5 SECRETS OF STAYING STRESS-FREE
Did you know that stress is a very natural feeling and it is the way the body responds to a threat? Yes, that fight-or-flight system within us creates the stress to protect us. Stress releases powerful neurochemicals and hormones that prepare us for action.
The problem is, your boss, your work, or your school are not actual threats, but they can cause stress. Your body cannot handle the release of stress-based neurochemicals day after day for extended periods of time. They can be bad for your health.
I remember being sent down to Texas for 4 months to help shut down a software division. I had to learn from the people there, what they did, and how they did it so we could move the entire process. This was a stressful time and a lot of hours. When I returned, I was working a minimum of 70 hours a week. My crew had not fully grasped the processes as we desired, causing a significant backlog in orders. The stress was intense. Finally, they brought in another manager and asked me to step back and become one of the programmers for a time. This was such a relief. Instantly, my workload went down to 40 hours, and I felt so much better, until … A week later, I had chest pains and went to the hospital. Fortunately, it was not the heart, but it was an ulcer. The stress hormones and chemicals were there for so long, they did the damage, and it did not show up until I had a break from the stress. Imagine if my typical workday was stressful for years.
So yes, stress is a natural state but we are not meant to experience it on a day-to-day basis. So how can we relieve this stress?
Here are the 5 Secrets
1 – Breathe
Of course, one of the most known tips for dealing with stress is to breathe. But not just any breath because we are breathing all the time.
A deep breath is what is usually recommended. However, a deep breath, done wrong, may not have any impact. Also, you may already know that deep breathing is good for stress, but how many times do you remember to do it?
So many times people have learned what they need to do, but at the moment, they forget what they should be doing. Not only do you need to learn to breathe properly, but you also need to practice it so it is natural and comes to you automatically when you think of it. The breath is like this–
Breathe in deep into your stomach. Breathe through your nose. Your stomach should expand as a balloon does. While practicing, you can put your hands on your stomach and direct your in-breath there.
Exhale twice as long as you inhale. If you inhale for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 8. Exhale through your mouth. You can control your breath easier.
Do this for a minute or at least 6 times and see how you feel.
If still stressed, do it another 6 breaths.
Breathe comfortably. If the 4×8 breath makes you dizzy, modify it so it is more comfortable. Belly breathing is the most important here.
You will quickly feel your heart slow down and calmness enter into your body.
2 – A Tool for Creating Calmness
Breathing, of course, was the first and most vital tool that was already discussed—deep breathing into your stomach with a 4×8 ratio of inhale to exhale.
Another tool is something called bilateral tapping. This simply means alternative tapping on each side of your body. This induces each side of your brain in alternative taps. This, in turn, will help reduce anxiety or stress within you.
The tapping itself regulates the nervous system and boosts the immune system by putting the body back into the parasympathetic (relaxation) nervous system response. This bilateral tapping gets your brain entrained into this stimulus, making it difficult for other stimuli to stay in the brain, like whatever is stressing you. Bilateral stimulation research comes from a technique called EMDR and you can research that further if you like.
To do bilateral tapping, you can cross your arms, putting your right hand on your left shoulder, and your left hand on your right shoulder, and tap each shoulder alternatively. You can also put your right hand on your left knee and your left hand on your right knee, and then tap alternatively. The tapping does not have to be fast, maybe 1 or two taps per second. Does this for a few minutes. If you add deep breathing, all the better. You can relieve your stress quickly and easily.
Practice this several times before you actually need it, so it becomes natural for you.
3 – Identify the Cause of Stress
Sometimes it’s easy to identify the cause. “It’s my boss.” “My kids are stressing me so much.” “I can’t stand the meetings. They stress me out so much just thinking about them.” And the list goes on. Almost anything can be a stressor.
If you know what the stressor is, great because that is the start of being aware that stress is coming on or will come on. When you know this ahead of time you can use the breathing ahead of time as well as the other methods in here.
If you don’t know what the stressor or stressors are, then you can start to journal when you get stressed. Keep a journal or notebook with you and when you realize that you are feeling stressed, write it down and what you are feeling in the moment and what you think triggered it. This exercise may give you information on the stressors. More importantly, you will start to become more aware of when you start to become stressed. This awareness will not only tell you when to use the techniques to decrease stress, it will also give you the chance to make a conscious choice – “Do I really want to let this person or event stress me and ruin my day?”
An early awareness allows you to know that the stress is starting. Perhaps you cannot ‘choose’ to not be stressed at first, but it is nice to think that it is possible, whereas before you may not have had any choice, and just went full bore into stress. Again, the early onset of awareness will be a reminder to use the tools to decrease stress and invite calm.
4 – Awareness
As mentioned above, awareness is important. Being aware when you are stressed and even when you start to become stressed will be a critical step. It starts with becoming aware of what the stress feels like. When you’re in those moments of stress, bring your awareness to your body. Where is it most intense? In your stomach? In your chest? In your head? Or wherever you feel it in your body. Take note of this. Also, take note of how intense and heavy the feeling might be. Doing this once or twice will help you quickly identify when stress is coming back.
Again, stress is usually, quickly triggered and we don’t realize we are stressed until we are right in the middle of it. This will help you become aware of when it is starting to come on. For instance, if you start to feel a specific feeling in your stomach, and this is a stress response, you can immediately start the breathing technique. After a while, this will become automatic – feel the start of stress and do the activity that relieves it.
5 – Create a Different Perspective of Situation
When your stress is created by specific situations, say, when you attend a certain family event, you may be able to look at the situation from a different point of view that does not trigger stress.
“Problems can be experienced as… a chance for renewal rather than stress.” – Marilyn Ferguson
Sometimes we get so caught up in ‘‘the weeds’ and we are too close to a situation to see things any other way. When my wife and I were raising our oldest son, there were many problems and quite a bit of stress. We adopted him at 5 ½ years old but he had been in 7 homes beforehand. After a few years, the problems were so close to us that it was easy to take them personally. Yet, he wasn’t having these behaviors to get at us in any way, he was acting out because of his past. When we stepped back and did a ‘deep dive’ into some of his behaviors, like his self-sabotage, we got to see it from a whole new perspective. When things were going well or if there were to be a big event to celebrate something, he would act up in a huge way and ruin the event. We found that he was driven to do this because his attachments in early life had been broken so many times, he would sabotage things before they got too good, as well as the fact that he thought he did not deserve good things. This gave us a whole new perspective. It helped relieve a lot of the stress.
Another example I give my clients about relieving stress and fear is about the man who comes in with a severe do phobia. He has been frightened by all dogs, all of his life. Dogs made him panic. When given the ability to look at his problem from where it started – when he was 5 years old, and got bit when he pulled on the ears and stepped on the tail of the dog. He was able to learn that, “of course, a dog will bite you when you do that”. This learning came from a new perspective.
How can you look differently at the specific situations or people that stress you? What can you learn about them that will give you a new perspective?
All of the above strategies can help you reduce stress. If you live in stress every day and have been for years, your problems go a bit deeper and may not go away until you can find the root cause and release it. These strategies will help to get temporary relief and will help with new stressors. The stress and anxiety caused by something deeper will need to be addressed differently. We at Positive Effects Coaching & Hypnosis can help you do just that. If you want to know more, please contact us. (below)