Five steps to relieving feelings of stress
Several years ago, I suffered a long period of stress to the extent that it almost became my new normal. I was tense all the time, wasn’t able to get a good night’s sleep, and couldn’t relax at all – ever! I kept going, doing the same things each day that I had done the day before, realising that I was suffering from stress, but not really knowing how to free myself from the situation.
When the external factors causing the stress finally changed, the relief was enormous and for the following week, my whole body ached. Looking back, I wish I knew then what I do now about recognising the signs earlier and the different ways we can look after ourselves when we are going through stressful times.
In this article, I share my thoughts about the impacts of stress and five practical steps we can take to relieve stress in our bodies.
How stress impacts us
Most people feel stress at certain times in their life and it’s a normal response to a recognised external threat. Stress is the body’s physical response to mental or emotional pressure. The body feels under attack and goes into fight or flight mode, releasing hormones to prepare you for action. This can be helpful in some situations, as it is key to our survival, but can be detrimental when it begins interfering with daily life, as it did in my story.
The triggers for stress are different for everyone and some people are less likely to be affected by stress than others. In addition, your own reactions to different external factors can vary; you might cope well with one type of problem but be severely affected by another.
Stress is different to anxiety, which can sometimes seem as if nothing is triggering it. Many of the symptoms are similar, so it can often be tricky to tell the difference. However, the symptoms of stress release once the situation causing it has passed, whilst anxiety can linger, or become a permanent state. A sustained period of stress can result in anxiety or depression.
Feeling stressed for a long time can impact our physical and mental well-being.
As well as releasing hormones into our bodies, it increases blood flow and raises our heart rate, as our bodies get ready to fight, or flee. We find ourselves worrying more, over-analysing things and have difficulty processing rational thoughts. Sleep is disrupted, resulting in tiredness which can make other symptoms worse.
How we can look after ourselves during times of stress
We cannot always control what is going on in the environment and therefore the triggers for our stress. So, when faced with stress in our lives, what are some of the things we can do to relieve stress in our body, and prevent it from impacting every aspect of our life?
Here are five practical steps you can take to effectively manage your own levels of stress.
1. Spot the early signs
Noticing the changes in yourself when you begin to feel stressed is the first step. This is different for everyone and spotting your own low-level reactions will help you to begin managing it, sometimes before you are consciously aware that something has caused you to feel stressed.
2. Keep an eye on your stress cup
Think of it like your tea, or coffee cup. You can fill it to a certain level, and it will be fine. Fill it too much and it will spill when you pick it up. Fill it even more and it will overflow onto the surface. Once you can spot the early signs, keep an eye on how full your cup is. If it starts to get too full, it’s a sign that you need to empty some of the contents.
3. Identify your de-stressors
What works for you will be different to the things I find helpful for reducing my stress levels, but here are a few examples; exercise (for me that means running or going for a walk) is a great way to reduce stress.
I find gardening to be very calming – for you, it might be another hobby or interest. Listening to music, or reading a good book are also great for taking your mind off the situation and easing your stress.
Find out what works for you and have them as your go-to activities when your stress cup is beginning to get too full.
4. Process thoughts properly
When we feel stressed it can be difficult to untangle the thoughts inside our head. The internal chatter gets louder, and thoughts and feelings swirl around for longer, refusing to go away. Writing down all your thoughts, feelings and worries enables you to take a good look at them and work through them one at a time.
Once they are written down, ask yourself, what meaning am I giving the situation that is making me feel this way? What action can I take? What worries are worth worrying about properly? Sometimes just writing it all down is a release.
5. Keep your certainty and significance buckets topped up
Identifying ways to fill your certainty and significance buckets can help you to feel less stressed. Write down all the things which make you feel safe, secure, and good about yourself, then work out how you can build these into your daily routine. Building your own resilience through these additional activities can help to reduce the symptoms.
Talking to someone about how you are feeling is often a good release, and I often hear the phrase, “I feel so much better for just having talked about it,” from my clients.
Resource anchors are an amazing way to trigger good thoughts, feelings, and physiological responses within our bodies. For stress, a calm and relaxed anchor works brilliantly, as does a sleep anchor if stress is preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep. If you would like to find out more about how this might help you, get in touch. I would love to hear from you.