Reset Your Thermostat for Stress | Great Health Guide
Reset Your Thermostat for Stress

Reset Your Thermostat for Stress

Written by Dr Suzanne Henwood Director and lead coach/trainer of mBraining4Success

Have you ever heard the story about ‘change’ that involves boiling frogs? Allegedly, if you place a frog in cold water and heat it up slowly, the frog stays in the pan and dies. Whereas, if you place a frog in boiling water, it jumps out to save itself. I wonder if we are in any way like frogs.

How often do we find ourselves in ‘hot water’ and adapt our behaviours, and our thoughts, to accommodate whatever is going on around us, to find a way to survive in it?

We adjust our set point, or thermostat for stress and we accommodate what is going on in life – so the new level of stress becomes our new norm. In fact, I know people who would say they don’t know (or remember) what peace, calm and safe feels like. Their nervous systems have become so used to holding stress, that they may not even be aware that they are stressed. We work to find some comfort or ‘soothing’ in any way that we can, e.g., overeating, shopping, being busy all the time, alcohol, drugs, excessive exercise. We may inadvertently become stuck in a cycle of stress, and we can’t find a way out.

If your stress set point has risen over time,

it may benefit from being reset.”

Here are some signs that this may apply to you:

  • You find it hard to be quiet and still and do nothing.

  • You are constantly feeling ‘on edge’.

  • You struggle to focus and concentrate.

  • You are drained and exhausted on a daily basis.

  • You are ‘jumpy’, reacting to things that may have been minor.

  • Your head is constantly looking for what can go wrong.

  • You have recurrent infections.

  • You may have high blood pressure, a fast heartbeat, maybe even shortness of breath.

  • You don’t remember the last time you laughed or felt joyful.

  • Living life feels like a huge effort.

While this is not an exhaustive list, if you have resonated with several points here, there is a chance your stress set point has risen over time and may benefit from being reset. Being aware is the first key step to making change and to taking action to get unstuck and to reduce your stress response, not only in the moment, but as your core way of being.

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Here are three key steps to shifting your set point:

1. Be aware.

Check in with yourself and how your body is feeling, at least daily. Feel into your body and assess where you are. You may even like to give yourself a score and have a score beyond which you will always agree to yourself to act. A little bit of stress is not necessarily harmful, but beyond a certain level, it may take a toll on your health and wellbeing.

2. Take action.

  • If your score is high – take action.

  • If your score is low – keep doing what you are doing to keep it low.

Commit to acting in the moment to reduce any recognised stress in your body. And on good days, keep doing your practices, to encourage your stress levels not to rise into unresourceful levels.

There are many easy self-care strategies you can use to reduce stress: some simple ones include.

  • Having a physiological sigh. Andrew Huberman describes the powerful way we can use sighing to reduce stress. A double in breath and sighing out breath, for two or three cycles will reduce acute stressing in the body.

  • Use a breathing pattern that reduces cortisol. For example, inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 7 seconds. Do this for a few minutes regularly throughout the day, not just when you feel stressed.

  • Taking mindful walks in nature – being aware of the sensations of warmth, breeze and movement etc, while noticing the details of colour, shape and form around you.

  • Shaking off the stressed feeling from your body by shaking your arms and legs and moving your body – you can do this to music if you like. Feel free to make a noise as you shake out any stress and tension.

  • Listen to a guided meditation specifically designed for stress reduction.

  • Rocking on a swing, or as you are sitting.

  • Humming a tune.

  • Floating in a pool or in the sea, or in a floatation tank.

3. Work to reduce your stress point over time.

One of the most effective ways of reducing your stress point over time and to rewire your brain to be more positive is having a Gratitude Practice. List what you are grateful for but using a process that enables you to feel gratitude throughout your body. The Ultimate Gratitude Journal is a great example of this. It gently changes your focus on to what is going well in life, creating deep neurological changes that can be sustained over time.

Daily health and wellbeing routines such as, good sleep, healthy diet, exercise and social connections are vital. It is important to feel and assess your stress levels and to take action to ensure you do not find yourself sitting in boiling water that you cannot get out of.

Where is your stress set point? Is it time to take action to change it?

Author of this article:
Dr Suzanne Henwood is the Director and Lead Coach and Trainer of mBraining4Success. She is a Master Trainer and Master Coach of mBIT (Multiple Brain Integration Techniques), An NLP Trainer and Master Practitioner and holds qualifications in Havening, Existential Coaching, Heart Math, Map of Meaning, Refocusing Counselling, ACT, IDT, Polyvagal Informed Therapy, Solution Focused Brief Therapy and Time Line Therapy. She can be contacted via her website.

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