Stress is perceived in the mind, suffered in the human spirit, experienced via the emotions, expressed in behaviour, and "held" in the body.
November is stress awareness month though stress has become a symptom of modern life. I often speak to clients about the “fight or flight” or adrenaline response, and how much it can influence both our physiology and emotions, resulting in heightened anxiety, depression and can eventually develop into chronic illness.
Stress is the most common cause of ill health in our society, probably contributing to as many as 70% of all visits to family doctors.
Stress can be good when it helps you perform better, but it can be bad when it causes upset or makes you sick – stress is usually negative when you do not have the resources to deal with the demand. Often we can find ourselves in a state of high alertness without any means of appropriate physical expression. Our body may become prepared for a fight if we see an ex-partner or boss as the sabre toothed tiger, threatening our self esteem, career prospects or security but we can’t leap into physical action. We may feel angry and aggressive though we can’t engage in physical contact. Instead we bottle up those feelings, try to numb them with drink or food or let our anger out on others such as friends and family.
Having seen a lot of clients suffering from stress related illness, I have learned the most effective ways of both dealing with and preventing stress. These are my top 10 stress busting tips:
1. Learn to manage your time more effectively
We waste a lot of time doing unimportant tasks, especially when stressed, so learn to prioritise your day and do the important jobs first. The unimportant ones can wait, and often they will disappear completely leaving you time to do other things. Also, don’t put off the unpleasant tasks – avoidance causes a great deal of stress. Give unpleasant tasks a high priority and do them first. Check out Debbie Stone’s blog for excellent time management tips.
2. Take time out
Taking time out (anything from a short walk to a holiday) to get away from the things that are bothering you is important. It also gives you space to stand back and a chance for your stress levels to decrease. When you do return to deal with issues, you will feel more rested and in a better frame of mind. I often suggest to clients to take 2 mins each hour (use an alarm to remind yourself) just to breath and refocus and calm your mind. This can make a real difference to reducing stress.
3. Know your limitations and learn to delegate
We cause ourselves a great deal of stress because we like people to like us and don’t want to let people down. We then end up doing more than we should. Learn to delegate effectively & be assertive so that you can say no without upsetting or offending. Learning to feel comfortable to say ‘No’ and put yourself first is also a sign of good self esteem.
4. Find out what your triggers are
Take time to identify what your main stressors are and what is worrying you and try to change your thoughts & behaviour to reduce it. Talking to a counsellor or coach can help you to fully understand the causes, implications to your health & how to manage, cope & make those necessary changes.
5. Change your lifestyle habits
If we eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and ensure we get adequate sleep & rest our body is better able to cope with stress should it occur. If any of these areas are not happening for you it is usually a warning sign, don’t ignore it, ask for some help. Decreasing your caffeine and sugar intake will also help reduce your reactivity to stress as they are both stimulants and can increase anxiety. Instead, try caffeine free drinks, or herbal teas to help you relax.
6. Learn a relaxation technique
Learning relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga can help you reduce stress long term. Meditation is a good way of relaxing during, and at the end of, a stressful day. It is something you can learn to do yourself, or may be something you prefer to learn in classes. Good research has been conducted into meditation that shows it is a useful and practical technique for managing stress.
Techniques such as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can also help to reduce the stress response just through stimulating acupressure points on the face and body through gentle tapping. It can help reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety very quickly, and is something you can use yourself on a daily basis to boost both your mood and energy levels quickly and effectively.
7. Accept the things you cannot change
Stress is a reactive state where we are almost fighting against the reality of the situation, and when our mind and body feels unable to cope. Changing a difficult situation is not always possible. If this proves to be the case, recognise and accept things as they are & concentrate on all that you do have control over. Managing change effectively is essential or else performance will be reduced. Also, look at what you can change is an important step towards gaining control of the situation and in turn, your stress.
8. Learn to breathe properly
Learning to take control of our breath can help us learn to relax. By slowing down the breath we can calm our rapidly beating hearts and return our bodies to the pre-fight or flight status that we experienced before stress got the better of us.
ABDOMINAL BREATHING TECHNIQUE:
1. Place one hand on your upper chest, the other on your abdomen, just above your waist.
2. Breathe in through your nose and note where there is movement.
3. Focus on your movement in your abdomen. Think of breathing into your lower hand, so that as your lungs fill, your abdomen will rise, and as your breathe out it will fall.
4. Breathing should be comfortable, rhythmical and relaxed. Breathe in then out for a count of five then. Do this for at least 3 minutes twice a day.
9. Reframe the situation
If something is concerning you, try to see it differently and look for the positives or solutions instead. Talk over your problem with somebody before it gets out of proportion. Often, talking to a friend/colleague/family member will help you see things from a different and less stressful perspective. You may also need to consider professional help in order to achieve the desired outcome & prevent ill health &/or burnout.
10. Find time to meet friends and family
Friends and family can ease work troubles & help us see things in a different way. The activities we engage in with friends help us relax and we will often have a good laugh. It boosts the immune system that is often depleted during stress. If you do become stressed, talking to someone who you can trust can help to lighten your burden and improve your mood.
Alexandra Bacon is a certified Advanced EFT Practitioner, Counsellor, Bach Flower Remedy Practitioner, Wellbeing consultant and Trainer. To book your personalised treatment session please call Alexandra on 01629 825968/ 07950 568635. www.lotusheal.co.uk