Tag Archives: stress

7 tips for coping with modern day stress

 

stress photo

7 tips for coping with modern day stress

Stress is unavoidable in today’s world. There are bills to pay, debt, traffic jams. difficult people, relationship issues – the list is infinite. Finding ways to cope with modern day stress will put you ahead of the pack in terms of effectiveness, happiness levels and quality of life.

Here’s how: ACCEPTS

Activities

When we engage in activities, we give our brains a rest from the continuous worrying. Activities that require engagement and thought are a great way to alleviate stress. One of the main principles of mindfulness involves being in the moment and when you are highly focused on playing a sport, exercising or doing a hobby, you give yourself a psychological break from anxiety and stress.

Contributing

Give something back to the community – do something for someone else. When we focus on something other than ourselves, we take the focus off our own worries and engage with someone else. Helping others can also help us to feel gratitude, especially if we are helping those less fortunate than ourselves. Spread a little love and kindness – always a great antidote for stress.

Comparisons

Comparisons need to be used wisely. Never compare yourself negatively to someone else. We all tend to do it, assuming others have better and more exciting lives than we do. Facebook is a bad culprit for this, increasing the feeling of deprivation. This type of comparison is unhelpful as it never helps us to feel better about ourselves.

It can be helpful though to compare yourself to those that aren’t doing as well as you are as this encourages perspective and helps us to feel more gratitude and appreciation for what is good in our lives. It is equally useful to compare times in your life when things were worse and how you managed then – remind yourself of your strengths and previous examples of your resilience.

Emotions

Do something that will create a happy emotion for you to counterbalance your stress. Watch a funny movie or put on inspiring or soothing music. Have a pillow fight with someone, be playful. Choose the opposite behaviour to improve your mood. Stress tends to lead to isolation, rumination and feeling sorry for ourselves. Try to get yourself out of that funk but doing something fun.

Pushing Away

Some thoughts tend to want to stick around. Learn to let go of worrisome thoughts. Picture them as leaves floating past you on a stream. You can watch them float by, you don’t need to pick each one up and focus on it. You can’t stop thoughts but you can choose how long you want to focus on them. Imagine writing your problem on a piece of paper, crumpling it up and throwing it away. Dismiss thoughts that are unhelpful.

Thoughts

Choose thoughts carefully. We all tend to engage in thinking errors. Examples: mind reading: where we assume we know what someone else is thinking when in fact we don’t know for sure. We often assume negative thoughts and this leads to further stress. Watch what your inner ‘mental diet’ is – what are you feeding yourself mentally? Is it balanced and fair or is it self critical and full of catastrophising (imagining the worst). Stop the self torture. Replace negative thoughts with more neutral ones. Example: Negative thought=I am never good in social situations. This will create anxiety. Another more neutral thought: I may not feel comfortable in social situations but that doesn’t mean I can’t handle them.

Sensations

Find safe physical sensations to distract you from intense negative emotions. Wear a rubber band and snap it on your wrist, hold an ice cube in your hand or eat something sour that you like. This focuses your mind on something other than your worries. Remind yourself of the difference between a real worry (eg. your car has broken down) and a hyopthetical, non-real worry. (example: what if the bus is full tomorrow and I don”t get a seat?) “What if” worries are wasted mental energy.

There are many strategies we can use to manage stress. We cannot stop stress altogether but knowing how to cope with stress can make the difference between sinking and swimming.

Mandy X

Anticipatory stress

 

stress photo

Anticipatory stress

I’ve noticed with many of my clients that they become stressed when they think about all the chores and duties they have ahead of them. It goes something like this:

“First I have to be up by 7am and get ready to be out of the house by 8.15 am. Then I have to make it through the traffic to work. I have a meeting at 11am but also have to fit in loads of phonecalls and I don’t know if I will have time to get them all done. I don’t know how I will squeeze lunch in as I have a report to write and I know two people are trying to pin my down for urgent meetings….etc”

When we consider all that we have to do all at once, it can seem like we have an insurmountable mountain ahead of us and can lead us to feeling panicky. Anticipatory stress comes from the fear of having to much to do and not being able to cope.

Instead of looking at everything that has to be done, break the day/week/month down into smaller pieces. This is called “chunking” and can help reduce and minimise anticipatory stress.

Deal with the morning separately from the afternoon and/or evening. Anxiety arises from the threat seeming overwhelming and our belief that we will not cope. If this feeling of being overwhlemed continues indefinitely however, it might be that you seriously need some proper time out. When last did you have some time off? We all need to have a few days in a row (at least a week, two weeks ideally for a proper rest) to re-assess and recharge. If you constantly feel tired and overwhelmed it may be that you are burnt out.

Have a look at what brings you positive energy (things, people who inspire you and leave you feeling happy and energised) and what drains you – negative energy. This could be toxic people, a bad job or a bad relationship to name a few. When we are out of balance and have too much negative energy in our lives, it’s common sense that we are going to feel tired and stressed. As much as possible, realign what you can to increase positive energy and reduce negative energy. Balance is key in counteracting stress.

Mindfulness techniques (I will write about this in a future post) can also be extremely useful in reducing anticipatory stress. We all tend to live in our heads too much, worrying about the future and learning to remain in the present moment is a fantastic skill that can allow you to really be present in your life now.

Stress is a part of life but we can learn to manage it effectively. Try the above tips and book that holiday!

Mandy X

Managing Type A behaviour

 

calm person

Woman with eyes closed sitting in meadow.

Managing Type A behaviour

10 steps to manage type A behaviour:

Modern society has changed over the last two decades. The pace has increased and so has stress-related illnesses such as coronary heart disease and strokes. We all have different temperaments but for some, life is a constant rush and this can seem normal when in fact it isn’t. The style of behaviour often has its roots in the early childhood whether need to achieve and be successful is instilled from an early age. Type a behaviour is associated with heart disease, allergies stomach ulcers and an exaggerated response of the sympathetic nervous system to stress (fight or flight response) and poor levels of mental health (anxiety and depression). Type A behaviour also seems to be linked with high levels of success in career and financial terms.

1) Slow down

Become more aware of how time focused your lifestyle is and make an effort to slow down. Deliberately eat slower and tried to do one thing at a time. The more present in the moment rather than living your life in your head, worrying about the future. It really is a case of taking the time to “smell the roses”.

2) Take breaks

Built stress free ‘breathing spaces’ into your daily and weekly routine. Use these spaces to focus on relaxation. This could be a five minute period where you carry out a muscle relaxation exercise or breathing exercise (slow deep breathing, in through your nose and out through your mouth). You could also use this time to take a walk in the park or read a newspaper. And regular holidays and if possible get away to a different environment.

3) Commit yourself to hobbies

As part of an effort to broaden yourself and reduce obsessional time focused behaviour, it is A good idea to develop activities and hobbies such as sailing, gardening, sewing or walking. Try to engage in uncompetitive trivial activities just. This helps the brain to be more balanced and open to new things.

4) Express feelings

Try to adopt a more positive approach to expressing yourself and how you feel. Take time to think others and show appreciation and get into the habit of identifying the emotions you feel on a daily basis. Our emotions are messages that we need to listen to. Emotions are like our internal compass letting us know whether we are on the right path. Expressing emotions to others helps us to feel connected and brings true contentment, more so than achievement or possessions.

5) Practise listening

Search out somebody who talks slowly and deliberately. Have a slow conversation. Try to hold back from making yourself the centre of attention. Ask yourself ‘do I really have anything important to say?’

6) Forget time

Give yourself breaks where you remove your watch try to lose your sense of time. Break the habit of always being punctual, deliberately miss a few deadlines alternate from meeting five minutes late. This may seem odd advice but working against your usual patterns of behaviour is a good way to mentally reverse ingrained habits. The less time focused and more ‘experience focused’.

7) Manage your hostility

Identify the triggers-keep a diary. It is essential to challenge your rigid thinking. Be especially careful of the words “must, should and ought”. Loosen up those thoughts, use ‘it would be nice if’ instead of ‘should’. Occasionally to say to yourself “it doesn’t matter”. Get into the habits of challenging the thinking that puts you under pressure.

8) Learn to relax

Learn a relaxation technique and try to practice once a day -whether this is some form of meditation or yoga or just practising being in the moment, learning to quieten our minds is a valuable skill.

9) Have a chat

Make a point of chatting or engaging in conversation that has no specific purpose. Slow down and try to be less task orientated. Learn to idle the time away. Try to laugh or make somebody.

10) Understand the reasons

Take time out to assess the cause of your type a behaviour. Did your parents approval depend on how successful or achieving you were as a child? Ask yourself, “what am I trying to prove?” Does your idealism and striving improve or diminish the quality of your life?

Research indicates that, with the right intervention, people can manage their type A behaviour effectively thereby reducing the risks of physical and mental health without impairing their performance.

Mandy X

Don’t despair

 

despair

Don’t despair

Life can certainly get on top of us all at times. I know I get days when I feel like nothing is going right and everything is awful. That’s normal and it’s a horrid place to be. The trick is to give yourself a time limit. Self pity and wallowing is fine, even necessary, but after 2-3 days it’s time to take hold of your wayward thoughts and focus on climbing back out of that depressed hole you have dug for yourself.

Yep, sometimes life sucks and it can truly feel as if you are completely alone in what you are going through but you can take solace in the fact that we all get those times. We are all just good at hiding it from each other. It’s okay to feel like you have had enough. Despite all my psychological training I have not found a way to prevent life from getting to me at times.

We can easily go off track and begin to focus on everything that isn’t working and give in to our insecurities. Remind yourself that it is just a frame of mind, not necessarily the reality. You may feel that you aren’t loved or that you are unimportant but more often than not, the reality is not that way at all. It is our thinking that needs adjusting.

Write a list of all the good things you have in your life. Write a list of all your good qualities – what do you like about yourself? These can be physical attributes or personality characteristics.

At times, it’s not about having what you want ‘its about wanting what you have. Focusing on what you don’t have or looking at your perceived lack is never going to help you to feel better. Do what will work – force yourself to think about what is going right for you, no matter how small and build on these small successes.

Also – force yourself to DO more. Even a small thing like walking the dog when you don’t feel like it or getting out of bed one hour earlier. DO it – be strong. Talk to the strong part of you and take back control. You are in control of your life, not your thoughts.  Don’t be so hard on yourself. You are wonderful..you are amazing…believe this at all costs. Mandy X

positive affirmations