We’ll start with the basics. It is well-known that exercise, yoga, meditation, prayer, or other ‘escape’ activities such as reading, time in nature or playing games can be helpful. Obviously, it’s not always that easy though, and in the heat of the moment you can’t call time-out for some goat yoga. What? You’ve not heard or goat yoga? Well, let me enlighten you…
But surely if stress reduction was just about taking time-out or going for a run everyone would be doing it, right? Not necessarily, we don’t always do the things that are best for us. We may not exercise, and we may choose risky behaviours, make poor dietary decisions, etc. But even if all of our decisions are healthy we will still experience stress, and how we deal with it will still depend on our mental preparation for stressful events.
So here are some tips on how to prepare yourself mentally for stress management:
- Work on the basics listed above, exercise, giving yourself a time-out, goat yoga, etc.
- Expect things to go wrong.
Not everything will be perfect. Nothing will be perfect. Set realistic goals and don’t panic when things go wrong. Things do go wrong and the effect of stress less related to the event than how we deal with it.
- Allow for your goals to change. If you are set on one outcome and one specific path to get there you will be missing infinite potential possibilities for even better outcomes than you had originally planned.
- Don’t forget the small things when you are distracted by the big things. Mosquitoes kill more people than lions. More people have died from stress related illness and disease than nuclear war.
- Think of the outcome, not the problems. So often people get stuck in a situation because they are focused on solving a problem, and along the way they are so focused on the problem that they forget what they are trying to achieve.
- Take one step at a time.
There is no magic button to instantly remove old habits and program new ones. It takes time and as we work on new patterns stress is still happening. Initially we may need to take more time-outs to gather our thoughts. One practice I have is that at the moment I most feel I am unable to take a break, it is the moment I take a break. I know I will be more useful after a 5 minute escape than I would be if I stayed in the pressure cooker.
Here are the three takeaways for today:
1 – Learning to manage stress is a process. Much like exercise and physical training, it can take a while to see results, but results are on the way.
2 – Stress management is a two-forked approach. Diet, exercise, and good self-care are important for our brain and mental health. Equally important is making a conscious decision to manage the situation and creating a habit of mindfulness.
3 – It’s not easy. Life can be brutal, and there are times you will need help. *When* you need help (it is a “when”, not an “if”) as for it. Aside from medical professionals, psychologists, therapists, friends, family, etc, people often post on a Reddit self-help page. While I don’t recommend sharing your darkest secrets and fears on the open Internet, it will show you that you are not alone. Let me repeat those last words – You are not alone.
I get it, stress is a lot bigger and deeper than a blog can cover. There are times when people need medication, therapy, and interventions. If this is you, please get help. Talk to someone, if you want you can contact me and I will help you find someone in your area. There are people available to help.
However, if you find yourself getting overly stressed by events and feel that from time to time life is spinning around and you are losing control, try some of the ideas in this article. It may help you gain a new perspective and sense of hope and control.
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