Stress management needn’t be something that causes you- well- stress. With some simple changes to your life, it is possible to manage the stressors that impact you. But it does take some time to discipline your mind and develop the positive mindset that you need to get there.
You’ve identified the stressors in your life already, and the impact that they are having on your mind and body.
Take a look here at the resource we’ve developed to help you understand what to look out for.
Stress Management: our 4S Approach
Don’t worry, this isn’t some weird process that’s going to get you doing weird things. The 4S is our recognition that there are four key areas to focus on in your journey towards effective stress management.
Here there are:
Sleep: good sleep has a positive effect on your physical and mental health
Space: activity and the outdoors are known to be drivers for good health
Simple: over-stimulation can have a negative effect on your cognitive abilities
Self: Looking after your physical and mental health has many benefits
Each 4S unlocks a chemical response in your body that releases hormones that are known to influence good mental and physical wellbeing and mental health. We’re going to take a look at just some of the tools that you can use in each 4S to unlock those responses and learn effective stress management.
But first, what is our body up to when we’re out for a walk…sleeping…eating well…?
A mood stabiliser, serotonin is released when you take part in aerobic exercise or spend time outdoors.
A reward chemical, is released by celebrating success, by exposure to sunlight, listening to music or through meditation.
A natural pain killer, can be released by simply laughing, taking part in creative activity, random acts of kindness, and eating cacao rich foods
Is the love hormone, and is released by petting a dog, affection toward someone, and spending time with friends
Stress Management Techniques
A very simple concept, getting 7-9 hours of good quality sleep a night. It’s a good idea to put down anything with a screen before you go to bed and try a short period of relaxation or mediation to help your mind switch off from your day. Good quality sleep not only allows your body to recover and recharge, but your mind is active during your various sleep cycles, so it’s important to good mental and physical health that it is allowed to work through those subconscious processes to rest and organise your memory and thoughts uninterrupted.
Another simple idea, but one that is all too easy to set aside because “I’m just too busy”. There are a number of tools that you can use:
- Exercise outdoors. We’re not for a moment suggesting you start running marathons, but a 15 minute walk each day will make quite a difference.
- Spend time outside relaxing. Sunshine is good for you and encourages Vitamin D production as well as releasing dopamine so important alongside your daily exercise.
- Give yourself time out. As simple as peace and quiet, create a quiet spot for yourself where you can relax. You might read, write or play an instrument. Give yourself the time to enjoy those things uninterrupted every day.
We feel like we’re being driven to do ‘stuff’, have to be available 24/7, and are overstimulated by the technology around us. Most people have a smart phone, TV, smart watch. The list goes on. The problem with the modern world is that we are over stimulated with always-on technology that craves our attention by beeping or vibrating every time it’s got something to say. Who’s in charge of your time? You or your favourite apps?
- To focus your mind at work, concentrate on the job at hand. To do that, remove the distractions. Put your phone in a drawer so that you aren’t interrupted by it or give in to its craving for your attention.
- When you’re spending time with yourself, think about whether you need the distraction of your screens. No? Leave them somewhere else.
- Before bedtime have a period of 15-30 minutes without your tech so that your mind can start to wind down. Modern tech will overstimulate your mind and make it more difficult to relax and even sleep.
- Have a think about what’s important. Does every notification need to be switched on, craving your constant attention? Try out switching them all off and give yourself set times to respond to texts, emails, Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp….you get the point. You could only have the notifications on that are really necessary. The apps that allow your kids to communicate for example. But remember, you own your phone and you, not the other way round.
- There are, of course, useful apps to help you meditate, exercise, breathe, and so on. Research what works for you and utilise them. Smartphones are still powerful tools, as long as you don’t give in to their craving for your constant attention.
Possibly the area where you can make the greatest change to your mindset, and learn how to manage stress. There are many techniques and tools that you can use to regulate your emotional response to stressful situations and events, so we’ll focus on a small number. Some will help with physical health primarily, while others are focused more on good mental health. Overall, though, they all contribute to your ability to stress management and good physical and mental health.
- Healthy diet. We’re not advocating using the latest diet, but a healthy, balanced diet that provides all of the nutrition that you need for good health. Plenty of fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, or alternatives for vegetarian or vegan diets, dairy, and alcohol and caffeine taken in moderation. Diets become problematic when something is out of balance, or people simply eat too much.
- Relaxation and breathing. Try stepping away from what you’re doing every hour or so and breathing deeply and slowly. Only for a minute, but relax and focus on simply breathing in and out. it’s just enough to help your body relax.
- Mindfulness and Meditation. These are similar disciplines but have a different purpose. Mindfulness is a relaxation technique that allows you to be aware of everything around you, while meditation requires focus on a single point to clear your mind. That could be a point on a wall, or your breathing. They require a degree of skill and proactive, but can be very rewarding. Whichever you choose, your mind is taken away from everyday stressors and events and enters a state of serenity that allows deep thought and relaxation.
Getting started with effective stress management
The question is, where to start? You’ve identified your stressors and are ready to begin to learn these new skills. Why not take a look at some of the simple things first? A daily walk, taking a look at your diet, and reducing your phone time could be good activities to start with. Everyone is different, so work at your own pace, and set yourself milestones and goals. It’s important to understand that this isn’t a ‘quick fix’, but rather a journey to understand yourself and learn the strategies and tools that you need for effective stress management.