4 Surefire Ways to Identify Your Personal Stress Triggers
In small amounts, stress is good for us. The hormone cortisol invokes the fight-or-flight response, keeping us alert to what we perceive as danger. This is acute stress, which simply means relatively minor stress on a sporadic basis.
This type of stress kicks in when you’re about to give a speech or make toast in public. The thought of embarrassment makes you all the more determined to stay sharp and clear-minded.
However, chronic stress (prolonged periods of worry) often over nothing major can have very harmful effects on your health. Besides being a known gateway into depression, chronic stress raises your blood pressure and can cause you to have a stroke or a heart attack.
Chronic stress is habitual, so it will take some time to get rid of. Identifying what sets you off is one of the first steps you can take towards a lighter heart and a happier mind.
1. Keep a diary
Yes, this old chestnut again. Jot down everything that stresses you out in the day: traffic, your boss’s voice, the painfully slow barista, the lady who cuts queue when you’re already running late. It doesn’t have to be rational – you just have to note it down. You may also want to score each situation on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most stressful.
The idea is to get a look at the amount of stress you handle on any given day. Once you do, it’s likely that you will realize just how much and how soon you need some management techniques.
2. Look for patterns
After you’ve diligently noted everything for two weeks, look for patterns. What has stressed you out the most? Was it the ‘snail’s-pace’ barista? If so, why? Is it because you were running late? Or was it his general laidback attitude that annoyed you intensely?
If you were running late for an appointment, just start out 10 minutes earlier. Try it a few times and see if you feel better getting your coffee. If this doesn’t work, simply switch coffee places.
The idea is to look at what sets you off on a daily basis. Start your day stressed and there’s virtually zero chance of it getting better.
3. Thought control
Thoughts become feelings very fast, and what follows negative feelings is usually stress and anger. For example: a colleague may have made a remark that sounded nasty and hurtful to you. You didn’t deal with it in the moment but now it’s in your mind festering.
You’re angry, you feel let down, you can’t believe that you have to work with such a person every single day. You’re probably at home losing sleep over this and unable to do anything because it’s the middle of the night.
This is as familiar a scenario as it gets.
So, when the thought of “vicious colleague” comes to mind, cut it off immediately. It will try and come back, so you need to be alert and cut it off again. Choose one of two ways to deal with it. Ask yourself if this colleague is the sort of person who’s in the habit of making such remarks.
If it’s a definitive “no”, then the remark was probably worded badly and not aimed at diminishing you.
If you can’t say for sure, tell yourself that you’ll approach this colleague as soon as you can. Prepare a script before you go. The last thing you need is for the situation to blow up and cause you more stress.
Say something like “Hey, you said something about my assignment this morning. It sounded like you were taking a dig at me. Did I get this wrong?”
This way, you’ll find out if you did indeed get it wrong. If you didn’t, you can tell this person that you won’t take any snarky attitude lying down. If they know they’ll be confronted after a certain type of behavior, chances are high that they won’t repeat it.
4. Deep-rooted triggers
Let’s assume that you have a boss who speaks to you in a certain tone of voice. Others seem to be able to deal with it easily but try as you may, you just can’t tolerate it and it aggravates you on a daily basis… and you don’t know why. In instances such as these, it may be useful to go through some of your stress issues with a counselor. Another option is to do guided meditation with a certified practitioner who can help you figure out why you are particularly sensitive to that tone.
It may be that you were bullied as a kid and something about your boss’s voice reminds you of that. It could be that the tone brings back an incident that made you feel small and unworthy.
Your boss may not actually be trying to do any of those things, but that sound brings back emotions that puzzle and hurt you. Once you’ve identified the trigger, you can separate your boss from incidents of your past, and you will be able to listen to that voice without feeling fearful or upset.
It’s important that you work through these issues with a qualified practitioner. An app is no substitute and in this instance, could end up doing more harm.
Stress is a fact of life. There’s no way to avoid it so the only thing you can do is prevent it from hurting you. You gotten through life this far and you will continue. Better days lie ahead.
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Friday, December 22, 2017
Saturday, December 9, 2017
If you suffer from chronic stress, you may have been told time and again to exercise. However, having a tennis match with your buddy from work may actually stress you out more because of the competitive nature of the sport.
What you really want to do is to engage in sports that give you an outlet to release stress. The wrong exercise will not help you. You may try a long walk, but the thoughts keep circling around your mind like a never-ending carousel. Soon, you’re circling back home to finish the 24 new tasks that you thought up while on the walk.
Exercise is undoubtedly a powerful relaxant. When your muscles are used correctly, they remain loose instead of restricted by spasm. This means better sleep, which means less stress.
So, how do you get this whole exercise thing going?
Your first step is to go for a massage. Yes, you read that right. Get someone to help relax your muscles first – go for two massages, if necessary. Massage releases serotonin, the chemical mood- and sleep-regulator. You’ll feel better in body and in mind, and you’ll find that your attempts at exercise are far more productive.
Yoga is, of course, a no-brainer, but if that’s not for you, these are 4 great exercises for stress-management.
- Walk in a pool
This is an unusual but highly effective way to relax your muscles. If you have access to a community pool, you can get started right away. All you have to do is go down to a level where the water reaches just under your collar bone. Your head should be well above.
Now walk forwards across the pool so that you keep the same depth throughout. The water creates resistance which will help work your muscles out. Also, your body feels much lighter in water, so you do far more exercise than you think. Do that five times and when you’re done, start walking backwards.
Some people use a water noodle. It gives you something to hold on to and serves as a guide to walk a straight(ish) line. Don’t attempt too much at one go; it may feel easy, but it can be tough on your muscles when you get out of the water. A bonus of this exercise is the relaxing sound of water.
Named after its founder, Joseph Pilates, this is a set of exercises that stretch your muscles in small, deep movements. You can ether do mat Pilates (which is just what it sounds like) or use machines called reformers. Pilates is similar to yoga in that it is a mind-body workout.
You’ll get the maximum benefit if you follow the breathing rhythms for each type of exercise. It works on building your core muscles and aligning your pelvis and spine. It also strengthens your back muscles. All this leads to a great posture.
A lot of the tiredness we experience today comes from our inability to hold ourselves up properly by using the right muscles. A bad posture saps our energy largely because we don’t rely on the correct muscles to help us.
That’s why even sedentary jobs take so much out of us. Pilates also tones your muscles beautifully, giving you a great-looking body. Now imagine what that does for your stress levels!
- Horseback riding
Yes, we have rather an unusual list here. Most people shy away from horseback riding as an exercise because of its well-publicized dangers. While those risks are real, there is much you can do to mitigate them. The benefit of riding could be just what you need because it de-stresses you on many levels.
Firstly, if you like animals, this is perfect. Being around animals can be very therapeutic; exercising with them even more so. Secondly, horseback riding is a full-body workout. Just half an hour on a horse, walking, trotting or cantering works your muscles from top to toe.
Thirdly, you need to have a “tall upper body” on a horse, which is just lingo for having a good posture. This is imperative. Slouch and your riding technique goes out the window along with the benefits. Horseback riding works muscles in groups as well as in isolation.
Finally, you have to be absolutely calm when riding. Your mind and body are one, and you are centered. Your entire focus is on getting the horse to do what you want it to.
Ground yourself that way, and you will have the time of your life. Horses are magnificently intelligent and highly intuitive creatures. If your mind wanders, your horse will sense it in seconds, and before long he’ll be doing exactly as he pleases. It may not feel good and it definitely won’t look good!
Dance like no one is watching, dance to household chores, dance off your frustration – just dance. If you don’t believe how much energy you work off by moving to music, wear a Fitbit or any kind of activity tracker next time you go to a concert.
You can take a class if you want to learn a style of dance but if you just want the workout, start making those playlists now. You’ll enjoy the elation and release listening to your favorite music and the exercise will release serotonin, the chemical that helps you get things done. If your main cause of stress is work, it’s a good idea to add dancing to your exercise regime.
Exercise is essential for everyone, but if your focus for the moment is reducing stress, the suggestions above are solid options for you. Stay away from anything competitive. Your aim is to have a good time while giving your body and mind a break from the rat race.
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
3 Immediate Lifestyle Changes to Alleviate Stress
The most recent statistic from the National Sleep Foundation states that almost 50% of the American population suffers from poor sleep at least once a week. Think about that: that’s about 150 million people every single week whose sleep cycles interfere greatly with their lifestyles.
We all know that one of the main culprits is stress. Stress affects both the quantity and quality of your sleep. You wake up unrested and push through another day. You probably don’t achieve quite as much as you’d have liked to, and this adds another tier of stress which affects your sleep… and a vicious cycle is born.
The good news is that you can take immediate action to improve your sleep patterns and consequently reduce your stress levels.
- Your bedroom
Is your bedroom a soothing shelter from the storm? Or do you sit in bed with your laptop finishing up your work? Your bedroom is sacrosanct. If it is the scene of many a disagreement with your spouse, put a stop to that right now.
Find another place to work things out. The bedroom must only be associated with soul-nourishing thoughts and feelings. It may sound new age and ‘hokey’ but the vibes that are given off in your bedroom will affect the ‘feel’ of the room.
- Your sleeping environment
The physical features of your bedroom are also very important. The temperature has to accommodate the weather and your body’s comfort level. Keep adjusting this till you find what’s suitable for you. In fact, be open to changing the temperature often. The seasons may be somewhat predictable but the way your body feels from day to day is not quite as fixed.
Make sure you have a good mattress. ‘Good’ doesn’t have to mean ‘expensive’ – you just have to find one that works for you. You’ll find many recommendations but the only thing that matters is that it makes you feel relaxed.
Go to a mattress store and spend a decent amount of time there testing out as many as you can. Don’t settle on one on that same day. Go back the next day, test your shortlisted options and you’ll find the one that’s meant for you.
If you’re a poor sleeper, you have to find a way to control the sounds in your bedroom. The regular solution is to downloads MP3s with the usual soothing sounds: the ocean, a summer’s day garden, and of course, the rainforest.
It may be the case that none of these work for you. Some people actually find relaxation and comfort listening to their families chatting and playing outside. Some enjoy the sound of a thunderstorm. Get creative and watch that stress melt away.
Also, look at the lighting situation in your bedroom. Do you have to get out of bed to turn all the lights off? If so, get a bedside lamp immediately. Are your curtains or blinds “blackout” ones that shut out all light, even during that day? This may sound like a good idea but it may be more difficult to wake up in the morning.
Look into the amount of light you are comfortable with and modify your bedroom accordingly.
- Stop work
This may seem obvious but in a world dominated by smartphones and few boundaries, you have to train yourself to wind down from work. You will inevitably get text messages and emails after you’ve returned from the office. Most of us are tempted to reply them on the spot, either because it’s become an automatic response or because we want to get them out of the way.
It isn’t easy to shut off but it is necessary. Your mind needs a rest from work; otherwise, it’s only your body that’s home from the office. Decide on a time to stop looking at work messages and emails.
It should be at least 2 hours before your bedtime. Use those two hours to do something completely different from work such as play a game with the kids, sit down to a good dinner, take the dog to the park or anything that gives you a mental break from the daily stresses of life.
Think about other stress-management tools you can use to improve your sleep. Ultimately, no-one is better positioned than you to create the perfect, most restful sleeping conditions for yourself.
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