What Is Stress?
Stress is a medical term for a wide range of strong external stimuli, both physiological and psychological, which can cause a physiological response. Age-old if sometimes ill-defined concepts such as worry, conflict, tiredness, frustration, distress, overwork, pre-menstrual tension, over-focusing, confusion, mourning and fear all come together in a general broadening of the meaning of the term stress. Put simply, stress is an over-reaction to a given situation or stimuli. It has three stages:
- alarm reaction , where the body detects the external stimulus
- adaptation , where the body engages defensive countermeasures against the stressor
- exhaustion , where the body begins to run out of defences
Stress can directly and indirectly contribute to general or specific disorders of body and mind. Stress can have a major impact on the physical functioning of the human body. Such stress raises the level of adrenaline and corticosterone in the body, which in turn increases the heart-rate, respiration, blood-pressure and puts more physical stress on bodily organs. Long-term stress can be a contributing factor in heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and other illnesses.
How do I Manage Stress?
Managing stress is largely down to making permanent lifestyle changes, which can be done most effectively at an Unconscious level with the use of Hypnosis and NLP. When stress reaches the point where it is really affecting the way you live your life, then you need to take fundamental action to get your life back on track. Hypnotherapy and NLP help to calm the mind naturally and for the long-term, ensuring that the mind doesn’t over-react to situations. They will also give you the confidence that you can move forward and manage your life.
Changes can be made consciously, however with persistent effort and willpower. The recommendations below are Conscious Mind activities that can help you both avoid and alleviate stress and can be broken down into immediate physical response (when instant help is required!) and daily practices and long-term lifestyle changes that will help ensure your stress levels are kept to a minium.
20 Ways to Manage Stress
Rapid Response Exercises
- Roll your eyeballs. Sit comfortably straight, close your eyes, roll the eyeballs upwards as far as is comfortable, pause and then roll them back down again. Repeat the exercise ten times and you will automatically feel more relaxed.
- Tighten and release your facial muscles. A very quick and useful exercise for quietening down your mind: repeat 10 times.
- Tighten and release each muscle group in your body. Starting with the face, then the throat and neck, followed by the shoulders and chest, all the way down to the toes…each muscle group in turn. This takes a while longer, but is worth every extra minute; it leaves your body (and your mind) feeling more relaxed and supple.
- Yogic breath. The brain has two sides: the right is creative, inspirational and relaxing. The left is mechanical and performs calculations. Our nostrils have nerves that lead directly to the opposite side of the brain. By using alternative nostrils in a breathing exercise, you can help balance the two sides of your brain, leaving you with a wonderful sense of equilibrium. Exercise:Place the index, middle and ring finger of one hand on your forehead with your palm facing towards your face and use the little finger and the thumb to close alternate nostrils as you breathe in and out. Close the left nostril and breathe in deeply through the right nostril to the count of 5; pause to the count of 5; then release your left nostril, close the right nostril and breathe out to the count of 5. Pause again for 5 and now reverse the process, breathing in through your left nostril. Then repeat again breathing in through the right nostril. This can be done before a challenging meeting or emotionally charged event.
- Power Napping. Started in Japan, a ten minute nap, shutting off all outside stimuli, will quickly relax you; best done in a luxurious recliner. Very useful as part of your lunch break to prepare you and revitalise you for the afternoon.
- Silence. If you want peace and relaxation, then find somewhere quiet…perhaps an unused corner of the local park or a church. An absence of stimuli calms your nervous system, providing a wonderful counter-balance to stress.
- Positive Affirmations or Self-Talk. Repeating mentally or chanting positive thoughts such as “I am calm” to yourself will not only bring calm, but will start to have the desired effect. Analyse what matters to you most and where you are performing weakly at the moment. For example, if you are anxious or stressed, the chant to yourself “I am calm, I am serene” or whatever words feel comfortable to you.
- Goal Setting. Take time at the beginning of each day to set yourself the goals of what you want to achieve; don’t let the routine of the day control you. Take control of your life. Make sure you, don’t set yourself unrealistic goals, however, or you might run the risk of increasing your stress!
- Time Management. If you find yourself constantly rushing and late for everything, then you need to plan your time. We all know the old 80/20 rule; well this means that we get 80% done in 20% of the time. Focus on what is important each day and let the rest float until you have the time to pick it up. There are 3 types of task: those that are essential and urgent, those that you could put off for a while and those that you could almost put off forever.
- Stress Diary. If things are bad and continually on top of you, keep a diary. At the end of each day, take a few minutes to write down the situations that caused you anxiety or stress. What physical symptom did you get with each situation…a knotting of the stomach, a headache etc? Build up a picture over a month and learn to avoid the situations that upset you.
Long-Term Lifestyle Changes
- Diet. Fresh foods and complex carbohydrates (vegetable, fruits, wholegrain flour and cereals) will have a soothing effect on stress levels. Take a good multi-vitamin and multi-mineral supplement, a 1000mg Vitamin C supplement and a 100 mg Vitamin B supplement, as well as St John’s Wort or Valerian if things are particularly getting you down. See the website section on Nutrition for more details or Click Here.
- Exercise. As well as giving a sense of general well-being, exercise releases serotonin (the brain’s natural happy chemical) in the mind; so you can feel physical exhausted from a run for example, but still feel good. Exercise doesn’t have to mean sweaty sessions in the gym; brisk walking, often described as man’s best medicine (for an hour a day) is extremely good exercise. Yoga is well known for its stress relieving qualities, as you gently stretch the body, you gently calm the mind at the same time.
- Meditate. Perhaps the ultimate stress-buster. Take 15 minutes a day or twice a day to focus “inside” and shut out the world. Whilst there are many different methods of meditation, perhaps the simplest is counting your breathing. Count the number 1 as you breathe in deeply and then the number 2 as you breathe out slowly. Keep repeating this for 15 minutes. Each time a thought of any sort comes across your mind, send it on its way and come straight back to the counting. This is not at all as easy as it sounds…as you will find as you start. But persistence pays off, after a month to 6 weeks, you should have started to train your mind to focus on this single activity. This will take you into a wonderfully relaxing and therapeutic world.
- Aromatherapy. A 6000 year old form of Chinese herbal medicine, using pure essential plant extracts. Scents of certain essential oils stimulate the production of serotonin (see 12. above). Scents of vanilla, orange blossom, rose, chamomile and lavender have a calming effect on the way you feel; lavender, sandalwood and nutmeg help you shrug off the ill effects of stress.
- Fight Boredom. Boredom is one of the most common stressors in modern life; your stress levels rise dramatically when you are bored and frustrated. Keep yourself busy with hobbies and outside interests. When you have mundane tasks to do, throw yourself into them, get satisfaction from completing them quickly and efficiently and to the best of your ability. Not only is this an antidote to boredom, but it will help you feel calm and relaxed.
- Say “No” to negative Self Talk. We all do it…put ourselves down inside our heads…”I’m not good enough…I’ll never be able to do it…I’m not worth it”. Frequent negative self talk, which we all do unconsciously, withers away our self esteem and with it leaves us exposed to stress in the form of over-reacting to even the slightest upset. Every time you catch yourself saying “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not worth it”, stop and change your state. The best way to do this is to immediately do something physical like standing up and punching the air and saying “I am good enough and I am worth it”. If you believe you are, then you are; but if you believe you’re not, then your unconscious mind will take that on board and the inevitable result is feeling low and very much open to stress.
- Let go of the Past. Dwelling on failures of the past leads you straight down the path to depression and feeling stressed. Human behaviour is such that we all do the best we can at the time. Past experience provides us with lessons: learn them and move on. Regrets and guilts won’t help you…be determined: put them behind you and live your life for now and the future. You can’t change the past; you can change your future. The key here is determination…you can do it!
- Attitude. If you retain a positive attitude, then you will easily remain calm and happy. The question is …how? Listen to your inner talk and make sure you find the positive; instead of “I’ve got too much work”, think “how lucky I am to be fully occupied”. Go back and find a memory where you had a huge smile on your face with boundless energy and enthusiasm; then bring back this memory EVERY time you start to feel pressured or stressed. Really get into the memory…see the scenery around you, notice the colours, listen to the sounds…any chatter or laughter, feel those feelings of happiness, notice any smells around at the time. Bring back that memory and really get inside it every time you feel low. You will soon learn how to instantly change your state and banish those blues.
- Mellow out for Mondays. Monday morning is easily the peak time for heart attacks; scientists have proved that our heart rates climb considerably on a Monday as we prepare for the busy working week, before calming down again by the following weekend. Most suicides happen on a Monday too, so the pressure is on the mind as well as the body. The answer? Make a smoother transition between our working and leisure times. Make sure you switch off at the weekend, so that your body can recover and refresh itself for the week ahead. Treat Sunday evening as special; it’s not party time! Get yourself ready for Monday morning…lay out your clothes, plan your workload for the week and have a soothing bath before going to bed. Treat yourself…you deserve it!
- Use a Mind Machine. For example the Mindlab Proteus is simple and portable, using pulsed light and sound to create profound relaxation, a more focussed mind for learning and easier sleep.