The Rule of 3 For Stress Management 

The stress of everyday life can be overwhelming. And all too often, we get swept up in our thoughts, emotions, and our reactions to stress, leaving us feeling as if we have lost all control and are at the mercy of the ‘stress monster’ living inside us. 

Our world has also become a constant barrage of flashing, beeping, yelling, calling, expecting and FOMO.  It feels like someone, or something is always vying for our attention. And if we don’t take the time to center ourselves, or learn how to distance ourselves from everyday stressors, we are left with stress symptoms that make us feel anxious, sad, frustrated, tired and more. The results of this constant activation are a host of uncomfortable stress symptoms ranging from emotional and cognitive to physical reactions that often lead to unskillful behaviors and keep us from feeling and being our best selves. 

When you feel this way, it is very hard to focus. Too much stress increases distraction, confusion, impulsivity, and outbursts of emotion. It reduces productivity and contentment. It creates a sense of unnecessary urgency and frantic reactions. It keeps us from being effective and results in automatic reactions that leave us feeling frustrated and bad about ourselves or blaming others.

Once we are triggered by our stress, our mind is off to the races and we are stuck on the hamster wheel of life, swimming in our own stress. Do you ever remember learning in school how to calm yourself down? How to manage stress? How to recognize stress in your body? Probably not – because schools never taught us what stress and mental illness look like. It just wasn’t in their curriculum. Fortunately, many schools are beginning to take the time to understand the importance of mental health and are beginning to incorporate wellness and stress management into the schools. 

That will help our children, but it does not exactly help us. So let me give you a quick tip to help you manage your stress so that you can begin to take control back in your life. Whenever we begin to practice something new, we look for results. Have you ever done one push and said, “There! Done with that exercise. Now I am healthy.” No, I am sure you don’t expect that one sit-up, or one pull-up is going to make you physically fit. It takes time, patience, and practice to do this. The same holds true with the mind. 

To create calm on a long-term basis, we need regular and consistent practice to get there. You can meditate once and feel great during and right after. However, it may not carry with you throughout the rest of your day. It is something that needs to become a habit, a lifestyle and way of living.

By incorporating a regular mindful practice into your everyday life, you can build up the part of the brain that is responsible for logical thinking, calming you down, being rational, being compassionate and making good decisions. You will bring blood flow to that part of the brain and reduce blood flow to the area of the brain that is our alarm center, the part that is impulsive and reactive. 

By practicing mindfulness and meditative activities you can begin to control how your brain deals with stress and learn to choose how you want to respond to it, rather than having automatic reactions. There are many ways to begin building this mindful muscle. But doing so can have a long-lasting and powerful impact on your life!

Here is an easy exercise that I practice to help me find my center, be grateful for the good things in my life and reflect on how I can take action and make good choices to set myself up for success!

3 x 3 x 3 Rule…
You can do this at the end of the day, or when you get up, or whenever you feel your stress building up in your body (the sooner you catch it, the better, so that it doesn’t completely take over).
I find it best to close my eyes and take a few deep breathes to get into my body before I begin this exercise. 

The First 3 (3 Things in Your Body):  Notice three things that you can feel, hear, smell, or just notice about your body. Maybe you feel your heartbeat or listen to your breath. Maybe you feel a sensation in your back or notice the way your spine is aligned as you sit or lie down. Just notice these three things and breathe into each of them for a few deep inhales and exhales. 

The Next 3 (3 Grateful Things):  Think of three things that you are grateful for in your life right now. These can be overarching things like being grateful for waking up this morning or being able to walk. But they can be small things like finding a good parking spot or having a stranger hold the door open for you. Simply think of three things that you are glad you experienced, have, or get to enjoy in your life. 

The Final 3 (3 Things You Can Do):  Think of three things that you can do that will make you feel good, effective, or skillful in your life. You can choose things like, “I am going to take good care of my body today by eating fruit and vegetables for breakfast and lunch.” You can set a plan for achieving something. “I will talk with my boss about the promotion opportunity and how I can set myself up to be a top candidate.” It can be something that will make you feel good. “I will apologize to my sibling or spouse for being grumpy today.” Or “I will volunteer at the pet shelter this weekend.” 

Thinking in these ways helps you to find your center and get away from the chaos of the world around you. This strategy also helps you realize the good things that you have in your life – which brings about feelings of pleasure and contentment. It also helps you let go of focusing on the negative all the time. Finally, you give yourself a boost of energy by focusing on things that you can do, that you have control over. You will begin to feel more effective and autonomous in your world. 

When we take control of how our brain operates and practice mindful activities, we can create a world of change that empowers us, calms us, and helps us live a happier life!

Try these techniques and let me know how they worked for you!

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