I have suffered from stress in the past. To such an extent I have found it debilitating. However, I have managed to take back control of my emotions so that stress does not rule my life. It is a vicious cycle and if we don’t address it, it can become unmanageable.
I have discussed building resilience to support us with managing our emotions but in this article, I wanted to delve into further detail for those who may have different coping mechanisms to mine and offer some suggestions.
First and foremost, we need to identify when we are stressed, those physical indicators generally in the head, heart, and lungs. But you may have other indicators such as sweating, tensing, or even avoiding situations or people because unconsciously we have identified that when we are around, we feel stressed.
Following on from this we need to identify those situations such as rush hour traffic, people, or a friend of a friend who we may feel stress around. Once we are aware of these, we can manage them. It may be to avoid rush hour traffic or have stress management techniques to hand to support us with the stress of that moment. We can only control ourselves not others. Identify what is within your control. It is our thoughts about things that provoke stress. If we can change our thinking about things, it can reduce our stress levels.
Once we are aware of the stress, then we can manage it. We need to pause so that we respond rather than react to emotion. There are various methods we can use to support us with stress management. As I have mentioned before, routine, exercise, deep breathing, and mindful techniques are the most beneficial techniques.
Another technique could be listening to calming music or soothing sounds that could calm your physical reactions.
There are others such as visualization. Think of a calming place personal to yourself, it may be a beach, a forest, or a mountain. It could be anywhere you have visited that you have felt calm. Use it, when you feel those stress signals -in rush hour traffic this is not an appropriate technique as the idea is to fully immerse yourself with all of your senses in that calming space.
Another technique could be to reduce your responsibilities. We often take on too much. It is ok to say no if you are already overwhelmed. It is all in the delivery. I will write more about communication styles at a later date but if you can keep in control of your tone, words, and body language you may be surprised how receptive others can be.
Talking of others, doing something selfless can be a good way to reduce stress. Not just for them, but it will also boost your own self-esteem to know that you have done a good deed. Also talking to others can help with stress. It is important to surround ourselves with a positive social support system. We can turn to people when needed to vent our stress Again, it’s all in the delivery no matter how close you are. We generally don’t want to offend people, that will only provide us with more stress and problems. If you don’t have a support system, there are professionals you can reach out to.
In addition to exercise, diet is also important to manage stress. Maybe we are drinking too much caffeine or alcohol? Maybe we are only eating junk food? Reassessing what we consume can help us manage stress.
The list is truly endless, it is about finding out what works for you. What do you enjoy? What do you value? Why beat yourself up over things that are out of your control? If you’re not sure of these things, keep a gratitude journal to note what you do enjoy and find relaxing. Likewise, if you are not sure what your stressors are, keep a journal noting down those. It can be extremely cathartic to get your thoughts down on paper.
If you would like to discuss any of these issues further, please don’t hesitate to contact me.