Did you know that approximately 80% of all visits to the doctor are stress- related? Stress is a part of our daily lives, yet many don’t even recognize it as such. The drive to work, rushing the kids out the door to catch the bus, meetings and conference calls, meal planning. They can all be stressful situations and unfortunately, most people are not dealing with stress in the right way (former guilty person here).
Stress itself is not a bad thing, but our body’s response can be. Our immune system is weakened, blood pressure increases, gastric juices are decreased, and excess cortisol is released. In short, stressful situations, this is a good thing as it helps the body react (a car accident, etc). But, when stress becomes chronic or you don’t learn how to cope with it, it’s pretty apparent that it’s going to lead to health issues.
Not gonna lie, several months ago if someone told me to change my mindset, I likely would have given them the side-eye. But I’ve done so much work in this department, that I can’t help but share it as a primary way to reduce stress. See, life is about how you react to things, not the thing that’s thrown at you. Most people (again, used to be guilty) would prefer to blame others or the situation to make themselves feel better. But that way of thinking really doesn’t make you feel better, it just adds some resentment and doesn’t decrease stress.
The biggest thing I tell my clients is to acknowledge what is stressing you out, and then identify what you’re going to do about it. If you can’t control the situation at all, then let it go. It’s not worth getting riled up about if you can’t do a thing about it. Say some positive affirmations and reframe the situation. Take a moment to recognize that you’re stressed and even annoyed about the situation, and then focus on something else that IS going well. Need some help in this area? Go check out Jim Fortin’s podcast.
Think of what you do for yourself on a regular basis. Nothing? Well, time to change that. Everyone needs to have some ‘me time’ daily. This could be a hobby that you love, going for a walk in nature, reading, etc. We often forget about ourselves and our needs, and that only leads to more stress. Remember that you can’t fill from an empty take, so spending time on yourself is not selfish (I hear that often), but in fact benefits everyone you love.
Most of us consider breathing a subconscious thing, and for the most part, it is. We don’t stop to think about taking a breath, we just do it. But, we should. I bet if you take a second to notice your breathing right now, it’s shallow. So pause while you’re reading this, take a deep breath in, hold it for as long as you can, and use your diaphragm to help you exhale. While you certainly don’t need to breathe like this all the time, several times during the day take note of this and do some deep breathing. This is a fabulous stress reliever, and really doesn’t require any additional time out of your day. If you really want to get fancy, there are many deep breathing exercises you can find HERE.
Not gonna lie, this one freaked me out a bit. But, I can say that I’ve been using self-hypnosis on myself now for over a month, and I love it. You can use it for all sorts of things (pain, visualization, behavior modification, etc), but it’s also great for stress management. Now, before you freak out and imagine this to be someone using a wand to hypnotize you and make you do crazy things…stop. Hypnosis is actually something that we go through on a regular basis- daydreaming is in fact a form of it.
While you can Google self-hypnosis and find tons of ideas and even audios (which are great), I can walk you through a very simple way so you can see how harmless it is. First, sit in a comfortable position with your feet flat on the floor. Imagine a peaceful, relaxing place, and spend a moment visualizing how relaxing and beautiful it is. Then, imagine it takes 10 steps to get there, and very slowly start walking. Take each step in your mind, and imagine that with each step you are more and more relaxed, until you reach those 10 steps when you are at total peace. While there, make ‘suggestions’ to your subconscious mind about how relaxed you are. When you’re done, take those 10 steps back and open your eyes. Boom, that’s it.
Again, this is one way out of dozens to do self-hypnosis, and one one scenario. If this is something you wish to really work on for yourself, I highly suggest the app Hypnosis Downloads. They have a self-hypnosis for $14, and dozens of ideas within their site.
Perhaps I saved the best for last. I do love a good meditation. Some could say that self-hypnosis and deep breathing are a form of meditation, and perhaps they are. Meditation is really just the intentional practice of focusing your attention on one thing (versus the millions we’re constantly surrounded by). I have not mastered the art of meditation on my own, so still use guided meditations for this. While you could certainly sit in a relaxed position, clear your mind, and focus on keeping your mind clear, for many that’s a challenge. So, I’m a fan of the apps Simple Habits and Headspace. They both have fabulous guided meditations for any stressful scenario.
So I know that not all of these will resonate with you, and that’s fine. But hopefully at least one does. Stress is something we’re all impacted by daily, and many times we’re not handling it correctly. Make it a goal this week to try some of these techniques out, and start devoting at least 10 minutes a day to doing something to reduce stress.