There’s Something About Stress: The Solutions
Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you had a lovely day and are looking forward to 2018.
Last week we identified some of the common signs of stress. Now we look at what can be done to alleviate the causes of stress in our lives and to relieve some of the symptoms in 2018.
Being under pressure is a normal part of life and can be positive to drive us to take actions on things that are important to us. However, if we often become overwhelmed by stress, these feelings could start to be a problem for us as we might develop increased anxieties, and prolonged low moods or depression. The good news is that we can learn to manage our stress better if we manage external pressures and develop our emotional resilience.
Happiness is a choice. You can choose to be happy. There’s going to be stress in life, but it’s your choice whether you let it affect you or not.
Managing External Pressures
When we manage external pressures, stressful situations don’t seem to happen to us quite so often. We can manage these pressures by:
- Identifying our specific stressors (our stress triggers) – so we can spot them immediately and take steps to reduce these. As we discussed in the last blog, everyone’s stress trigger is different so it important to take notice of what your body does when it’s under stress. For example, do you tend to withdraw from others or do you find yourself snapping at people when you’re hungry. This may be a clear sign for you to activate your stress solutions for your situation.
- Organising our time better – so we have time for the things that are most important to us. We do not have to say yes to every offer going! We must also learn to say ‘No’ to tasks that that do not fit with us. You cannot do everything at once, so it’s best to prioritise and diarise your tasks asks you need to do personally and what can be delegated to others to do. Record which tasks need to be done immediately, in the next week, in the next month, or when time allows.
- Addressing some of the causes where we have control to change our situation. Stress can be triggered by a problem that may on the surface seem impossible to solve. Ask yourself this – Is this a work or home situation causing the stress? Then ask yourself – ‘what can I do to change this?’ Learning how to find solutions to your problems will help you feel more in control, thereby lowering your level of stress. A common but effective methods of solving problems is the tried and tested pros v cons list. Simply frame your problem into a single sentence, then brainstorm as many possible solutions as you can. For each solution identified, list all the pros and cons. This should help you to select the solution that is right and relevant to you.
- Accept the things we can’t change – this allows us to focus our energy on the things we do have control over. We would love to be able to control the world, but we can’t. Rather than focusing our energies on the challenges we face, we are better off spending time identifying alternatives and useful solutions. For example, there’s no point getting worked up about being stuck in traffic and running late for an important meeting with a client. Getting angry will not miraculously part the traffic like Moses did to the Red Sea! Does not happen. Instead, you’d be better off spending the time in traffic deciding whether you need to cancel the meeting and reschedule for another time, or ask a trusted colleague to step in for you (insert chocolate cake bribe here).
The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.
Developing Emotional Resilience
When we develop our emotional resilience, we get better at coping with tough situations when they do happen and so we don’t feel as stressed. We can toughen up our resilience in the following ways:
- Look after our physical health such as getting a good night sleep, eating more healthily, and being more physically active. The research keeps growing — exercise benefits your mind just as well as your body. We keep hearing about the long-term benefits of a regular exercise routine. But even a 20-minute walk, run, swim or dance session in the midst of a stressful time can give an immediate effect that can last for several hours.
- Give ourselves a break such as taking a ‘wellbeing hour’ – an hour for you and you only, where you spend time with yourself and notice what you notice. In the middle of the working week, I usually like to step out for fresh air in St James Park and pay attention to my surroundings and my body. Have all the trees lost their leaves yet? Do I still feel annoyed towards a particular work colleague? Is that lingering headache a cold coming on? It may seem obvious, but we must rest if we feel unwell, and not convince ourselves to carry on regardless. A short spell of rest will enable the body to recover faster.
- Meditate and be mindful helps the mind and body to relax and focus. Mindfulness can help us see new perspectives, develop self-compassion and help us let go of negative emotions. Much like exercise, research has shown that even meditating briefly can reap immediate benefits. Even using the ‘7/11 technique’ – a breathing exercise where you breathe in deeply for a count of 7 and out for a count 11, can help you relax and gain/regain composure in stressful situations.
- Use our support network – utilise supportive friends, family members, peers & colleagues. Opening up to share your concerns or feelings with another person, does help relieve stress. However, it’s important that the person you choose to talk to is someone you trust and whom you feel can understand and validate you. If your family is a stressor, for example, it may not alleviate your stress but instead increase it. Having said that, people do have the capacity to surprise, so give someone a chance to support you. Saying yes to that invitation for a cuppa round a fellow-mum’s house, might just be the medicine you need!
So wonderful people, however stressful you find yourself in 2018, don’t forget to breathe. In for 7 and out for 11.
Wishing you a very Happy New Year!
After experiencing three separate bereavements in the family, I learnt how to overcome the lasting effects of my low moods and anxieties, and to get back into the world! I learnt that all the resilience I need to survive is already in me, and that it is my responsibility to make myself happy.