How to develop your stress toolkit…

Something I am passionate about is that lovely word we can all relate to… “Stress”!

At times we can feel stressed because we are overwhelmed, by work, family commitments and everything else that daily life brings, on the other hand, we can often become stressed as we feel that we’re not doing enough. So what can we do to try and gain some control over this horrible cycle? We can learn to control our thoughts and decisions by taking the time to be aware of ourselves and once we do this we can then hopefully stop the ball from rolling too quickly down the hill. 

Living a life that is entirely free of stress and adversity sounds like bliss. But, you may be surprised to find that the happiest and healthiest people are often those who have had early exposure to negative experiences. In fact, moderate amounts of stress are necessary for healthy growth. What’s harmful is large doses of uncontrollable stress. In other words, there’s an optimum amount of stress we can cope with – too much and we overload our minds and bodies, too little, strangely results in the same problem!

When stress is triggered, we experience a physiological response in our brains and in our bodies known as “fight or flight”. It’s our brains’ way of keeping us safe. This response is designed to help us escape, flee, run. But once the “fight or flight” response is triggered, your brain wants to know you’ve escaped the threat, so it needs you to assure it that the danger is over.  But, what do you do? You run, swim, dance around your living room, or do literally anything that moves your body enough to get you breathing steadily and deeply.

The problem with our modern lives is that many of the problems that trigger our stress would be completely inappropriate to literally run from. Can you imagine getting up and fleeing the office the next time a colleague annoys you in a meeting? Of course not, so like all of us, you bottle it up, put on a smile and carry on. Meanwhile, your heart is pumping, and stress hormones have flooded the body and brain. So in order to complete the stress circle, you need to develop some coping mechanisms that you can keep in your back pocket like a little stress toolkit and take them out whenever you are in an uncomfortable situation.

My toolkit consists of:

  1. Laughing – It’s hard to feel anxious when you’re laughing and it’s good for your health
  2. Exercising – Putting physical stress on your body through exercise can help relieve any mental stress.
  3. Listening – Music can have a very relaxing effect on the body and can induce the relaxation response by helping lower blood pressure and heart rate as well as stress hormones.
  4. Breathing – Deep breathing will focus your awareness on your breath, making it slower and deeper, this helps slow your heart rate, allowing you to feel more peaceful.

I can help you create your stress toolkit to suit you, contact me <<here>> to book your free complimentary call.

Even lockdown can have a silver lining…

With all that is going on around us at the moment, it seems an unusual time to talk about being positive. Yet staying positive is essential to coping in a crisis. Now, more than ever before is the time for us to be proactive about creating small moments of happiness in our days, whether it is taking a walk with the family, getting round to those little home or garden maintenance jobs you’ve been putting off, the positive emotions these actions produce help us to undo the negative effects of stress.

Here are a few practical things you can do from day to day to foster positive emotions…

Live in the moment:

Even during lockdown, there are still small moments in your daily routine to savour. The smell of coffee, the feel of the warm shower on your back, the smell of cut grass when you are spending time in your garden. Making a point of stopping to take in these moments, give your brain a chance to enjoy the pleasure rather than running on automatic pilot. These feel-good moments elevate your mood and make you feel calm.

Strengthen your connections:

For those of us living in lockdown with family, this is a great opportunity to spend quality time with the ones we love. How many times have you told the kids you were too busy to play or prioritised domestic chores over outdoor fun. Now is the time to break out the board games, lounge around watching a boxset or just take the opportunity to hug your kids or your spouse, look them in the eyes and have long conversations. Creating closeness will boost your oxytocin (the bonding hormone), giving a feeling of calm and when your oxytocin levels spike, your body takes this as a sign to stop producing cortisol (the stress hormone).

Look for the good in others:

These types of crisis can bring out both the worst and the best in human nature, the food stockpiling and toilet roll bulk buying being a real low and the weekly clap for carers proving there is a good side to all of this and suggests that the best in human nature is rising to the coronavirus challenge. Philanthropists such as Bill and Melinda Gates are donating money to scientists to find a cure. Doctors, nurses and supermarket staff are working overtime to help sick patients and furloughed airline staff are driving delivery vans and volunteering in hospitals. Neighbourhoods are putting together care packages for vulnerable people and find beds for those sleeping rough. People are posting positive messages on social media. We’re reaching out to each other to ensure we stay safe and when we tune into these positive and pro-social aspects of the crisis, we are all united in our hope to return to what will be our new “normal”.

Taking charge of our mental health and capturing the small moments will help as we go further into the unknown, research has shown that creating positive emotions on the back of a stressful event, can help us to recover more quickly and have a faster “recovery” time – our heart rate lowers and our blood pressure stabilises more quickly when we are able to be positive.

By tuning into these positive aspects, you can potentially change your brain chemistry and build up your energy stores to help you cope with the other aspects of your day that have been made more difficult. Taking charge of your mental health will help to ensure that you come out of this experience stronger than ever.