Ashley walks in the door, “Hey babe, I didn’t hear from you so I went ahead and picked up some take-out in case you don’t want to cook tonight.” Jason snaps back, “What do you mean I don’t want to cook? Don’t I cook every night? You have no idea how many things I have going on. Perplexed, she replies, “I am trying to be helpful because you have been so busy.”
It’s likely that most of us have had the experience of being stressed and having our emotions spill out onto innocent bystanders – leaving us feeling awful later.
If we were to filter out the day’s accumulated stress, what Mark likely would have said is, “Sorry I didn’t get back with you, things got really hectic today, so this is perfect, thank you.” Being more connected in the heart he would have registered the caring gesture.
When stress has a chance to accumulate it can hang over us like a thick fog preventing us from thinking, perceiving and speaking from our authentic self. Without meaning to, the stored stress clouds our perceptions and twists words and actions into misunderstandings.
The science of being stressed-off goes something like this. Stress leads to chaos in the heart’s rhythms, which affects our body in a number of ways, including our brains ability to think clearly, make good decisions and communicate well.
When we’re overwhelmed what we say often reflects the stress build-up we’re feeling. It can carry over from earlier situations compromising our ability to genuinely connect with others. As a result our interactions become more mechanical and run low on care.
This explanation is attributed to the amazing research being conducted by our sister organization, the HeartMath Institute. The best part of this clinical look at stress is how positive emotions can reverse the unwanted effects of stress.
Emotions like care and appreciation create “coherence” in the heart’s rhythms, which is reflected by its ordered pattern. As the brain synchs to this rhythm, emotional stress is released. Coherence adds clarity to our mental performance and our communications. Even our intuitive sensitivities are keener – meaning we’re more likely to know when it’s time to pause to reset our coherence, and we’re less likely to utter regretful comments to others.
Another worthy note from the Institute’s work is how we can re-pattern trigger responses to stress with calmer, more poised responses as we practice building heart-coherence.
Experiment with these simple ideas. They take no more than a few moments to do and can help reduce the stress build-up: