|Posted on June 12, 2017 at 4:10 PM|
Overworked, under-paid, overlooked, and under-appreciated. Yes, you are no doubt stressed. In today’s fast-paced environment it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So what is the key to staying balanced when everything seems to be working against you? For me its perception. I’ll talk more about that in a minute, but I want to talk a little about stress first.
Stress is natural. There is both good and bad stress. We are all familiar with how the bad affects us. But what about the good? Good stress allows us to get things done. It’s in our primal nature. When we feel danger, it is that stress response that triggers a reaction. “Fight or flight” has been keeping us alive from the beginning of time. But for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the bad stress.
We’re familiar with the symptoms of bad stress. Being irritable, inability to sleep, over/under-eating, excessive drinking, and feeling lethargic, just to name a few. Stress originates in the mind and often will manifest physical symptoms. So if we can control the mind, can we control the symptoms? In most cases, yes. I read years ago that seven out of every 10 visits to primary care doctors were for stress or stress-related symptoms. I thought that if we could learn how to cope with stress, we could conceivably have a 70% chance of staying well. When I shared this information while lecturing at a local hospital, most doctors agreed. Not all, but it did seem to validate how stress directly affects our well being.
So let’s talk about perception. When it comes to stress I often ask my clients, “Is that a mountain or a molehill?” In other words, are you making the problem out to be bigger than it is? The truth is that most of what we think of as being stressful can easily be worked through with a little time and action. (Keep in mind that some stressors will require immediate attention, but more often than not stress has an accumulative effect.) In order to cope, we need a toolbox of stress management techniques.
Stress Management Technique #1
Do nothing. I have taught mediation for years. When working as a crisis counselor, the first two things I do are make sure the client is safe, and then make sure they are controlling their breathing. If you can control your breath during a stressful event, you can control your mind. Start with breathing in through your nose and out with your mouth. There is a physiological reason why this works. You can use abdominal breathing to help control your nervous system and encourage your body to relax, bringing about a range of health benefits.
Stress Management Technique #2
Reach out. So many refuse to talk about their problems because of the stigma associated with stress. They feel that they will be seen as weak or vulnerable. In reality to some, you might. The flipside to that coin is that having a supportive community during your stress event can be an invaluable resource.
Stress Management Technique #3
Turn it up. There have been many studies about how music can transform our moods. Be mindful here. The wrong kind of music (songs that you identify with a sad or negative event in your life) can increase your state of stress. Opt for happy, calm, or inspirational music. Music is a great distraction and mood enhancer.
Stress Management Technique #4
Make it healthy. Stress weakens the immune system. Eat and drink as healthy as you can. Our first response is to go for comfort food. There is nothing wrong with that if you’re having a bad day. But if you have prolonged stress, you’re going to need all the help you can get. That includes exercise. You’re going to want to sleep. Don’t do it. Get your blood flowing to your heart and oxygen to your brain.
There are many stress management techniques available to you. Do a little research before you are stressed. Know what your tools are. And remember, often we overthink our stress and under-act on it. Take action now with these techniques!