Stress Management: Your 5 A Day
Are you proactive in managing your daily stress levels?
Whilst not all stress is bad - as it can also be a useful tool for motivation and action taking - when it is poorly managed, or when we are unaware that it is building, we are at risk of many health issues and cognitive impacts.
Here are my 5 easily accessible tips to reduce stress:
1. BREATHE CONSCIOUSLY
Focus on how it feels. Slow it down. Engage in a long, slow exhale. Regularly breathing in this way can help us to support our parasympathetic nervous system (our 'rest and digest' mode in response to episodes of stress) to engage and help us relax.
Many people are unaware they are engaging in shallow breathing, from their chest/upper torso. Breathing from our belly, in a full breath cycle, is really valuable to help our bodily functions.
2 SIMPLE BREATHING TECHNIQUES:
Square breathing Breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, hold for four seconds & repeat
7/11 breathing Ideally breathe in for 7 seconds, pause and breathe out for 11 seconds - if this is too big to start with, work with 3 in, 5 out and gradually build & repeat
2. ENGAGE YOUR SENSES
Take a moment to re-connect with where you are. Focus your brain on the present moment so it can get back on task - whatever it is you need to do. Being 'present' helps to reduce anxiety.
54321 technique - notice:
5 things you can see
4 things you can touch
3 things you can hear
2 things you can small
1 thing you can taste
3. BRAIN DUMP RAG LIST
It has 2 parts which exist together - get everything out of your head and then prioritise. Brain dumping is a way of emptying your thoughts. You can either write down everything you need to do, or even just write or type anything and everything that is on your mind. Writing is suggested as better but typing will suffice, and then pick out any key themes or worries. It doesn't have to make sense to anyone else, it could just be a series of words and feelings. It is for you and you don't have to share it.
By emptying your mind you can put things in a little more order. I explain it as imagining that when it is all in your mind, it's like the M25 in rush hour without lanes. Cars everywhere, with no structure and risk of crashes. Once you can put the lanes in, you can see what needs your attention first.
That is where the RAG scale comes in - for those who have not used it before, it's Red (priority/urgent), Amber (important but can wait) and Green (nice to get done but not essential right now). What is important is that you work with what you can control.
For example, if one of the frustrations is that the cold weather is bringing you down, you cannot change the weather and you may not be in a position to go to a country where it is warm. What you can work with is what you wear, sourcing a hot water bottle....you get the idea.
If you struggle to prioritise or know what needs doing first, I suggest thinking what are the best case/worst case outcomes for the tasks or matters you want to address.
From here you can start to take control of what you can influence to help you feel more in charge of your workload. For matters of your work, it may be that there are clear items you cannot achieve that can prompt you to seek help from management or colleagues to alleviate your worries.
Another element is by engaging in a brain dump a little while before bed so that you go to sleep with an empty mind which can help you ease in to sleep better and improve quality of sleep as well.
4. GET MOVING
Something I think we need to do more of is focus on the language of movement, not exercise.
Exercise for many brings worries and fears. I personally love sports and exercise but I know for many it can fill them with dread.
So this section isn't about you having to go to the gym or run a marathon, it's a focus on just gently moving. Get up and stretch. Release the tension in your body. Maybe take a short walk. Try to move around your house more and take more screen breaks.
There are so many chemical exchanges in our body during the course of a day that if we can help to release them by engaging in increased endorphin production, we can give ourselves a natural mood lift.
5. GET YOUR GREENS
Now whilst I fully support and encourage that people eat all their good green fruit and veg, this is about engaging in nature (please do also try to get your fruit and veg intake completed too...).
Getting outside with nature - especially when we see trees/woods/forests - is a natural stress reliever, increasing our oxygen intake and helping us to lower our blood pressure which helps us to feel calmer.
There is also information that suggests if you can get to the sea, for those fortunate enough to live close to a coastline, that the 'charges' we get from technological devices are 'neutralised' by the ions in sea water, as they are in forests or in the woods.
So, there are my 5 a day self-help suggestions for improving stress management.
Please don't presume that from this blog I think the above 5 things solve all of life stresses, they don't. This is about managing the day to day stressors in a way that helps us see what we can do to make change, to help influence our physical health and responses to our stress and to support our belief in our ability to have ownership of our feelings.
I'd love to hear what helps you to de-stress and also what you find doesn't work too!
If you want to discuss more, please let me know. You can contact me via the below:
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