Top 10 tips for stress prevention and promoting well-being
When things are tough, try one or more of the following:
1) Role modelling
How would someone I admire be handling things? This is someone you look up to, either famous or non-famous (friends, relatives etc.). Think about what they would be doing and how they would be acting, and try and do the same.
2) Best friend advice
What advice would I give to my best friend in the same (difficult) situation? This can be useful as it enables us to take a ‘3rd party’/detached view of things. It’ll be helpful too as we like our best friend, we respect our best friend, and we won’t beat our best friend up in the way we do ourselves sometimes.
3) Ask yourself, "is this situation within my control?"
If it’s not, let it go (this is a way of taking control). This is easier said than done I know, especially when something is terrifically important to us. We do take back the power though if we can acknowledge and identify that some things are beyond our control.
4) Realistic optimism
What would an optimist be doing/saying? Try and think how they would think, and do what they would do. This isn’t about kidding ourselves that everything’s alright, despite evidence to the contrary. It is about not letting negative thoughts and behaviours hinder our progress and well-being. Optimism will help us to deal with setbacks, and good things are more likely to happen to us.
5) Try not to assume ‘victim status’
When life is hard, it’s easy to feel sorry for ourselves, as a kind of defence mechanism. This is of course perfectly natural, acceptable and understandable, though we mustn’t let this become our default setting, as it can hamper us in dealing with adversity and getting the most out of situations.
Feeling sorry for yourself short term: generally okay.
Feeling sorry for yourself long term: generally not okay.
And in general, day-to-day:
6) Try a relaxation technique
How long have you been breathing, and are you any good at it? If we’re breathing deeply, from the diaphragm, it helps to relax us, and it’s very difficult to be tense. We’re then more able to deal with our day-to-day lives, and to think rationally and clearly. We’re also more likely to be healthy physically. Notice how you’re breathing. Try a breathing exercise like the ‘Benson relaxation technique’ (you can find it online).
It’s good for you psychologically: if you’re physically fit you’re more likely to be psychologically fit.
It’s good for your brain and helps with concentration, memory and learning.
You don’t have to go to the gym every day - just build in some walking or another exercise for 15/20 minutes every day. Don’t overdo it, but try and get your heart rate up if you can.
8) Do what makes you feel good
This is important especially if you used to do things you enjoyed which you’ve now stopped doing (because you’re a parent/professional/married/etc and you now haven’t got time… make some time). As long as it’s legal, and your enjoyment isn’t harming anyone else, don’t forget to do those things that make you feel fulfilled and happy. Life is too short not to, and you’ll end up being a better parent/professional/married person etc if you are experiencing those emotions.
9) Go easy on yourself
Do not give yourself a hard time when you make a mistake or things go wrong. If it spurs you on to re-double your efforts and go again, then fine. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time and energy, and is demotivating and tiring. This is especially so when you’ve made that particular mistake just the once: you are only human after all! You can just say to yourself "these things happen" and "won’t be doing that again" and move on.
10) Tell yourself you can do it/you can get through it
We can lack persistence sometimes, and give up when we encounter a hurdle or things don’t go well. If that’s you, remind yourself of the times when you were successful, of the good things that have happened to you and will be happening to you, and that you have been and can be resourceful. That way, you’ll approach and deal with situations more effectively.
These are 10 of the most useful tips, and I hope you’ll try at least one or two of them. You may not have been very skilled at some of them previously. Do be encouraged though by the fact that the more you practice the above, the better you’ll get, and, with practice, we’re aiming for it to come naturally. I have faith in you (and I want you to have faith in you too!).
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About Marc Kirby
Marc has been involved in training, coaching and developing people for over 30 years. His interest is in supporting individuals to make the most of themselves; to maximise their potential; to perform to their best and to live their lives to the full. He runs Stress Management Plus, and Developing Connections, in Reading, Berkshire.