April is Stress Awareness Month and this year so far I’ve seen many people with anxiety so I thought I’d share some of the tips.
A certain amount of stress is good for us, it strengthens us and helps us build resilience. Too much however, produces an excess of chemicals in our bodies, which over time will significantly and negatively impact our health.
So here are a range of tips for you to think on to help you reduce your stress and anxiety:
Change the Approach to stress and anxiety
Think about stress and anxiety as friends not enemies. They are important messengers letting us know that there is something for us to learn and/or change in our lives. They are a wake up call for us to continue our adventure into how to live our lives to the full, in the very best way we can.
Some people may find this too positive, but even in those cases - seed it as an idea: how we view stress and anxiety can change the effect they have on us.
Reducing and or Inoculating Stressors
Life today includes a lot of stress triggers, many people are trying to attract our attention, and steal our time and energy, and push our emotional buttons to do so. An initial step can be to simply note whenever we’re distracted and triggered into a stressful situation. At the end of each day, review our list and decide which situations we’ll
Accept (because it helps us in some way)
Simply avoid in future
Inoculate us against the trigger. An example of this is future pacing – see below. Doing this on its own improves our sense of control, which reduces stress. Taking further action reduces it further.
Future Pacing to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
A lot of stress and anxiety is caused by bad planning. The challenge is that we’ve often become really good at it, and continually replay what goes on in our heads like a little movie and we finish the movie with the challenge and problem rather than continuing the movie until we’re happily carrying out the first steps of a solution, so getting stuck in a rut of playing and replaying negative emotions.
So, think of a situation that we imagine will stress us. Continue with the movie in our heads until we’ve passed the challenge and found 1-3 positive actions we can take to improve the situation. Replay the mental movie again, this time as we explore the future, we take the time to confirm what we’ve learnt, and start enjoying taking the steps to move forward.
Remember that within any challenge, however bad it may appear, there are the seeds of future success and fulfilment.
Set a positive goal into the future by a specific date, making sure you can really see, hear and feel what that will be like. That in turn will help you to reinforce / inoculate against those negative thoughts for positive thoughts.
It’s worth future pacing any situation that’s important to us, so we improve our odds of making the very best of whatever happens.
Amplifying ‘Feel Good’ Anchors
This is the reverse of the above: we often forget to notice the triggers that help us feel good. During any day, make a note of anything that triggers us to feel good, these may be very simple, such as enjoying the smell of a cup of coffee, watering a series of pot plants, and hugging the dog (as well as some things you may not want to share!)
Build what you’ve enjoyed and appreciated into your evening questions. Every good memory is a resource you can use in the future. The art is to anchor both good experiences and the process of noticing and remembering them. These good experiences can then be used in the future and help you to ramp up those positive thoughts and feelings.
Building Routines and Daily Habits
Establishing routines gives us a sense of predictability and control, again increasing the odds that we’ll actually do those things that are genuinely important to us.
A suggested start:
Short exercise session
Short meditation session
Confirm your 3 priorities of the day: what are the key areas you want to invest your time, energy and attention on?
State a positive affirmation about yourself… such as ‘I am awesome’, ‘I know what I know and that’s ok’.
Throughout the day Habits:
Take a time-out. listen to music, get a massage, Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head.
Eat well-balanced meals. Do not skip any meals. Do keep healthy energy-boosting snacks on hand. Try and reduce the amount of processed food as this affects your gut which in turn affects your mood as the gut produced a substance called serotonin which has an affects our mood.
Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
Take slow breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly.
Count to 10 slowly. Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary.
Do your best. Your best is good enough…….. you are fine just the way you are.
Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?
Welcome humor. A good laugh goes a long way.
Maintain a positive attitude. Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.
Talk to someone. Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed, and let them know how they can help you. Talk to a physician or therapist for professional help.
Short body stretching session / yoga
Evening questions, mostly structured in the form – did I do my best to?
With some other structures. Other questions might include: Did I do my best to complete my 3 priorities today? Did I do my best to move forward on my purpose? What 3 experiences did I appreciate today? What am I grateful for?
Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.
If you are anxious or stressed, give some of these tips a try and see how they could help you.