"A man of calm is like a shade tree.
People who need shelter come to it."
- Toba Beta
We all know that stress can wreak havoc in our lives. It will take its toll on our physical as well as our mental health. Moderate levels of stress is harmless but when stress is prolonged it will start to damage our health and our wellbeing. As soon as the stress continues beyond a few moments into a prolonged state, it suppresses the brain's ability to develop new cells. So it is very important to be able to keep stress under control.
As the human brain has evolved we have also developed the ability to worry and we also end up rehashing events over and over in our minds, which will create frequent experiences of prolonged stress. It has also increased the risk of heart disease, depression, anxiety and obesity. Stress will also decrease our cognitive performance.
The good thing is that most of our stress is under our control.
Here are a few coping strategies that you can use under stressful situations.
1. Learn to breathe.
One of the easiest ways to reduce stress is to breathe. When you feel stressed take a few minutes to focus entirely on your breathing. Put away distractions and just sit and breathe. The goal is to be able to spend time focusing only on your breathing while you are trying to prevent your mind from wandering. This will take a little practice in the beginning. But after a while you will be able to breathe and be in the moment.
2. Appreciate what you have.
Take time to recognize and reflect on what you are grateful for in your life. Being grateful for what you already have improves your mood. People who work daily to cultivate and "attitude of gratitude" experience improved mood, energy and physical wellbeing. Maybe it is time to start a "gratitude journal?"
3. Get Support.
Sometimes the best and the easiest thing is to talk to a trusted friend, mentor or coach. These people are not part of the problem and they can see a new perspective and a solution to the situation. But first you must recognize your weaknesses and ask for help when you need it.
4. Stay positive.
Having positive thoughts will help you managing your stress. And yes....we are in control of our thoughts. It might be something that you haven't worked on in while but we can train ourselves to have more positive thoughts. It is easy to have good thoughts when things go well. But when things go poorly and your mind is flooded with negativity it might be a little more difficult to control our thoughts. Think about something positive that happened yesterday or last week. Or maybe think about an event in the future that you are looking forward to. Spend time on creating some new exciting goals and then spend time thinking about how to accomplish them.
5. Get enough sleep.
When you sleep your brain recharges and it shuffles through the day's memories and stores and discards them, so that you can wake up clear headed, and ready to go the next morning. Our attention, self-control and memory are all reduced when we don't get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation also raises stress hormones on its own without a stressor present. Making sure that you are getting a good night's sleep is one of the best things you can do for your body and your health.
When you make yourself available 24/7, you expose yourself to a constant stream of stressors. Try to disconnect. Stay off-line and turn off your phone sometimes will give your body a break from a constant source of stress. Staying in constant contact will increase your stress levels. It is very difficult to enjoy a stress-free moment outside of work when an email or a phone call will change your thought and get you thinking about work. Try to choose blocks of time to go off-line. Maybe in the evenings or if that is not possible you can try the weekends. These breaks will make you feel mentally refreshed and it will reduce your stress.
7. Stop asking why? and what if?
These questions will only fuel your worry and your stress. Stop worrying about all the things that can go wrong and start to focus on what is possible and what will work. Then take action on what the solutions are. Learn to focus on the solutions instead of focusing on the problems.
8. Stop negative self-talk.
Stop negative thoughts and self-talk dead in its tracks. The more you focus on your negative thoughts the more energy and power you give them. Our own thoughts can make us feel good but our thoughts can also make ourselves feel really crappy. We have around 50 000 thought per day and most of them are negative. But most of our thoughts are just thoughts and not facts and the truth. Try to identify your thoughts. Write them down on a piece of paper and then go over them. Identify and then separate the negative thoughts from the facts, will help you escape your "inner critic" and cope with your stress.
Some of these strategies seem simple and obvious.
But the challenge is to actually use them when you are starting to feel overwhelmed and stressed.
Karin Glannstam - Personal Success Coach