Do you feel constantly under pressure? Are your work deadlines taking a toll on you? Do you find yourself being anxious and on edge in your relationship? Do you experience headaches often? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are undergoing stress.
Stress has taken over our lives. The alarming rates of competition, job insecurity, and conflicts at a personal level all give rise to stress. Stress is the reaction of our body and mind to the demands placed on us. To a certain extent, stress is normal and useful and helps us to react quickly or work hard to meet a deadline.
However, if the stress is prolonged or occurs often, it results in negative effects like upset stomach, back pain, headache, and disturbed sleep. It also has an adverse effect on our mood and may hamper our relationships and career. This is when we need to take certain steps in order to manage stress.
The first step – find what is causing your stress
The most important thing you should do when combating stress involves finding the source of stress in your life. This can be done by keeping a stress journal.
Keeping a stress journal entails recording information about the daily stressors you are experiencing in order to analyze and manage them. Here are a few things you would want to record:
- The stressful event you have experience
- Your feelings after the even
- How did you handle the event?
After you have recorded in your journal for a number of days, it’s time to analyze it. For the analysis, look at the different stressful events you have experienced. Highlight those that occur frequently as well as those which are the most unpleasant. Then, appraise how you have felt after these events as well as how you handled them. Your analysis will reveal several problems regarding your handling of these events that need to be fixed. It will be helpful to list these areas separately to work on them later.
Then shift your focus to the stressful events you experienced and list ways in which they can be changed or if your reaction to them can be changed. Finally, analyze the feelings these events arose in you and how did that affect your overall functioning.
Once you have fully identified the common sources of stress in your life and analyzed your pattern of handling them, you can discontinue managing your journal and move onto the next step.
The second step – avoid situations that cause stress
Avoiding all situations that are causing you stress might not be possible, but avoiding some will be. For example, avoid people who stress you out. Limit the time you spend with them. Of course, this can’t be done if it’s a spouse or a family member.
Having too many deadlines and taking on too many roles is a cause of stress. Learn to be assertive and say no. Know your limits and say ‘no’ to taking on more than you can handle.
Take control of your environment. Avoid the traffic-filled route or hire someone to clean the house for you if you find it stressful.
The third step – change the stressful situation
If there is no way to avoid a stressful situation, try to make changes and decrease the amount of stress that way. For example, play your favorite music while doing an unpleasant chore like cleaning to make it seem more pleasurable.
Manage your time better. Poor time management leads to a lot of stress. Planning ahead ensures you are on time on your deadlines and you lose a reason to be stressed.
Express your feelings. Talk it out instead of keeping it inside. If you want some me-time, tell your spouse you want to be by yourself for __ number of minutes and will get back right after that. If something is bothering you, be upfront about it without being rude and express how you feel about it. For example, if your spouse is not throwing out the garbage, a duty they initially assumed, calmly approach them and say ‘I feel stressed when the garbage is still there and I feel like I have one more task to attend to before sleeping.’
Balance it out. Asking someone to change their behavior also involves doing something for them in exchange. Or when you are taking on their duties, you might want to give them one of yours. For example, in the above situation, you can add, ‘When we divided the duties earlier, we had decided you will do it. Do you want to continue doing it or exchange it for another?’
The fourth step – change your reactions
You may not be able to control stressful situations and events, but you can control the way you are reacting to them. Try looking at stressful situations from a positive perspective. For example, if an added responsibility at work stresses you out, think of how it will add to your learning and you can add an extra set of skill experience to your resume.
Take out your binoculars. The situations cause us stress because we are looking at merely the present scenario. However, if we zoom out and see the whole picture, it might not seem as bad. Think of how much this event is important? Will it matter in a month or a year? Is it worth wasting your time over? For example, this might be applicable when a colleague has pointed out your mistake in a monthly review meeting. You feel bad about it and get stressed that it will affect your reputation at work. Thinking about how many people will remember it till the next meeting or how important that colleague’s view is for you should help reduce the stress.
Set lower expectations. When we expect a lot from both ourselves and others, we set ourselves up for failure. Stop demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards.
The fifth step – accept what cannot be changed
Some situations and people are beyond our control. Focusing on these uncontrollable events will only lead to more stress. You need to shift your focus to things you can control instead. For example, if a family member’s behavior often causes you to be angry and your umpteen efforts at changing him/her have proved futile, it would be best to change the way you react to him/her. Don’t give him/her the power to decide your emotions.
Look at difficult situations in a new light. View them as ways to grow and learn.
Humans are fallible and prone to mistakes. Forgive and let go of resentment.
The sixth step – find ways to de-stress
Find strategies that work for you when you are stressed. Some of these may be:
- Playing with a pet
- Writing about things that are bothering you
- Talking to a friend
- Indulging in a hobby
- Going for a walk
- Taking a long, leisurely bath
- Watching a comic video
- Practicing relaxation techniques or yoga
Set aside time for yourself during the day. Indulge in things you enjoy doing.
The seventh step – practice healthy lifestyle choices
Eat a nutritious, balanced diet. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Reduce caffeine, oil, and sugar from your diet. Get enough restful sleep. Drink sufficient water daily to keep yourself hydrated.
This will help you feel better physically and emotionally. Take care of yourself; it’s the number one thing stress hates.
Elkin, A. (2013). Stress management for dummies. John Wiley & Sons.
Romas, J. A., & Sharma, M. (2013). Practical Stress Management: A Comprehensive Workbook. Pearson Higher Ed.
Tol, W. A., Barbui, C., & van Ommeren, M. (2013). Management of acute stress, PTSD, and bereavement: WHO recommendations. JAMA, 310(5), 477-478.
Do you experience stress on a daily basis? Do you often forget important tasks or where you kept things? Are you experiencing stress in your relationships? Do you experience difficulties in regulating your emotions? Are you having trouble losing weight despite having tried all diet and exercise versions? Are you striving to know the real you?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, this article is for you.
In the rush of things today, we often find ourselves multi-tasking. You may be talking to your kids while reading the newspaper, folding your laundry with an eye on the television, or calculating the monthly expenses while talking to your mother on the phone. Amidst all this rush to get everything completed on time, you may be losing out on your connection with the present.
Are you actually aware of what you are doing and how you are feeling? Or do you just go through each day without awareness of what is happening? Did you notice that little puppy wagging its tail at you during your morning walk or the fact that you woke up feeling a bit lightheaded? Or did you rush out of bed owing to the alarm’s buzzer and then went off on your daily routine without a pause to think or feel?
If this is how each of your days looks like, it’s time to turn to mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of consciously focusing your attention on the present and accepting it without being judgmental. Mindfulness nudges you to let go of the past and the future and be aware of only the present moment.
Often enough, we find ourselves lamenting on the past and wishing things could have been different or dreaming about the future. But in doing so, we let go of the present. Mindfulness helps us by slowing down the pace of our thoughts, letting us focus on each thought, in turn; giving us a clear head and helping us relax.
That is all good, you say, but why should I practice mindfulness? What does it have in store for me?
Well, here are 6 basic reasons why integrating mindfulness into your life is helpful.
1. Reduces stress
Know that thing which makes your heart rate rise, makes you sweat profusely, and unable to focus on anything with that unsettling feeling inside of you? Yes, that’s right.
The everyday stress and worry that hounds you all day can be gone with a poof with mindfulness.
Have I got your attention now?
Researchers now prove that mindfulness is associated with a decreased level of the stress hormone cortisol. In addition, mindfulness has been seen to increase positive affect and decrease negative affect, as well as anxiety. The research findings suggest that mindfulness brings about a shift in people’s ability to use emotion regulation strategies resulting in their experiencing emotions selectively and processing them differently. Another manner in which mindfulness reduces stress is by helping people with accepting their experiences, including negative emotions, rather than reacting to them in unhealthy ways like avoidance or aversion.
2. Boosts memory
Do you often forget where you kept your car keys or why did you open the refrigerator? Or forget about important deadlines or miss scheduled meetings? This is another problem mindfulness can help you with. We have endless deadlines these days and even with multiple to-do lists, it is difficult to keep track of everything.
Research has found that those who underwent an eight-week mindfulness training had a stable working memory unlike those who did not undergo the training. The memory capacity was also seen to increase with the practice of mindfulness.
3. Improves relationships
If you’re looking to work on your relationship with your spouse, family, or friends, mindfulness can help you do so. Mindfulness equips you with the ability to respond well to relationship stress, enhances your skills in communicating your emotions and protects you against the emotionally stressful effects of relationship conflicts. Research findings support that mindfulness is seen to predict relationship satisfaction.
4. Helps you regulate your emotions
Many clients these days come to me with complaints of being hypersensitive. They say they get emotional easily, and they would like to be stronger and not get upset so quickly. Mindfulness acts as a wonderful antidote to this. It begins by helping you recognize your patterns, like when you ponder on why your ex cheated on you two years ago, or when you find yourself thinking about how you are not climbing the career ladder as fast as your contemporaries. Mindfulness helps you recognize this repetition in your thoughts.
Then it helps you label this thought or emotion. You begin to recognize that you are having the thought about not climbing the career ladder as fast as your contemporaries. This helps you recognize your thoughts and feelings for what they actually are.
The third step then involves accepting these thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness helps you accept them without being judgmental while at the same time not resigning yourself to negative thoughts and emotions. You pay attention to them and experience them without responding to them. The last step involves acting not out of emotion or an impulsive thought but on your values, the place of long-term conviction that you hold. This is important because your emotions are ever-changing while your values are stable.
5. Helps you achieve your weight-loss goals
Have you changed your diet, started an exercise regime and still aren’t losing any weight? Mindfulness might help. A survey by the American Psychological Association involving 1328 licensed psychologists revealed that they find mindfulness training to be a good approach to losing weight. They reported emotional factors are important not only in causing weight problems but they also pose as a major barrier in overcoming them. Mindfulness training helps in training people to allow negative thoughts and emotions to come and go without dwelling on them. It focuses on enjoying the present moment. Doing so helps with weight reduction when teamed up with a proper diet and exercise regime.
6. Helps you know the true you
Mindfulness helps you go beyond those black or rose-tinted glasses and see the real you. It helps you analyze yourself objectively and also conquer blind spots which amplify or diminish your own flaws in your eyes. Mindfulness lets you observe without being judgmental and increases your capacity to attend to stimuli. It lets you get to really know yourself without feeling any negative emotions towards yourself.
How do I start practicing mindfulness?
Well, it’s not that hard. For starters, try to stay present and to pay attention to your physical senses and your surroundings. Here’s a basic mindfulness meditation procedure to give you a little push.
- Sit in an upright posture in a relatively quiet space.
- Close your eyes.
- Focus on your natural breathing or a word (for example, ‘Om’).
- Repeat it silently.
- Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment.
- Return your focus to your breath or the word.
Why don’t you begin practicing mindfulness and let me know the benefits that you experienced?
The term “stress” may be considered and felt by an individual when a situation or event is perceived by a person as being overwhelming, beyond their abilities to cope, and threatening to their well-being.
The results of stress can leave individuals feeling exhausted, fatigued, and depressed. Thus, health problems can arise, such as headaches, upset stomach, insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Additionally, stress can affect the person in many other ways and areas, including their work, relationships, school performance, social relationships, etc.
Why Does Stress Happen?
Stress is a natural response to a threatening situation, or, at least, something we consider threatening, even if, in reality, it’s not. This is what is called a Fight or Flight Response – when our body goes into hyperarousal, a physiological reaction occurs in response to a perceived attack, harmful event, or threat to our survival.
External Sources of Stress
Physical environment: noises, confined spaces, temperature, comfort
Social: conflict, confrontation, sensitizing
Organizational: changes, transitions, mergers, downsizing, deadlines, regulations, enforcement’s, rules, strict authority
Major life events: promotion, moving into a new home, new baby, death of a relative, wedding, divorce
Daily hassles: mindlessness, commuting, crowds, misplaced things, running errands
Internal Sources of Stress
Negative self-talk: criticalness towards self, over-analyzing, negativity, pessimistic thinking/attitude
Lifestyle: lack of sleep, overloaded schedule, caffeine, unhealthy diet, alcohol, drugs
Personality traits: perfectionism, workaholic, pleaser, difficulty setting healthy boundaries
Cognitive: all or nothing thinking, mind reading, unrealistic expectations, taking things personally, exaggerating, rigid thinking
How to Decrease Stress
- Introduce healthy lifestyle habits (day-by-day)
- Decrease (or eliminate) caffeine (coffee, tea, pop, chocolate)
- Maintain a well-balanced diet
- Regular exercise
- Decrease the consumption of junk food
- Engage in social activities, as well as leisure activities
- Practice relaxation, meditation, yoga
- Enhance money and time management skills
- Learn to be assertive
- Increase coping skills
- Practice effective problem-solving skills
- Change your thinking
- Keep healthy expectations (realistic)
- Enjoy a sense of humor!
- Have a support system around you
The holiday season…
Cold weather ✓
2013 coming to an end ✓
Deadlines approaching ✓
More family time ✓
More commitments ✓
Season of giving ✓
…as you know, the list keeps running. Most of our lives encompass some of these things right now. In my practice, I’m finding that there’s an increased level of stress and anxiety in people’s lives. Why does holiday stress happen?
Holiday Season and Stress
Research from the American Heart Association (2004) contends that this time of year there’s an increase in emotional stress about the holidays. Having to interact with family we may, or may not want to associate with, feeling the pressure of having to absorb financial pressures such as purchasing gifts, traveling, and/or entertaining. Also around this time of year, people are more likely to indulge in foods and beverages they may not usually consume. Consequently, if it interrupts normal healthy patterns, feelings of guilt or regret creep in.
5 tips for avoiding holiday stress:
- Pick and choose your holiday activities
- Ask for help
- Say no when necessary
- Everything in moderation
- Set realistic expectations for the season
Try to relax and lower your expectations from yourself and from your family. You may find yourself enjoying holidays more than you expected.
Kloner, R. (2004). The “Merry Christmas Coronary” and “Happy New Year Heart Attack” Phenomenon. American Heart Association. Retrieved from: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/110/25/3744.short
You are a busy professional. Summer is coming to an end. You feel the pressures, the last quarter goals of 2011 are at the forefront of your mind. The new school year is close, and the nervous tension that comes with these pressures can hit a family and business hard. Not only do you have your usual duties, but kids can also feel the anxieties of starting a new year, which can impact your business and personal life.
While the causes can be something other than work stress, here are the most common symptoms and early signs of stress:
- Low morale
- Physical symptoms
But how do I beat stress and reduce signs of it, you ask? Here are 4 tips how to effectively do it:
1. Delete, delegate, deposit
Take 5-10 minutes at the beginning of your day to clear your desk , work-space, or living space. Doing so might help alleviate the sense of losing control that comes from having too much clutter. Keep your goals S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, tangible) helps maintain focus and control in your life.
2. Talk it out
Sometimes the best opportunity to reduce stress is to simply share your thoughts with someone, either someone close to you, or a trained therapist to help you work through the changes. The act of talking it out, and seeking professional support and empathy from someone trusted can be an excellent way of increasing positivity in our lives.
3. Laugh or allow yourself to smile
Finding humour in life helps us when we start to take things too seriously. Share a joke or funny story.
4. Change the situation
Remember the 4 A’s:
If you remember the 4 A’s when it comes to stress, it might help you work through it.
Staying positive in this modern life is an important act for us all to practice. Coping with stress isn’t easy, but with a little effort, you will be back on the road to emotional wellness and well-being!
Hansen, R. S. (n.d.). Managing Job Stress: 10 Strategies for Coping and Thriving at Work. http://www.quintcareers.com/managing_job_stress.html
Meyer,P. J. (2011). LMI Canada Inc: Personal Leadership, “Living with Purpose”. http://www.lmicanada.ca/EPL.aspx
Holidays are such a beautiful time of the year. For some. For others, the holiday season is a stressful time of the year loaded with anxiety. If you are among these “others”, here are 4 ways you can help yourself to overcome holiday anxiety.
1. What’s making you anxious?
Brainstorm ahead of time specific situations or scenarios that bring about the most anxiety during the holidays. Finances? Pressures for perfect get-together’s? Underlying tensions with certain family members? Come up with 2 ideas on how you can alleviate some of the worries ahead of time – knowing ahead of time some solutions to your problems will ease some of your anxieties.
2. Perfect at pleasing?
It’s not always necessary to make the holidays ‘perfect.’ Try letting go and remembering why the holidays are important – not necessarily for the presents and the presentation, but more for the company of those important in our lives.
3. Ask for help!
This is the season for all to enjoy, therefore, it’s okay to ask for help. By delegating some of the responsibilities others will feel like they’re apart of the process, and when there’s teamwork involved, the team members feel needed and important.
4. Be happy
As simple as it sounds, live for the present. Be happy with what you have, and what’s around you. Step back, look around you, and smile. Sharing your smile will light up the room and give others a sense of positivity.
Taking care of our mental health is as important as taking care of our physical health. Hundreds of studies are constantly proving the extreme benefits of daily meditation to our mental and physical health. Just 20 minutes a day of sitting still and watching your thoughts stroll by while focusing on your breathing can make wonders for you! Here are some examples of amazing benefits meditation can bring.
Meditation Boosts Your Health and Positively Changes Your Brain
Numerous scientists have found that mindfulness meditation has a significantly positive effect on our brain and immune system. It can also decrease pain and lower inflammations at the cellular level. Additionally, scientists noticed some physical changes on brains of people who meditate regularly. For example, they found that these patients experience increased cortical thickness and growth of grey matter, which is connected with better focus and memory. Also, these individuals have a larger volume of areas in their brain that are related to emotional regulation and self-control.
Meditation Brings Positive Emotions and Improves Mental Health
We all want to be happy. Luckily, meditation can help us achieve that goal. Studies have shown that it can decrease anxiety and depression, as well as lower everyday stress we’re experiencing. Additionally, it brings positive emotions, like joy and calmness. There are also “loving-kindness” types of meditation, which bring feelings of warm love and fulfillment.
Meditation Betters Your Social Life
Although meditation is (usually) an alone activity, it actually increases your sense of connection to others. This happens because meditating can enhance your emotional intelligence and make you more compassionate. Additionally, it can make you more introspective and more in control of your emotions, which all appears attractive to others, making you a desirable individual for connection (friendship, romantic relationship etc.).
Meditating daily is incredibly important for your mental health. So, make a change today! Brain Sync offers customers a free-guided meditation sample. You can start from here: http://www.brainsync.com/free-guided-meditation-online
According to research conducted by American Psychological Association about stress at work, two in five employees experience stress during their typical workday. In other words, almost half of the employed population is stressed every day. This number is huge and concerning.
The same study shows that less than six in ten employees report to have resources to manage work stress. But knowing how to face stressful situations without feeling overwhelmed is extremely important, not just for your workplace success, but for your physical and mental health. Untreated chronic stress can cause insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure, all the way to serious conditions such as depression, heart disease and obesity.
So, here are 5 helpful and research-backed up techniques that can help you reduce stress and save your health:
1. Give yourself permission to step away from the stressor
That’s right. Sometimes we feel obligated to feel stressed, because somewhere deep down, we believe that we’re controlling the situation to some extent by feeling stressed. There is almost unconscious fear that if we let it go, everything will fall apart. Because of this, we clench to the stressful situation in hope that we’ll somehow fix it if we stress enough about it. But we won’t. And if you give yourself permission to step away from the thing that’s causing you stress, and let yourself do something else, there’s a high chance you’ll get the new perspective and solve the problem more efficiently after some time. Even if you don’t, at least you’ll get rid of some portion of that stress. This doesn’t mean to run away from all stressful situations; it just means that you should let yourself step away from it for a little while, and take care of yourself, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes.
Yeah, this is a classic one. But it really works! Research shows that daily exercise significantly reduces stress experienced during the day. Working out clears your mind and strengthens not just your body, but your abilities to cope with stressful situations too.
3. Laugh it off
Did you know that neuroscience discovered that, when you fake a smile, it activates the same parts of your brain that light up when you’re smiling for real. In other words, just a simple facial expression of smiling can, after a while, trick your brain into feeling better. The real smile is always the best solution, of course, but research suggest that, to some degree, you can fake it ’til you make it. So, try to forget about your grumpy boss and remember that funny cat from that YouTube video. It’ll elicit smile on your face, and you can start from there.
4. Speak with someone about your concerns
Social support matters. When you talk to someone you trust, it really takes off the burden off of your chest. Talk about your distress, your feelings and your concerns, and be open to advice. Even if you don’t end up with the solution, just speaking it out helps alleviate the pressure.
Maybe you heard it before, but mindfulness and meditation really increase the quality of your life. Practicing it daily leads to getting to know yourself better, and with that, to start being honest with yourself about your feelings. From there, you can recognize how exactly you’re feeling when you face a stressful situation and learn to release that pressure on a healthy way. Meditation can help you step out of your head and get the new perspective on the problem. Finally, meditation will teach you how to relax and release the tension you might be holding when you feel stressed. Try it out; it’s one of the easiest techniques you can implement to your daily routine today to improve your well-being.