9 Ways to manage your stress
It is not unusual to feel stressed more often these days. Let's face it, historically we all had something/s to stress over and now with the impact of Covid 19, social distancing, the daily flood of news on the rise of new infections, lockdowns, local and national businesses collapsing, outcomes of a no-deal Brexit and darker wintery days; it is becoming harder to manage your stress levels. When living through times of uncertainty and seeking ways to manage stress levels, there are plenty tools and methodologies at your disposal to bring happiness and calm into everyday life. What are these tools and methodologies, we hear you ask? Well, we have plenty of ideas to share with you but we thought it best to go to an expert and ask for their thoughts. We invited Darren Taylor the author of Finding Your Sober Bubble to give us his thoughts on stress management, with a guest blog here. So, over to you Darren Taylor now to share some practical ways of managing stress:
Stress Management Relief Techniques There are some practical and straightforward things you can do if you begin to feel stressed, anxious or sad. For example, you could try continuing with your work and focus on something constructive or think of a happy or funny incident. Another technique is to count to ten. The simple act of counting to ten offers you a distraction from the event and allows you time to gather your thoughts. Mindfulness can also help to relieve stress and manage anxiety and depression and the following techniques are just that:
Imagery Thinking of an image allows you to rest your mind by diverting it from thinking about pressures and problems. There are a few ways to use imagery:
Imagine you are in a place you find relaxing. Use all your senses to help you imagine it better.
Create a mental picture of the stress or sadness flowing out of your body or being locked away in a padlocked chest.
Imagine yourself going through actions or an event that you find stressful to visualise how you would resolve any problems that might occur.
Breathing Stress and anxiety can cause you to take short and shallow breaths which can lead to decreased energy and increased tension. By trying different breathing exercises, you can help reduce tension and ease stressful thoughts and feelings. One type of breathing exercise is:
Sit comfortably in a chair with your spine upright. If you are standing, make sure your arms are by your side, and your body is symmetrical.
Keep your mouth closed. Breathe in through your nose and count to four.
Gently breathe out through your mouth for a count of four.
Initially repeat the cycle four times. You can gradually work up to eight repetitions, and if you are comfortable increase the count on each breath.
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) This technique can help release physical tension caused by stress and create mental calmness. In PMR, you spend a few minutes deep breathing, then focusing on different parts of your body. Work up your body, tensing and releasing each muscle group for a few breaths. For example, your legs, glutes, abdomen, back, hands, arms, shoulders, neck, and jaw. If any muscle group is particularly stiff, repeat the tense and release process for that area.
Yoga Yoga is a popular way of managing stress and improving mood practiced all around the world. Research has linked yoga with increased control over the mind, but also helps release tension and relax muscles. It is possible to do yoga at home or even at your desk at work. Yoga is generally safe and can be scaled to your physical ability. However, you should consult with a doctor before starting any new exercise. This is especially important, if you have a herniated disk, are at risk of blood clots, are pregnant, have balance problems, osteoporosis or issues with your blood pressure.
Laughter Laughter is an excellent natural mechanism that can reduce the build-up of stress. Research suggests that laughter affects us on both a physical and emotional level. It can:
Give you a detached perspective on the situation.
Make a stressor seem less daunting.
Reduce the stress hormones your body releases.
Cause your muscles and mind to relax.
Help your heart by increasing blood circulation.
Laughter is not always appropriate in certain situations, but you could try to use it afterward. Even if you force yourself to smile, your body responds as if you are actually feeling happy and will help reduce stress and anxiety.
What about stress management and resilience
You can manage stress and boost resilience by changing your outlook on certain situations and changing how you prioritise tasks. Resilience is your ability to adapt, recover, and grow after adversity or trauma. Some people might manage and adapt to difficulties better; however, everyone can develop their stress management and resilience skills.
Positive attitude and self-talk
There is a connection between positive emotions and physical health and wellbeing. You can develop a positive attitude by using positive self-talk. Self-talk refers to all the unspoken thoughts or conversations you have in your head. Be encouraging and kind to yourself. Don’t say things about yourself that you wouldn’t say aloud to, or about others. When you have a negative thought, try to evaluate it honestly and rationally and then respond with a positive thought. Try word substitutions. For example, change ‘downfall’ to ‘setback’.
Coping and the opposite action technique
People cope with adversity in different ways, some of which are positive and some negative. Examples of positive coping include trying to tackle the problem directly or trying to change or manage their feelings about the problem. Avoiding the problem altogether is an example of negative coping.
A technique called the opposite action technique can help you cope positively by analysing your initial reaction to a problem.
Name the emotion you are feeling, such as anger.
Identify what action you want to perform, such as yell and shout.
Consider whether this action fits the facts of the situation, not your emotions.
If the action does not fit the facts, do the opposite action, such as talk calmly.
Time management and a stress diary
Similar to how it is important to keep a routine, it is also important to maximise how you use your time. Keep the saying ‘work smart, not long’ in mind when approaching tasks at work and at home. Taking breaks will improve your work quality and mental health. If you are struggling at work maybe talk to your employer.
Writing down information about when, where, why, what and how you feel stressed (or anxious, depressed) can help you better manage your feelings in the future.
Locus of control
Resilient people have an internal locus of control. This means that they believe they have power over and influence on their life and environment. The opposite is an external locus of control which is characterised by thoughts like ‘there is nothing I can do’. I have demonstrated this below in terms of the Covid-19 pandemic. Try to understand what you can control and what you cannot control.
Being calm isn’t always easy in today’s society but it should be a priority to at least take time out and by utilising some of the techniques I have shared here, you can improve your mental health significantly, because after all, its not nice when you are stressed or anxious.
Take care…. Darren x
Finally, let us demystify a myth, stress is not a ‘bad’ thing. Without stress, there would be less motivation in dealing with daily challenges. Stress can help in accomplishing tasks more efficiently and boost memory. It is also a part of human's in-built warning system, generating the fight-or-flight response.