We all know that healthy diet, regular exercise, fresh air, sun and enough sleep all reduce stress and improve our mood.
I can hear you saying: “I have tried them all but they don’t work.”
Because on a bad day, when nothing goes well, all you can think of is take-away food, a glass of wine and a couch. Going to the gym or for a walk and cooking a healthy meal after work requires discipline and excess energy, which you don’t always have. That’s why those strategies, whilst valuable, are not enough.
What is required is to put oneself in the right frame of mind and have the right attitude…. as often as possible.
A good starting point to deal with anxiety and stress is:
1. Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness is having the ability to pay attention to the present moment purposefully and non-judgmentally. In order to be able to achieve that more often than occasionally, we need to train our brain by regularly practicing – meditating, which is engaging in a single activity for a period of time. Such activity may involve deep breathing, visualization or mantra.
The more we engage in a relaxation activity, the more we can control our stress and anxiety.
Researchers have shown that adrenaline and cortisol hormones produced in our bodies to help us deal with stressful or dangerous situations can be controlled by regular meditation.
Consequently, by slowing down our breath, our blood pressure and heart rate, otherwise increased by adrenaline, drop.
2. Self-Talk In Check
Margaret Thatcher once said: ‘Watch your thoughts, for they will become actions. Watch your actions, for they’ll become habits. Watch your habits for they will forge your character. Watch your character, for it will make your destiny.”
And so your thoughts become your destiny.
The trick lies in having the ability to catch ourselves having those thoughts, and if they are negative we need to learn to take control over them before they start controlling us.
How do we do that?
The skill lies in observation.
We need to perceive ourselves as the observer of our thoughts, separate from them.
Rather than thinking of oneself as “stupid”, perceive yourself as the one who is thinking such a thought.
The thought is not the reality. It is just a thought, just one way of perceiving the reality.
The less we identify ourselves with our thoughts, negative or positive, the more balanced we are, less egocentric and in control of our emotions.
The more we are able to control our emotions and emotional reactions in stressful situations, the more likely we are to remain calm.
The stress, pain and misfortune are a part of life. It’s not what happens to us, it’s how we respond that matters.
3. Developing self awareness and other aspects of EQ
In order to control our thought processes and be able to catch ourselves thinking negative thoughts we first need to understand our patterns of behavior, our trigger points and our limiting beliefs.
A self-aware person recognizes what is most important to them – they know their values. They are clear on what they want to achieve in life and career – they know their purpose and vision and consequently, they set meaningful goals.
Having such awareness permits focus and discipline in following a designed life and career path. It also explains why we are sensitive or have strong reactions in situations we are emotionally invested in, over others.
It may be as a result of someone else’s words about us or as a result of our own thoughts that we start feeling anxious.
Regardless of what is the cause, having an awareness of why we react in a certain way allows us to create distance between ourselves and that thought, and therefore not engage.
4. Connecting with others
Hormones play a big part in maintaining our calm.
The more we connect with others, mentally as well as physically, the happier we are.
Having a conversation, sharing an experience, agreeing on a point of view all contribute to connectivity.
We can encourage connection by showing interest and being genuinely curious: asking questions of others and paraphrasing what we hear.
Positive conversations make physical connection easier and more natural to occur. Therefore, a handshake followed by a shoulder touch or an embrace and a hug (shared more among women than men) all contribute to a good feeling and release of happy hormones.
On a final note
By becoming aware that you are stressed, begin to mediate, practice mindfulness, watch your thoughts and you will instantly relieve your stress and anxiety.
Kasia is an executive coach and facilitator of leadership development with over 15 years of experience empowering individuals and organisations around the globe.
Currently Kasia works extensively with professional women who are challenged by not being respected and recognized. She helps them develop self-confidence and courage to be who they truly are and achieve meaningful success.
In a nutshell
A good starting point to deal with stress is to:
- Practice mindfulness and meditate as this helps to control your stress and anxiety.
- Keep your self-talk in check. Watch your thoughts, they become your actions, which become your habits which forge your character which becomes your destiny.
- Develop self-awareness and emotional intelligence which helps preserve your values.
- The more you connect with others the more you release oxytocin, the antidote of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.