Repositioning yourself as the stress management expert
Written by Dr. Nicola Eccles on 01 Nov 2022
Stress. The most overused word in developed countries today. What is it? Who has it? Who has it more? Stress is a reaction. It is a response. Ultimately it is a choice. However, so many of us are habitually programmed to issue a stress response physiologically and psychologically to so many situations. Stress really is not great for us from a physical or mental perspective. Hormones prime our body for survival and alongside an increased heart rate, muscle tension and higher rate of breathing, glucose is released. When it comes to piles of paperwork or deadlines, this physiological response really is not required. The cumulative impact on our health is detrimental and emerges as cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and depression.
How do we cope with stress? Many of us self medicate with social media, alcohol, Netflix and food. Self-medication equals distraction which is temporarily very effective. Awareness of the distraction process is important. Compassionate curiosity is where we begin to unpick the use of distraction tools. Why am I pouring another glass of wine…why am I returning to the fridge…why am I glued to my phone?
If you are someone who finds themselves frequently saying how stressed you are, who feels as though they are really suffering from the debilitating impact of stress, there are several ways you can take back control.
Steps to reposition yourself as your own superhero of stress management
How many times have you heard the phrase…’control the controllables’. But who in reality, enacts this? When a situation or event creates the feeling of stress in you, visualise a flow chart in your head. Can you do anything to control the situation or not? If not, then STOP. Do not give any more energy or attention to worrying about this. If you are unable to stop thinking about it, then you need to reframe it. If you can’t change it…change the way you think about it. If you can do something about it then consider what options there are and then move forward with one of them.
Don’t underestimate the power of breathing. Inhale for 4 counts…exhale for 8. Do this for 2 minutes. This will have an immediate impact on the physiological stress response described above which will also reduce your psychological feelings of stress. Tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system is really effective.
Moving away from the desk and moving your body is also a highly effective response. The thing is, most of us know this, but we are unable to do it. We stay stuck in the moment. Which exacerbates the problem.
Build a stress first aid kit and own it. Research shows that defining your own ‘best practice’ and then enabling it is the most effective approach. So, establishing what works for you and when, is really empowering.
What are the ways in which you have reliably dealt with stressors in the past or would like to try to in the future?
Space: Where do you go?
Reflection: How do you think and process best?
Self-Expression: How do you create? What do you create? (so many of us forget the powerful role that creativity plays in reducing stress)
Connection: Who are the people you can rely on?
Responding differently when you feel stress is not easy but, like a muscle, it gets stronger every time you choose a proactive response. Show curiosity and compassion towards yourself as you begin to try and make different choices to moments of panic and stress.
Keep firmly in the centre of your mind…your own stress first aid kit.