15 Sep How to tackle stress?
It always makes me smile a little when I hear people talk about tackling stress. I imagine stress being wrestled to the ground on a rugby pitch. It’s a funny picture – but I understand how stress can feel like an opponent that you need to beat. If left unchecked, stress can lead to poor health and wellbeing and have negative impact on relationships, ability to achieve results, creativity and confidence. It’s no wonder you want to get the better of stress.
So what do you do? You turn to stress prevention strategies. But how effective are these when it’s impossible to prevent stressful circumstances occurring? Your train is delayed so you’re stressed about getting to your meeting on time. The printer packs up just when you need an important document. Unfortunately, these sorts of external triggers can’t be stopped. They’re out of your control and they’re never ending. It’s wishful thinking to believe that once you’ve got one problem sorted, that will be the end of it and there’ll be no more stress.
Perhaps that’s why stress management techniques are so appealing. If you can’t prevent stress then at least you can try to manage it. And let me count the ways you can do it: mindfulness, meditation, exercise, yoga, prayer, listening to music, spending time in nature, walking your dog, watching funny movies, reading, squishing a stress ball. There’s something for everyone, as they say.
But how sustainable are these techniques? I have clients who tell me ‘Yes, I go for a long walk and it’s very relaxing – but as soon as I’m back in the office I feel stressed again.’ Others have success with a particular stress management technique but after a while it stops working as well, which makes them feel disheartened. And then there are situations where a stress management solution is no longer possible – like when you depend on going to the gym and suddenly COVID-19 happens.
WHY STRESS CAN BE YOUR FRIEND
It’s easy to see why stress feels like an opponent. The more you try to tackle, prevent and manage it, the more it just keeps coming at you… which ultimately increases your stress. But what if, instead of viewing it as your foe, you saw stress as your friend? Honestly – stress isn’t the bad guy. Yes, stress can be harmful, but stress can be helpful too. The way to deal with stress isn’t to fight it but to get to know it better.
One of the most important things to know about stress is that it’s not directly caused by external triggers. It may seem that way when your car breaks down on the way to a meeting, but your car isn’t the trigger. It’s how you react to the situation and what is going on ‘inside you’ that can cause stress. Do you sit anxiously waiting for vehicle recovery imagining all sorts of disastrous consequences as a result of being late? Or do you calmly make a couple of phone calls then use the waiting time to go through your presentation?
If you take a step back, you’ll realise how your experience of stress is created within – in your mind. You can tune into solutions or you can let yourself be blindsided by problems. Once you understand the mind-stress connection, you’ll be amazed at how differently you think and react to stress. It will no longer feel like the enemy. Instead, you’ll welcome it like an old friend, confident that you can use stress as an opportunity to create successful outcomes.
In the future, we all will experience change, challenges and uncertainty. And that’s okay. Harness your mind power, tap into your inner resources and you’ll be able to confidently navigate your way through whatever life throws at you.
* Want to make friends with stress? Call me on 07930 459337 or drop me a line
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