December 1, 2015

How to Change Your Stress Reaction

stressOnline advice about stress offers lots of things you can do in the moment: count to ten, breathe deeply, go for a walk. But how to change your automatic stress reaction, so that you stop getting stressed out in the first place?

Here’s a useful way of thinking about it.

Your Brain As A Computer

You know how a computer can stop functioning properly when it has unwanted software installed on it? You might not be aware of the program, because it’s running silently in the background, but you notice its effects: the computer crashes or behaves erratically. Your brain also has programs running silently in the background.  They’re called beliefs.

Stress management experts have identified 14 core beliefs which are implicated in stress.  You can read more about them here.  It is easy enough to uninstall an unwanted computer program, but how do you uninstall an unhelpful belief?  To find out how, you first have to understand how those beliefs got installed in the first place.

How ‘Stress-Inducing’ Beliefs Arise From Childhood Trauma

Researchers who study brainwave patterns have discovered that between the ages of 2 and 12, children spent most of their time in the Theta-Alpha brainwave state, the most programmable state of consciousness there is. This is the time when a lot of beliefs get installed. During this age, if you find yourself in a traumatic situation, you’ll be adapting your behaviour to stay ‘safe’, and not only in the moment. Young brains are primed to generalize and form beliefs: rules which your subconscious can act upon to keep you safe.  So originally, the beliefs created by trauma were very useful.

Example 1: Unstable parent

Let’s say, when you were young, your parents broke up and the parent you were living with became unstable Maybe they got depressed. Maybe they developed a drug habit or an alcohol problem. Or perhaps they became emotionally erratic: being stressed themselves, they’d go from lashing out at you over nothing, to being very loving, to sometimes ignoring you completely.

As a child, your safety and well-being is entirely dependent on the adult or adults looking after you, so you’ll be hyper-aware of the way they’re behaving around you and towards you.  Your survival mechanism will kick in and you will develop beliefs that protect you, in some way, from the pain of the situation you find yourself in.

There are a number of beliefs you could develop from having an unstable parent, depending on the specific experiences you had with them.  Here are just three that could form:

  • I mustn’t make mistakes.
  • I need to be certain, and in control of all situations.
  • I need love and approval to feel worthy.

Example 2: Bullying

Even if your home life was pretty peachy, you very probably had to mix with other kids at some time: school, for example.  Children can be cruel to each other in numerous ways: from hurtful remarks and name-calling through humiliating pranks and all the way up to physical assault.

Let’s say you were bullied for a time as a child. Whether it took the form of insidious, day-after-day belittling or being regularly in fear of your life, you are going to have formed a number of beliefs from the experience. We are social apes, and at a fundamental level, being accepted by the tribe can mean the difference between thriving or dying. Thus, as young apes, we are going to form beliefs which help us adapt our behaviour to survive. Three typical beliefs created as a result of being bullied would be:

  • The world is not safe.
  • It’s easier to avoid life than face its difficulties.
  • Things, or people, are not as I’d like them to be.

Uninstalling the Beliefs that Cause Stress

If you have any of these beliefs, you will sometimes react badly to stress. If you have several of them (these six, and the other eight) you are going to get very stressed when life gets challenging.  But can you really ‘uninstall’ unhelpful beliefs from your brain the way you can uninstall unwanted software from your computer?

Yes, you can. The field of Energy Psychology has become a serious driver of human change in the last 20 years, with techniques like EFT Tapping and Matrix Reimprinting. But uninstalling a trauma-induced belief using these techniques usually requires a considerable degree of skill and persistence (EFT) and/or multiple sessions with a practitioner (Matrix Reimprinting). However, a new technique called PSTEC allows you to uninstall a belief – and so improve your reaction to stress – in less than 15 minutes. And what’s more, you can do it without a practitioner present.

Change your stress reaction

Check out the PSTEC belief eraser – a downloadable audio track developed by one of the UK’s top hypnotherapists, Tim Phizackerly.  Try the basic PSTEC audio tracks for free here.  And, if you want to know how you can use PSTEC to make your life hugely better in just ten minutes a day, download this free e-book.

Imagine what it would feel like to be a person whose reaction to stress is… being automatically calm. Imagine a life where stressful situations don’t stress you out.

Now don’t imagine: take action!