This thing called stress, which most of us have experienced at some point and I’m sure many of you experience on a daily basis, what is it? What does it mean when someone says they are suffering from stress and anxiety? Stress and anxiety are symptoms of something underlying which is causing an imbalance in our thinking. This has an impact on us physically, mentally and emotionally.
Let’s look at the emotional/ mental aspects first. We very often blame the external factors in life for the stress we are feeling, money, relationships , career. However, if we look inside and question what really lies at the heart of the issues we often find that there is a feeling of being out of control of our own lives. Managing stress is about taking control of how you deal with your life, being honest and realistic with yourself about the situation you find yourself in. I believe it is how you choose to think about a problem that is very often the cause of the problem. It seems logical to think that it is the event happening to us that is causing stress, but the opposite is actually true. It is our response to the event which causes the stress. It is our assumptions about reality and not reality that cause us to think in a way that is stressful. It is the thought ‘I can’t cope with this workload’ that is the stressor not the work load itself. So with this in mind, we can process what is going on in a more productive way.
• Be realistic about what you can and cannot achieve
• Be honest about your emotions, let your feelings out, talk to someone.
• If you are struggling, get help. It is not a sign of weakness to admit that you cannot cope. It is a sign of strength to recognise that you need help.
• Ask honestly ‘Is it the situation/person that is causing me stress or is it reminding me of something/someone from my past?’.
• Realise that you can change your perspective on a problem. Ask ‘How can I change my thinking on the issue to be more positive/productive?’
• Focus daily on the bigger picture, give less importance to the small stuff and remind yourself that life is ultimately about joy, the joy of your connections with others and with the activities and simple things in your life that bring you joy.
Physically, stress impacts on our bodily systems . The main impact is on the nervous system. The central nervous system has two parts, sympathetic and parasympathetic . In ancient times when we roamed the plains, Humans had to get away from dangerous wild beasties rapidly. The sympathetic nervous system ,kicks in and gives the body what it needs to make its ‘flight’ from danger. Blood leaves the vital organs and moves into the limbs to enable a quick getaway and all unnecessary activity is ceased until the situation is safe again. This is marvellous for getting away from scary beasts but when the scary beast is your boss or the bills coming through the letterbox we cannot just run away. So stressful situations mean that the sympathetic system is switched on constantly and adrenaline is pumping, when this is a daily norm the nerves get weakened and burnt out. The parasympathetic nerves do act to calm the stress response and bring us into a relaxed state. However, in order to do this we need to learn to relax. I am constantly amazed by the blank faces when I ask my clients what they do to relax. It seems like madness to invest so much into getting the life we want but never stopping to enjoy it. To give so much to our external world but give nothing back to ourselves. The food we are consuming can also add to levels of stress, anything that is a stimulant will raise the stress response. This includes coffee, tea, salt,sugar and processed food. There is so much information available these days on the internet about healthy diets and stress relieving, soothing foods. If you are not sure what to do about your diet then educate yourself, it can be wonderfully empowering and give you a feeling of taking control.
Here’s some tips:
• Learn how to relax. Take a tai chi, yoga or pilates class. If you don’t fancy a class there are lots of websites with tips and ideas on how to relax.
• Try left nostril breathing to calm and relax you . Blocking off the right nostril with a finger and breathing long and deep through the left nostril you can change a stressful state of mind into a calm state within 3 mins… try it for yourself!
• Make time for relaxation every day and do not let anything encroach that. Be as dedicated to yourself as you are to your work/family/ friends.
• Cut down on those stimulating foods and eat more natural, wholesome healthy foods instead.
• Exercise regularly, this builds up strength in the nervous system so you can cope much better with stress.
• Make sure you get out into nature as often as possible. Nature is a marvellous help, not only for the sunlight and fresh air but also nature is a great teacher. We can watch a passing cloud and realise that all things do pass. We can delight in the seasons and also learn about death and rebirth. By letting go of what is past we can make way for something new to come into our life.
Elaine is a qualified and experienced hypnotherpist and counsellor who has already guided many people to better health. She practices out of Re-Creation in Manchester city centre, to find out more please visit http://www.blissfulmind.co.uk/