Stress can be extreamly bad for us, emotionally and physically, and yet 1 in 3 of us report that we frequently feel overwhelmed by stress. There are many reasons why we should try to manage our stress levels, but often just when we feel most stressed and need to remember to do all those relaxing things which we know help us, we make poor decisions. Most of this isn’t our fault, it’s the way we’re wired, but knowing and spotting this can help to put you back in control of your stress levels. We can’t really stop getting stressed, but the main choice we have is whether to stay there, taking up residence in stress city for a few days or weeks, or whether to stop the cycle.
1. Noticing that we are becoming increasingly stressed is the critical step when it comes to managing our stress levels. Only when we notice how we’re feeling, do we have the chance to make some choices about managing the way we’re feeling. Mindfulness is my number one tip when it comes to stress control. Mindfulness means we are paying attention to how we are actually feeling, rather than how we wish we were feeling. Mindfulness brings us into an awareness of the body we are inhabiting, and the ways in which the world is affecting us. It requires us to move out of our minds and our desires, and into reality.
2. Once you have noticed and acknowledged that your stress levels are high my next tip is to stop and reflect for a moment or two. Is there something obvious which is causing you to feel more stressed than usual? Often we avoid thinking about the things which stress us, but this is a very important step in regaining control over your feelings. By allowing reflective thinking time, you can stop, take stock and amend your plans. You can become more real and honest with yourself.
3. My third tip, once you have become aware of your stress, is to increase the amount of pleasurable relaxing activities you make space for. At times of high stress and anxiety, time will feel very pressured. This isn’t always because we have any less time, but because of the stress chemicals which our body produces and the way our brains respond to these.Taking 5 or 10 minutes to do something which you know helps you to relax is a very good spend of time, even when you have convinced yourself you don’t have enough of it! Take 5 minutes to smell the roses, watch the birds or the clouds, listen to a favourite song or just blow some bubbles.
4. My fourth tip would be to try to schedule some time around the people, animals or places which help you smile and soften. Laughter really can be the best medicine when it comes to stress and anxiety. Nature can play a soothing healing role here. Get out into a green space and feel your happiness rise. Play in the garden, walk with the dogs or have a good chin wag with a friend and you will relax a bit. Children and animals are particularly good at this!
5. Lastly I would recommend shredding your ‘to do’ list. When stress starts to build its time to rethink our plans and commitments. This is about becoming adaptable to the reality of your life. We are not machines, and some days we will be less productive, because of all sorts of feelings and hurdles. Drop the pressure you put on yourself, just for now. There will be better days for doing many of the things on your list, but you can prioritise at times like this, and concentrate only on the things which really can’t wait till tomorrow. This requires quite a lot of self honesty, and is probably the step which most of us find the hardest. Let go, just for now.
Accepting who we are and how we feel, can be one of life’s biggest challenges. It’s even harder when things happen to us which we don’t like and didn’t plan. Feeling out of control in these ways will always leave us with heightened anxiety and stress. The choice we have is to begin to take control of our emotions and feelings again. These 5 tips will help you to take care of yourself, when you need it the most.
This was written in response to the one love theme photography challenge from WP.