Over the last two weeks, I’ve been invited to speak at 2 different events aimed at busy women looking to de-stress. Each time, I took about 15 minutes to address the crowd, walking them through the dreaded fight-or-flight experience that stress puts our bodies through. People share that they feel the stress at different places in their bodies. At last night’s Girls’ Night Out event, for example, one woman shared that she felt it as a tightness in her chest while another said it lived in her stomach. They call the emotion they equate with stress different things, too, from fear to sadness to worry to anger. Last night, one participant said she was actually overly excited & causing herself stress from happiness!
Then there are the thoughts that come up in stressful moments. Whether they manifest as negative self-talk or unrealistic blaming of another person, our thoughts often take on exaggerations when we’re stressed—sounding like, “I never get this right,” or “He always does this to me on purpose.”
Fight-or-flight affects us in many ways at once: Our bodies, brains, moods & thinking all get attacked by the stress chemicals like cortisol & adrenaline that help us survive truly life-threatening situations. But these autonomic responses become liabilities when we actually need to think our way through to the other side. One exercise I teach my clients to help reach this necessary higher-level thinking is what I call The BMT Index™. It’s what I shared with both of my recent audiences as a takeaway homework assignment, & it’s something I use, myself, on an almost daily basis.
The BMT Index™ is simply about answering the following questions in any given situation:
- What does my body feel?
- What are my moods?
- What are my thoughts?
I say, “any given situation,” because you don’t have to be stressed out to use it. It’s another way of noticing what you’re noticing, or gaining the meta-cognition needed for mindfulness. It’s truly the most amazing mini-mindful tool in my coaching arsenal & one of my favorite ways to use it is to set an alarm on my phone that plays my favorite song on the hour & reminds me to log my own BMT Index™. The self-awareness I gain is astounding. And the domino effect on my thoughts, behaviors & actions is wonderful & often enlightening.
Try it for yourself & see right now: What does your body feel; what are your moods & what are your thoughts?
Here are a couple of pointers to keep in mind, as well.
- When answering the B question, remember that we’re looking for physical sensations. If you answer that your body feels “stressed,” that’s not a defining enough answer. Think about where in your body you feel that stress sensation—or just run a review of your entire body from head to toe & list what you feel (“sinus pressure, tension in my neck, hunger, an itch on my right calf”).
- M stands for moods, not “mind” as people often want to jump to. Remember, your thoughts are listed last for a reason, namely being that our bodies give us a clue about what we’re feeling emotionally while our thoughts tend to complicate it. If you have difficulty determining what your emotions are, just stick to the major 4 that all others derive from—mad, glad, sad & scared.
- The T for thoughts is last, allowing you to take an observational stance as you list them, instead of allowing them to control you & send out more stress hormones. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a slew of thoughts & don’t quite know how to tease them apart, try taking your major, most pervasive thought & putting it into a sentence format, e.g. “I am sad right now.” You can also play a game with yourself, smiling every time you notice a “red flag” word that denotes exaggerated thinking—words like always, never, forever or should.
Day 8 Mini-Mindfulness Tool:
The BMT Index™ self-awareness check-in exercise.