I remember years ago listening to a speaker at a work event talking about stress. Their advice was to identify the stressors and avoid them, avoid stress at all costs, stress is bad, stress is evil, stress will kill you. This speaker clearly did not have children, a job, a mortgage, or a life right? As someone who manages a highly active, creative, prolifically anxious mind juggling businesses and babies, managing and recovering from stress is something I have spent years mastering.
Stress: a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.
Adverse and demanding circumstances are somewhat unavoidable in the connected and fast paced world that we live and mental and emotional strain seem to come with the territory of work/parenting and life really. So rather than avoiding it, I would like to share some of my strategies for managing and recovering from this state of mental and emotional strain resulting from…well, life.
My stressors are pretty constant, small children who are reliant on me for meeting so many of their needs, jobs, businesses, online demands, my own somewhat ridiculous expectations just to name a few. I find myself in a heightened emotional state as a result of my life, well, lets just say a few times a day… there was a time when I considered and labeled myself a ‘stress-head’ but these days, I am far kinder to myself and don’t subscribe to labels (a good tip for those who currently consider themselves stress heads!!).
To keep it simple and easy to digest, here are my top 8 tips for managing and recovering from stress (why 8? The thought of writing 10 started to cause a little mental strain, so I stopped while it all still felt good 😉 :
- Identify the stressor or demanding circumstance and understand why it is causing you stress. Is it your kids whinging? Is it work calling you all the time? Is it that you are always running late? Identify the stressor and understand what is happening in that moment.
- Look at ways to improve the process or build in buffers. Two examples of things that were causing me stress, 1. Sienna was always looking for her shoes as we left the house (I know I am not alone…but incase you don’t have kids, here Michael McIntyre explains it all….) and 2. Stella was crying every time I got in the car to go anywhere. So I looked at ways to improve the process and build in buffers. I moved all of Sienna’s shoes to a drawer just by the door and I went to the supermarket and bought some organic rice crackers to keep in my car door (things close to the door = stress management 101). This meant that Sienna took her shoes off as she entered the house and they were always where she left them and easy to locate as we left (hooray, stress eliminated) and Stella is ALWAYS keen on snacks, we call her the very hungry baby, so having snacks in the car door meant as soon as she started crying I could hand her a handful of organic rice crackers and she was instantly distracted and delighted.
- Acknowledge the stress and circumstance in the moment and embrace the impermanence of now. This goes for good moments too. When we acknowledge and understand the impermanence of every state including the stress state, we are able to accept that this is just a moment, “this too shall pass” as my Mum always said. So when the demands are flowing like a tsunami and you can’t seem to catch a break, take time to acknowledge that this is just a moment, this isn’t your life now and forever and focus on breathing, before you know it – it will have passed and you’ll be on the road to recovery!
- What else stresses you and can you control it? Making mistakes? Being out of control? Are there some bigger things at play that you need to acknowledge and heal? A healthy state of mind is capable of accepting that not everything can be perfect, not everything can be controlled. If you’re experiencing heightened states of stress for things out of your control, it may be time to speak to someone about some strategies for letting go? My Dad taught me a wonderful technique which I still do today. Draw a circle, write everything in the circle that you are worried about that you can control. Write everything you are worried about outside of your control outside of the circle. Focus on the stuff inside the circle, this is the only stuff you can control. Seems simple but it works, we can get so caught up worrying about things that are outside of our control and this in itself can cause us enormous amounts of stress. Focus on your stuff, write it down, get a handle on what it is and then start to manage it, manage the processes, introduce buffers and tools to intercept or alleviate.
- Look for outlets. Exercise, eating well, massages, journalling, socialising with friends, shopping, getting jiggy with it, getting your nails done. Everyone has activities and outlets that can alleviate emotional strain and tension, find out what yours are and keep them up your sleeve for when you feel the pressure starting to rise. Learn to break the circuit, intercept the boil and take the heat out of the situation before it breaks you!
- Find your fast recovery tricks and challenge your own thoughts. For me, Breathing, Breaking the circuit, Tuning in to my internal dialogue and questioning it (is that really true? Is this really the worst thing in the world) helps me manage my state. I LOVE this article about managing our thoughts (and how) – “Thought awareness can promote stress resilience. With time, you learn to encounter your own ruminations or problematic thoughts and say, “That’s just a thought. It’ll fade.” That is a secret about the human mind: We don’t need to believe everything our thoughts tell us. Or, as the bumper sticker says, “Don’t believe everything you think.””
- Meditate – if you have read any of my other posts, you’ll start to realise that for me, meditation is the answer to most things. I find that when I take the time to relax my mind, to unpack my thoughts, to rewire myself into a wonder mindset that everything else in my life flows.
- Repeat after me: Just for today I will manage and recover from stress. The reiki principles for energy healing focus on small steps, ‘just for today’ focal points, don’t try and boil the ocean, take it one day at a time and remember that it is inevitable that you will experience stress! So just for today, focus on managing, reengineering processes to avoid unavoidable stress and find techniques and tools that work for you to help you recover from stress!
Hope that these help! x