In 2021, we sent out this collection of de-stressing exercises to a group of clients over the span of 10 weeks in hopes that they might help alleviate the anxiety of debt as our clients moved through their programs. We received such amazing feedback that we wanted to make sure the rest of our clients had access to these 10 meditation, mindfulness, and awareness exercises as well! We’ll be releasing a new one each Monday morning, so check in at the start of each week for a brand new exercise.
This exercise is designed to help you better understand what your body is saying about financial stress. More importantly, you will learn how to use the information coming from your body to short-circuit the usual stress response when the bills arrive in the mail or the phone rings when you’re about to eat. Your body is talking to you, but are you listening? Let’s find out.
Step 1 : Your Tracking Sheet
To become skilled at listening to your body, you need to monitor your body sensations for at least a week. Make a Tracking Sheet and keep notes to learn the rhythm of what your body is telling you and record what is going on when your body starts talking.
The simplest way is to find a piece of paper or a journal and label three columns with Time, Sensation and Event. Something like this:
|10:00 a.m.||Heartburn||Mail hasn’t arrived yet, expecting bills|
|10:30 a.m.||Heart Pounding||Going to pick up the mail|
If it’s easier for you to set this up on a mobile device or tablet, do that as well. Whatever it takes for you to take accurate notes.
Step 2: Keeping Score of Your Body
Next, we need you to select two hours to engage in your normal daily activities. You can also comfortably jot down information about your internal sensations.
After you begin your session, check in with your body every 15 minutes. Pay attention to the significant sources of your internal sensations, such as your heart, digestive system, muscles and any areas that are the source of chronic pain for you.
If all systems are sound when you check in, note the time. But if you notice any sensation in those areas such as a knot in your stomach, difficulty breathing, or an increased heart rate, make a note of it. Jot down what you were doing or thinking about when it happened. Was there an upcoming event that might explain why your body is reacting? What’s wrong?
Step 3: Pattern Recognition
The goal of mastering interoception is to become fully aware of how your body warns you of a pending threat. Most of us try to avoid feeling our internal sensations, to the point where we take medications to cover any sensations we may feel. Tums anyone?
We’ve all done it, which means we have all missed something our body was trying to tell us. Our body is a powerful signaling system if we take the time to listen and understand all it tells us. Look through the scorecard you have been keeping for any patterns that may be there. You’ll see.
Step 4: A Better Route
When we can feel and understand our internal sensations, we can determine how we respond to stress. We have discussed several exercises you can use to stop your body from going from an internal reaction to a full-blown stress response throughout these De-Stress exercises. Here’s a list of all the tools you have at your disposal thus far:
- Deep breathing
- Awareness, Stop and Control (ASC) for negative thoughts
- Name to tame your emotions
- Progressive muscle relaxation
Each of these can effectively take control of our stress response after we become aware of the early response warnings from our internal system. Listen to your sensations carefully. When you notice a sensation that typically precedes a stress response, insert your favorite exercise here to stop the stress from fully developing.
If you could not detect any internal sensations that seem to precede stress, here’s another method you can use to understand your internal sensations better. The next time you know you will be experiencing a financial stressor, let’s say when you need to pay bills, start to track your internal sensations well before you encounter the stressor. Again, the goal is to begin to recognize the inner senses that can be an early warning of stress on the way.
Join Our Client Sessions
If you’re interested in learning more about ways to stay motivated, cope with stress, and receive other support, contact [email protected] and ask to be invited to our “Join the Conversation” sessions. These private virtual sessions are specially designed as a safe space for clients in the Beyond Finance program. You’ll learn about different topics related to dealing with debt, meet other clients in the program, and participate in a Q & A session where you can ask our financial therapists anything you like.