from excellent teachers worldwide. There is both a free version as well as a low-priced paid version that may make sense if you are interested in courses. There is a capability to sort meditations by length, music only or guided meditations and by rating on a 5 point scale. Find the teacher, voice and style that resonates with you.  

There are 3 meditations I would call to your attention:   

  1. Lou Redmond: Release Your Worry This is a short guided 12-minute meditation on Insight Timer, rated 4.6. The focus is on everyday worries – kids, money, the to-do list, feelings of overwhelm. A few of the affirmations are: “Deep down, you are a miracle... I will know what to do when the time comes…. Deep  down, everything is going to be okay.”   
  1. Ellen Hendrickson, PhD: Let Go of Worry and Anxiety. This is a short 6 minute guided meditation on Insight Timer, rated 4.8. I like this meditation because it invites us to search out our feeling when we ask, “What if?” Acknowledge and thank your anxiety for what it shows us – for what we can learn. Set the anxiety free on the out breath. She seamlessly integrates mindfulness with progressive muscle relaxation throughout the body and various breathing techniques.  
  1. Davidji: Grievance or Miracle? This is a 17-minute guided meditation on Insight Timer, rated 4.8. Which will you choose, in any given moment, in each of the 5 realms, -- the physical, the emotional, the material, the relationship, and the spiritual realm – grievance or miracle? This is a deep meditation which guides us to understand that finding ourselves in a place of suffering is okay, but it always needs to be placed in perspective. How long do I want to stay in that place? Let us ask ourselves: what is the grievance I have? What is the miracle in that? I love this as a gratitude meditation.  

I trust you will explore and find new options and ways to reduce your everyday stress and worries about the future. The different approaches are not mutually exclusive – they can complement each other. I have – and continue to  -- use them all.  

Come back in 2 weeks and we will address stress in the form of becoming “bore-sighted” or obsessed on the details. This is my personal favorite because this is the Stress Mode of the Persistent Counselor, the INFJ – my 4-Letter Personality Type.  I just know I missed a typo in this Blog somewhere – even after 15 reviews! Lol.

 Till next time, 




May you be happy now and always, Alison



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