We all live with a layer of stress. It literally lies under everything we do – a constant drip-drip of stress – much of it created by us and our responses to what is going on around us. What? Really? WE are creating the stress? But isn’t it the other things, uncertainty, the economy and the media? Although lots of things do fuel anxiety and stress, there is actually a tremendous amount we can do to manage this and be productive, happy and calm even in the midst of challenges. And that calmness helps us find solutions to the very things overwhelming us. Here are a few ideas:
Uncertainty clutters the mind because we naturally spend a lot of time trying to predict things. It’s automatic to time travel backwards and forwards and it’s not till something changes that we may become more aware of just how much we do this. Now, it can sometimes feel like a future that we are unable to inhabit like we normally would as in “I’m going to do this” or “I’m planning on x”. So much in the last three years has shown us that things can be upended. It can feel very muddling, like a fog. Worse, it can even prevent us from feeling good about planning things. The antidote is to make a conscious effort to come back to the present moment.
Create a strong morning routine – one that does not start off with reading news, emails and social media. Start the day more slowly and include hydration, reflection, mindfulness, gratitude and walking before engaging with any devices. This is very grounding and helps you set intentions for the day and means you are not starting your day with overwhelm. Even better, get out into nature and breathe deeply as part of your morning routine.
Write it down – Get it out of your head and onto paper, whether as a list or a journal, to stop things whirring round in your head. You’re not forgetting about that problem or thought but parking it gives you permission to take a break. This is especially helpful if you aren’t sleeping well and find yourself overthinking things.
Stress CAN even be a good thing…..
Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.
Use your senses – we find it hard to be in the present yet when we are there we are so much more effective and there is little room for anxiety. Coming into the here and now by using all five senses is a useful technique. Be aware of what you can feel, the weight of your body on the chair, listening to the sounds around you etc. Connecting with your environment is not only calming but also focusing and will make your more productive!
Check in with your body – all stress shows up in our bodies first. We can hold tension in ways we are not aware of. Notice jaw clenching, hunched shoulders, neck pain or tightness in face or forehead. Take a moment to breathe deeply, stretch and energise.