How Stress Affects The Mind
Stress is a mind-body experience. When we experience stress, we feel it in both the body and the mind.
Interoception: The Mind-Body Connection of Stress
Interestingly, both higher and lower interoceptive ability can increase stress and anxiety. There’s a balance between being overly aware and being disconnected from physical sensations. Either way, you can learn to view your body as a valuable source of information rather than interpret physical sensations as threats. This is, in fact, an important aspect of mindfulness – being open to and accepting of the present moment, including what you feel in your body.
Your body is constantly being triggered by stressors, and your brain eventually picks up on them, notices sensations in the body, and responds by creating a narrative around the situation. These narratives are often based on learned beliefs – often limiting beliefs – such as “I can’t do this” or “It’s too much.”
Shift the Story
When you experience stress in the moment, you have the opportunity to pause, tune in to what’s happening in your body, and shift how you respond mentally by choosing a more empowering narrative. The goal is to lengthen the amount of time between the initial feeling of stress and your reaction to it in order to give your brain a chance to respond intentionally rather than reacting immediately.
With practice, you can learn how to separate the physiological sensations in your body from the thoughts your mind assigns to a situation. Once you can do this, you can shift the story your mind is telling you, which opens the door to finding creative solutions and reduces feelings of stress.
Select the physical and mental responses for each event to learn how you can shift the response.
Your Boss Yells at You
Breath deeply and count to ten your mind.
Reframe the narrative to “I am safe, and I am capable. My boss might be having a bad day.”
You Have to Give an Important Speech at a Big Event
Assume a “power pose” —stand tall with your hands on your hips (think superhero) before going onstage.
Reframe the narrative to “I am confident. I know what I’m doing, and people want to hear what I have to say.”
Your Bills Are Pilling Up and You Just Received Another One
Go for a walk to release some of the tension or make yourself a cup of tea.
Reframe the narrative to “I am smart, and I can figure this out. I always find a way.”