Reduce your stresses
“Our greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another”
– William James
Feeling stressed in today’s world is pretty much inevitable, but how stressed you allow yourself to get or how often this happens are two things that you can have a great influence over! You can control these.
If you’re living with high levels of stress, you’re putting your entire well-being at risk. Stress wreaks havoc on your emotional balance, as well as your physical health. It narrows your ability to think clearly, function effectively, and enjoy life.
I listened to a podcast on Tuesday where Dr Chatterjee and Matt Haig the writer of two amazing books ‘Notes on a nervous planet’ and ‘Reasons to stay alive’ were speaking about managing stress levels. Haig used an amazing analogy in saying you wouldn’t give yourself a packet of 60 Marlboro cigarettes to smoke a day if it meant at the end of it you would reach the thing that was making you so unbelievably stressed. You wouldn’t risk your physical health to reach that goal so why should and would you risk your mental health to get there by pilling on the pressure and adding such high stress levels.
This really got me thinking what we put our bodies go through when we are stressed and how often we could probably stop that by using a few techniques we can put in our toolbox.
I googled the common side effects of stress and I was presented with this table :
|On your body||On your mood||On your behaviour|
|Headache||Anxiety||Overeating or undereating|
|Muscle tension or pain||Restlessness||Angry Outburst|
|Chest Pain||Lack of motivation or focus||Drug or alcohol misuse|
|Fatigue||Feeling overwhelmed||Tabaco Use|
|Change in sex drive||Irritability or anger||Social Withdrawal|
|Stomach upset||Sadness or depression||Exercising less often|
How many of these do you experience when you get stressed?
Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
So, how can we do something about channelling and controlling our stress levels?
Let’s start with identifying the sources of stress in your life. This isn’t as straightforward as it sounds as while it’s easy to identify major stressors such as changing jobs or moving house, pinpointing the sources of chronic stress can be more complicated.
It’s all too easy to overlook how your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviours contribute to your everyday stress levels. Sure, you may know that you’re constantly worried about work/school deadlines, but maybe it’s procrastination, rather than the actual job demands, that is causing the stress.
To identify your true sources of stress, look closely at your habits, attitude, and excuses:
- Do you explain away stress as temporary (“I just have a million things going on right now”) even though you can’t remember the last time you took a breather?
- Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life (“things are always crazy around here”) or as a part of your personality (“I have a lot of nervous energy, that’s all”)?
- Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely normal and unexceptional?
Once you identify the source it’s easier to control it – you can accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it and make it your role to change it rather than remaining outside your control.
Stress is an automatic response from your nervous system, so having a few tips under our belt that we can use when we go into a stressful periods.
Here are a few things you can use when going through a stressful time in your life:
- Focus on the present!
Have you ever noticed that feeling stressed or anxious often coincides with dwelling on the past or worrying about the future? ALL THE TIME! Simply focusing your mind on the present moment can help you feel a little more relaxed. You don’t need to meditate to do this, simply bring your focus to something around you, either in nature, something you’re wearing or just simply your breath. Focus on it so intently that everything else fades away
- Write it down or share your problems
When we hold our stress inside, the problem can be doubled if not tripled in our own brains. When we write our stresses down we can see it plain and simple on a piece of paper. You can’t write as fast as you think. Therefore, by writing, you are forced to focus on a specific problem before you jump to the next. In fact, this is a very good way to understand your problems, which, of course, leads to solving them. After writing them down, evaluating the stresses I would even suggest crossing or scribbling them out as if you were erasing them from your mind as well.
- Exercise, get moving, DO SOMETHING
Of course, when you feel stressed the last thing you want to do is get up and exercise. However physical activity is a huge huge stress reliver. You don’t have to spend hours at the gym or run a marathon to experience the benefits.
In the words of Elle Woods (Legally Blonde) “Exercise gives you endorphins – Endorphins make you happy”. Releasing those endorphins will make you feel good and exercising can also serve as a valuable distraction from your daily worries and stress.
- Schedule ME time!
Beyond a take-charge approach and a positive attitude, you can reduce stress in your life by carving out “me” time. Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you forget to take care of your own needs. Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury! I think I have mentioned this in nearly every blog!
Use beautiful relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation or focusing on deep breathing. As you learn and practice these techniques, your stress levels will decrease, and your mind and body will become calm and centred.
- Set clear boundaries for your day.
- Schedule your time better
A few months ago, I wrote a blog regarding time management and how to take control of your time. Check this out to see how you can schedule your time better – www.sunday-soul.com/reflection/time-matters
- Sometimes, you just have to face your fear!
A quote that really resonated with me…
If you always avoid situations that make you anxious, this might be stopping you from doing things you want or need to do. It sounds weird but facing the things that make you anxious can reduce your anxiety.
So, this week, if stress takes over make sure you stay present in the moment, nice deep breaths and take yourself away from the situation. Follow these steps and see how you get on!