So, by now, you've probably heard about Shanker Self-Reg at some point or another. Self-Reg is a framework for recognizing stress, addressing it, and reclaiming calm ; but the real magic happens when we become stress aware, at least it did for me.
Stress exists across 5 domains: Biological, Emotion, Cognitive, Social, and Pro-Social . In any one of these domains, at any time, we are experiencing stressors; and usually we're experiencing stressors across all of these domains at the same time . Importantly though, not all stress is bad and it can actually be a good thing that we’re experiencing it. This is what fuels us to complete tasks, stay awake, go to the gym, etc. The issue arises when we find ourselves trapped in a never-ending stress cycle .
Picture this as a tornado, gaining traction as it spins. The more it picks up, the faster it goes and the more it destroys. When we find ourselves in a stress cycle, we become this tornado. We spin out of control and become impulsive in our actions . This creates even more stress around us, as we feel worse, we damage social relationships, we engage in maladaptive coping, and we just generally breed negativity. This only makes the tornado spin faster. Sounds pretty hopeless, doesn’t it?
But there is hope, because this can be stopped if we just have a little trust in the process of Self-Reg. It’s not about addressing the behavior directly, it’s about addressing the cause of the behavior . The behavior will correct itself naturally . So, what do we do to prevent future outbursts? How do we know when Self-Reg has ‘worked?’ I receive lots of emails and questions asking for evidence that Self-Reg works. Even my own master’s thesis cannot prove that Self-Reg works. That’s not what this is about.
The evidence is in you, not a research study or statistics. How do you know when isn’t really a good time to have a serious conversation with your partner, or you’d prefer not to go to the mall because you don’t think you’d handle a crowd well? That’s being stress aware; that’s Self-Reg. We come to learn our signs of stress, and our unique triggers, so that we know how to respond to them as they arise.
Self-Reg is not a clinical intervention brought in when things go wrong; it is a lifestyle change that we adopt, it is the answer to the ‘why?’ of why things go wrong. It is also the solution. As we learn more and more of the why, we can learn how to respond both after we’ve experienced stress or lost control, and before.
Stress awareness is not a checklist of common stressors such as loud noises, bright colors, or too much caffeine. This is not something that you can teach to others either. This is something that must be experienced in order to be understood. I learned about stress awareness the first time I felt truly calm. I was laying on a blanket in the middle of a sunny forest, listening to the birds chirping, feeling the warm caress of the breeze across my face as I felt the stress melt from my shoulders. This was my moment of bliss, and I had never truly felt this way before.
It wasn’t the trees, the sun, the birds, or the air that had led me there however. It was the fact I had been able to disconnect from the constancy of my phone and laptop, and just truly be alone with my thoughts. I hadn’t realized how much of a stressor my technology had become; I had at that moment learned one of my biggest triggers.
Having the newfound knowledge of what being calm truly feels like, I was now able to recognize when I was anything but calm. I became acutely aware of my stress signals; such as tight shoulders. I recognized these as signs I needed to take a step back and really see what’s going on.
Now, as I work from home in a remote job, in Canada in the middle of a snowy winter, my sunny forest is long gone; but my sense of calm is not. I am able to find this same blissful feeling by shutting my phone off, sitting somewhere quiet, and allowing myself to just be. This is what works for me, it doesn’t mean it will work for you. This is a unique process, and only you are the expert of yourself and your states.
So I ask YOU…
Why, and why now?