Gentle Yoga for Stress Relief by Cyndi Roberts
WEEK 3: Internal Stressors
This week, we’ll take another look at the list created from Week 1. We’ll identify internal stressors.
Internal stressors are your thoughts and feelings about the stressful situations and circumstances of life. They are self-created and the response to these situations.
The mind is conditioned (through evolution) to problem solve and criticize. Naturally, when things happen in life, the mind automatically tries to “figure it out” or “fix” it. This is where self-created stress comes in because we often add a negative dialogue to why we haven’t figured it out or why we can’t solve it.
We may feel as thought this thing is a “problem” and we have to fix or change it. This creates suffering and stress in both mind and body.
Internal stressors can be looked at as ways (mental dialogues) to help cope or understand what is happening in the world around you.
Putting a stop to self-created stress and “stories” the mind creates will shift you from stress to ease. Being hard on yourself for feeling internal stress creates more stress. Instead, becoming aware of these stressors, softening around them and changing the “story” to something positive will shift how you feel.
Awareness is the key to liberation. Developing a new habit is the key to lasting change.
Some examples of internal stressors may be:
Fear is another evolutionary feeling developed to help keep us safe. The problem we face nowadays is when we get trapped in chronic stress and hold on to that fear even after the threat is over.
This fear becomes a very real sense of self and manifests as fear of failure, fear of humiliation, fear of rejection, fear of success, fear of speaking in public, fear of dying.
Feeling out of control
There are so many uncertainties in life and most of us think we will feel better if we have control over certain situations. We think that if certain events play out exactly as we would like them, we will be okay, we will be safe. However, when things don’t work out as planned, we may feel like we’re losing control and get lost in the uncertainty of life. Feeling loss of control extends to all areas of life.
Change is the most certain thing we can expect and unless we are deliberately creating our life with an awareness of how we feel, life seems random and unpredictable.
When we live life aware of these internal feelings, we discover true happiness. Not fleeting happiness based on certain outcomes or circumstances. We only find it in our present moment, exactly as it is unfolding rather than focusing on the “shoulds” or how we wished it would have gone differently.
Thinking about past or future is a very natural thing for the mind to do. It discerns what it can learn from the past or predict about the future to keep us safe. Once again, this evolutionary mechanism creates more pain when we are living with chronic stress and unaware that we can change it.
Beliefs are simply practiced thoughts. Theses practiced thoughts become a part of our belief systems, attitudes and opinions. It’s through this lens that we establish preset thoughts.
Our experience is then shaped through these preset thoughts and mindsets which can create internal stress if they are negative or resistant. We become stuck in a fearful or stressful mindset and view all experiences that way. The great news is, we can unravel these beliefs, attitudes and opinions one thought at a time by practicing a new thought. Changing the negative story to a more positive, less stressful one.
Expectations and assumptions
Having expectations and assuming what is supposed to happen sets us up for failure and stress. Especially when we put pressure on ourselves and set unrealistic expectations to achieve.
When we have attachments to certain outcomes, we create stress when things don’t go that way. There is, however, value in being positive for future events. The key is to not feel disappointed if that visualization didn’t manifest. Assuming that we could have done something different, or assuming the outcome was something we could control, also creates intense suffering.
Making mistakes is a part of learning. Softening around those mistakes, accepting what is and quickly moving on will lower stress levels. Self-compassion plays a huge role in softening internal stress.
Taking things personally
When we take things personally, we assume that it is about us. We don’t realize that a situation could be unfolding as it is because the person we are interacting with is having a challenging day or feeling an emotion from a past hurt. We tend to take things so personally and blame our actions, wondering what we could have done different for a more desirable outcome. The truth is, it has nothing to do with us but the ego has us believe that everything is about “me” and that is why we take things personally and suffer.
Moreover, when we take things personally, we are inadvertently agreeing with whatever is being said about us. We allow someone else’s beliefs, attitudes and opinions affect our experience. This is especially true with those of us who are people pleasers. The desire for approval from others translates into feelings of self-worth. Additional stress comes in when people pleasers don’t get the approval they were seeking. Negative dialogue berating actions and over-analysis of behavior ensues on a track to self-loathing. Stress builds and builds.
This creates an endless cycle of people pleasing and gaining self-worth from others opinions. The stakes are always changing and it is impossible to please everyone – which creates tremendous stress within. Again, self-compassion, can play a significant role in soothing the people pleasing part of you. Understanding that getting approval from yourself is what matters most and puts an end to suffering.
“I am a balanced and compassionate person.”
Even if you don’t believe this statement, keep silently repeating it and let this powerful, positive statement fill up the cells in the mind and body.
Affirmations are a powerful tool we use to change the emotional energy we are emitting. Emit peace, rather than stress and you will receive more peace.
Gradually, it will get easier to believe as you notice more moments of peace and ease in your life. It’s normal for distractions to come in as you practice. Gently guide the focus back to the mantra and begin again.
Find a quiet place with no distractions and have your journal nearby. Take a few deep breaths to settle in before you read the questions. When you are ready, contemplate the question below. Take notes of your insights and reflections. Spend as much time here as you need and come back to the questions at another time, if you like. Try to listen to what the body is saying as well. Notice the breath, emotions and places of tension or ease.
Do you tend to focus on the positive or negative, both in your yoga practice and in daily life?
What is your inner dialogue when things don’t go as planned?
In what situations do you berate yourself, both in your yoga practice and in daily life?
Do you know how to comfort yourself?
Are you able to be kind to yourself, accept what is and move on? If you answered no, do you notice a tendency to self-loath? Or do your offer yourself kind and reassuring thoughts, as though you are comforting a friend? Can you speak kindly to yourself in challenging times?
Do you take things personally?
In what situations—both in your yoga practice and in daily life—do you take things personally? Is there any space to practice acceptance for yourself? Can you let go of wanting approval from others for self-worth?
Heart-Opening Core Strength – 75 Minutes
This sequence begins with a gentle and supported backbend – opening the heart space up to something bigger than stress. Practicing core work in this sequence, awakens the solar plexus – your space of personal power and will. End this practice feeling refreshed and de-stressed.
Even Breath Count
The purpose of this exercise is to slow down and even out the breath. This slowing and evening of the breath switches the parasympathetic nervous system back on. This system is responsible for “rest and digest” mode countering “fight or flight” mode. As the breath deepens and slows, the mind quiets and the body is brought back into balance.
Even breaths not only calm the nervous system, reducing stress, but they also increase a sense of ease, focus, well-being and clarity in the mind body connection. Additionally, counting the breath, much like using a mantra, help focus the mind, taking the attention off negativity, worries and anxieties. This exercise can be helpful when trying to fall asleep or to take the focus away from intense thoughts that may be distracting you.