By Chris Bowles
Over the past 20 or so years, I’ve helped a wide variety of people to manage stress and improve their wellbeing; company employees, GP patients, worried individual clients…even people who didn’t contact me about stress at all, but who wanted to make major life changes. When we started to explore further, the underlying reason for seeking these changes was… guess what?
Here are some tried and tested strategies that will help you to make stress a thing of the past. Your wellbeing programme starts here!
1. There is no “one size fits all” method of dealing with stress. Zen banana therapy (OK, I made that one up!) may have helped your best friend, but that doesn’t mean it will help you. Each person who suffers from stress experiences an individual mix of mental, physical, emotional and behavioural symptoms. Get to know your own symptom pattern; doing so may help you decide which solutions will work best for you.
2. Spend some time mapping out your stressors; write a list, draw a diagram. Then start with something that’s within your direct control, that you can DO something about, and get professional support from a coach if you need it. Focusing on what you CAN change will increase your sense of empowerment and help you to deal more constructively with what you CAN’T change.
3. Do your problem solving backwards! The creative part of the brain works better when it’s given something to work towards, so imagine you’ve already achieved the best possible outcome to the problem, and work out how you got there!
4. Remember that the one thing you can always change is your mind! There will inevitably be circumstances in your life over which you have little or no control, but you CAN choose how you respond to them. The choices you make can lead to more stress, or less stress. Mindfulness based meditation can teach you to be more aware of the connection between your thoughts, feelings and physical sensations, whilst helping you remain calm and focused on the “here and now”. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help you to change the thinking patterns that lead to negative mood states.
5. In times of high pressure it’s easy to let go of the things we normally find comforting, relaxing and enjoyable. We tend to assume that if we drop all the fun stuff and push ourselves really hard we’ll get more done. In fact, the reverse is true, and tipping yourself over the edge into fatigue and burnout will ensure that you’re LESS effective in dealing with the pressure. Look for small, simple things that you can incorporate easily into your day; five minutes of deep breathing, a sniff of a relaxing aromatherapy oil, listening to some soothing sounds on your MP3 player. What are your quick pick-me-ups?
6. Don’t “go it alone”. This is the time to make the most of your support network. Just as we tend to withdraw from pleasurable activities when we’re under stress, we may also withdraw from other people and become isolated. Who do you usually turn to, as a shoulder to cry on, or a wise mentor? Who makes you laugh, or gives you a much needed kick up the backside? Who’ll give you a hug and tell you how much they care? Look for the people who feed your energy – but make sure you stay well away from the ones that drain it!
7. Be mindful: At intervals throughout the day, stop what you’re doing and check in with yourself. What are you thinking about? What emotions are you experiencing? How does your body feel? Are you aware of any tension? Breathing shallowly? Focusing in like this will help you to recognise when the pressure’s building, and put you in a better position to do something about it.
Chris Bowles runs Breathing Space Personal Growth Ltd, offering one-to-one coaching , group workshops and retreats in stress resilience, relaxation, wellbeing and positive life change. She has over 20 years’ experience and specialises in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness based approaches. Chris is currently developing a range of audio materials and e-books. For further details and current events, free Personal or Business newsletters, or to book a FREE half hour introductory coaching session, visit http://www.breathing-space.biz
© Chris Bowles 2007