3 - Part Series with a focus on understanding your stress and building your own personal stress busting tool-kit with nutritional, physical and mental relaxation strategies.
Part 3 - Stress Busting with Relaxation and Coping Strategies
In Part 1 ‘Stress – know thy enemy’ we looked at an overview of stress, what it is, introduced the stress hormone - cortisol and identified some indicators of chronic stress, and its long-term health implications.
Now in Part 3 of 'Stress the great balancing act' - discover strategies to add to your Stress Busting tool-kit with Relaxation tips, Coping Strategies and Emotional Stress Release techniques.
The first step to making changes is to be aware of the problem. To cultivate awareness, I highly recommend that you keep a journal to observe what your triggers are. When you feel stressed, write down what is happening around you, what you are doing, what you were feeling and thinking, and what you have eaten in the past couple of hours. Being aware of your trigger can help you figure out a plan of action that helps you reduce the instances of encountering those trigger situations. Taking control is actually one of the best ways to deal with stress effectively.
As we have started to explore, stress management is a very multi-faceted topic, and should be approached holistically from many angles. Let’s take some time to look at some relaxation techniques that you may find beneficial to add to your stress management tool-kit.
Yoga – It helps release hormones that are conducive to relaxation. It is a way to encourage conscious, deep breathing. Hip-opening poses are particularly great for releasing stored stress and emotions.
Stretching - Very closely related to yoga is stretching. Taking time to hold a stretch can help you slow down and re-focus your energy. Forward bends, whether seated or standing, are very soothing for the nervous system.
Exercise regularly – exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise, releases endorphins, which are a feel-good hormone.
Stop multi-tasking – focusing on one thing at a time helps you become more efficient and focused.
Journaling – set aside a few minutes in the morning to journal. Set an intention for the day, write about what you are grateful for, set a couple of goals, and write down what you are going to do to take care of yourself and have fun. Or, just simply write down what is on your mind, which is a great way to help calm our mental chatter.
Schedule quiet time everyday – even if it’s just five or ten minutes. Close the door, turn off the computer, silence the phone. Take these few precious minutes to do what feels good to you and recharge your battery. Cultivate the awareness of how you feel when you are about to get into a “burn out” state, and give yourself a break before you begin to get to that state.
Pamper yourself – get yourself a massage, pedicure, bubble bath, something that helps you feel pampered and a million dollars, at least once a week. Self-care, whatever form it comes in, helps you take care of the physical aspect related to stress and burn out. Keep in mind that you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others – for a long time to come.
Sometimes taking control of a stressful situation can be the best way to cope. Here are a few coping strategies that can help you face your stress head on:
#1. Take action – doing something, do what’s in front of you, even a tiny step toward resolving the issue that is creating stress for you can put you in the driver’s seat. It can give you a sense of control over the situation, thus reducing stress, which is partly caused by uncertainty.
#2. Ask yourself, what is the worst that can happen? Take a few minutes to ponder, plan out or write down the worst-case scenario. What would you do? Most of the time, people find that it’s actually not that bad, and they can totally live with the outcome. Now you have gone through the worst in your head and have a plan for it, there is no more reason to worry and be stressed out.
#3. Don’t believe everything you think. What do I mean by that? Keep in mind that the way “reality” appears to us depends on the way we perceive our circumstances, and the way we perceive our circumstances is affected by our past experience, our current situation, our personality and our emotions – just to name a few factors. A situation perceived as stressful by someone who is very risk adverse can be perceived as exciting by someone who enjoys trying new things and taking risks. When that little voice in your head starts whispering and blowing things out of proportion, stop the downward spiral and realize that your perception creates your reality – are you creating a stressful situation based on emotions or past experience that does not really reflect your current situation?
#4. Take a break. Stop spinning and do something different. Sometimes staring at the same thing all day will not give you the answer. To get you out of your head, try to do something physical. Turn on the music and dance, go outside for a run, or go take a yoga class. Getting up and getting out will snap you out of that downward spiral or negative headspace.
#5. Put in the effort, detach from the outcome. A lot of the time we get worried and stressed out over outcomes of our actions that we don’t have full control over. Desirable outcomes of our effort may be affected by factors that are outside of our control, so worrying about it creates stress without contributing to changing the results. A mindset upgrade is to put in the effort, and let go of the results. Detach from what you perceive to be the “right” outcome. Instead, see your effort as sowing the seeds, then step back and allow the seeds to grow and take its course. Of course you can tend to the fields and make sure you do your best to ensure a good crop, but you really have no full control if the weather does not cooperate or if the plants just want to grow the other direction, right?
A Re-Cap: 'Stress - the great balancing act...'
So to quickly recap what we have covered in this 3-part series and future action if you are interested in more support to implement what you just learned.
We started with an overview of stress, what it is and a little bit about the stress hormone cortisol. We then looked into some indicators of chronic stress, and its long-term health implications. To help you take action, I shared with you ways to use a nutritional approach to alleviate stress, and the importance of caring for your physical body – rest and exercise in particular, a list of relaxation techniques that you can choose from and adapt based on your needs and circumstances, as well as 5 coping strategies.
Get Support, Take Action
So, if you have made to the end of this 3-part series (links to Part 1 and 2 below), I want to assure you that you have more than enough information and knowledge to start managing stress and regaining balance in your life. However, no matter how much material you have listened to, or how many pages of notes you have taken, health does not happen by osmosis. I urge you to find the right kind of support – be it with me, with some other coaches, or with a friend or family member, so that you can take meaningful action and make positive changes to your life.