Monthly Archives: February 2018

Tips on dealing with stress

Article 28 Feb

#Stress #Wellness #MentalWellness #Health #StressManagement

I’ve heard this question many times: “How does stress really influence my wellbeing?” Have a look at the image above. It clearly shows you how stress (and anxiety) can influence your body and mind.

This is old news for most wellness practitioners and, perhaps, for the public. But the problem is that we have become so used to being stressed, that we do not even notice it anymore. We have such busy lives, that, once stress affects you physically, you immediately have treatment to alleviate the symptoms just so that you can continue your very stressful life.

Stress builds up and eventually you will ‘crack’ under pressure. How often have you noticed that something meaningless can totally frazzle you? Something that, if it happened on another day, would not have had the same influence on you. You become unglued and the influence of your stress starts to reach further than yourself. It permeates your relationships, your lifestyle and consumes your identity. Does it sound far-fetched? It is not, believe me. Why do you think that many people feel confused and without purpose anymore? Why do people feel helpless and out of control?

Stress is a symptom of our times and cannot be avoided. We all have stress in our lives, and while some people can deal with it beautifully, others simply crumble beneath its onslaught. Dealing with stress is never easy, but there are ways that you can bring subtle changes in order to minimize its impact on your everyday life and your overall health. One also needs to remember that moderate stress is essential if you want to thrive. Stress can be positively channeled and used as a means to fuel our motivational strategies.

If you are suffering the ill effects of badly managed stress, you may want to take note of these 7 ways that mentally strong people use to deal with stress in their lives [Morin:2015].

They accept that stress is part of life. Unfortunately both good and bad stress is a reality we need to live with. The positive side to this is, that once you expect stress, you can also prepare for it. By taking care of your physical health and by preparing mentally for life and its challenges, you will be stronger and more likely to deal efficiently with challenging stressors.

They keep problems in proper perspective. Human beings have a default mindset that often exaggerate circumstances. We need to look at the bigger picture and see a specific problem within the bigger scheme of things.

They take care of their physical health. No matter how you try to shy away from it, the fact remains that exercise and healthy eating habits pay off. A warrior never go to war without his armor. You need to see your physical body as the armor with which you enter life’s battlefield every day. Your armor must be strong enough to withstand the enemy, which in this case is stressful situations. Weak armor will simply crumble and you will be unable to cope.

They choose healthy coping skills. We live in a society that has become so comfortable in seeking the easy way out. Instead of dealing with issues, many people will turn to ‘quick-fix ideas’. To cope with stress you will therefore find that many turn to alcohol or drug abuse, many become violent or seek other vices that endanger themselves or others. This is all a way to escape the reality of everyday life. People with a healthy mental attitude will prefer to channel the ‘negative’ emotions caused by stress into alternative activities, something that still allows for these feelings to exist, while giving them a mental and physical break from the impact stress may have. Hiking in nature, hobbies, volunteering, yoga, meditation and even an evening walk with your dog may relieve the symptoms of stress and clear your mind.

They balance social activity with solitude. Many times people feel like they want to avoid stress altogether, then they can either cram their schedules with activities in order to avoid dealing with the real problem or they can withdraw from society in an effort to ignore the problem and avoid confrontation. The secret is balance. Like with anything in life, stress is caused by mental overload. If you work too much or socialize too much, you get stressed and anxious. Even when you are alone, you can become stressed when your thoughts turn to work that needs doing or problems that need solving. Having a healthy support system is important and cultivating good relationships essential, but we need not socialize constantly. We need alone time to gather our thoughts, to meditate and to take care of ourselves.

They acknowledge their choices. We have the luxury of choice. We choose how we live, what we do and when we do it. Often, though, we tend to blame circumstances for certain stressful issues and while some events may be out of our control, we can still choose how we deal with them. Having a healthy attitude towards life means that you take responsibility for your behavior at all times. If you know you will not be able to deal with something, learn to say ‘no’ and accept it. Don’t burden yourself with cares and worries because of your choice, let it go. If you accept a challenge, if you choose ‘yes’, take responsibility for that and understand that no one is to blame but yourself.

They look for the silver lining. I heard a beautiful sentiment the other day: ‘If things have not worked out yet, it is not the end’. When you feel worn out by stress in life, don’t falter, don’t lose hope, this is NOT the end yet! Life is a journey and we have many experiences along the way. Develop a sunny attitude, be positive, despite how things are going at the moment. There is ALWAYS a bright side to everything, you just need to look for it.

It may seem tough at first, but once you’ve managed to integrate these tips as part of your life, things will indeed get easier. The point is, one should never lose sight of who you are, where you are, what your goals are. Everything in life needs to be evaluated in that manner, even something simple like an argument with a colleague. If you disagree with a co-worker about something, remember who you are, what your basic moral values are. These will help you to NOT say or do things that you may later regret. Where you are – what was your contribution to this argument? What is your position in this ‘fight’? What your goals are – what can YOU do to resolve this issue?

Once we take responsibility to manage our own stress, we will be able to live more balanced lives. We will, once again, be able to BREATHE.

SOURCES:

MORIN, Amy.  2015.  7 Ways mentally strong people deal with stressPsychology Today –  bit.ly/1g9QVAU

IMAGE SOURCE:

Sky’s the limit Natural Healing on Instagram – bit.ly/2oyr78k

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Take care of yourself: top tips how

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#SelfCare #SelfImprovement #Happiness #StressRelief

Read the full article by Emma Boucher  here.

IMAGE SOURCE:

BOUCHER, Emma.  2015.  10 Top self-care tips every busy woman needs.  [Web:] bit.ly/2owjlvG

THE SECRET ART OF LIVING IN THE ‘NOW’.

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Image via Omar Mendoza on LinkedIn: bit.ly/2EDjarX

@psychtoday #livinginthenow #LiveWell #mindfulness

“Everyone agrees it’s important to live in the moment, but the problem is how,” says Ellen Langer, a psychologist at Harvard and author of Mindfulness. “When people are not in the moment, they’re not there to know that they’re not there.” Overriding the distraction reflex and awakening to the present takes intentionality and practice.” [Dixit:2008].

This is true. Living in the now rarely comes easy to anyone. I, for one, have a mind that jumps from idea to idea and thought to thought incessantly. I think if I moved around as much as my mind does, I’ll be the fittest person in the whole world!

It is, unfortunately, the ‘sickness’ of our times. You cannot just focus on work.  While you are there you are constantly distracted by phone calls, colleagues dropping in with assignments or just to chat, and that is just the things you experience while you sit behind your desk. Behind your forehead  your mind is busy ALL THE TIME: must pick up the kids at two, what will be for lunch/dinner, remember the present for Mom, oh and it’s Valentine’s Day….roses, wine, chocolates for hubby, etc, etc and so on and so forth. No wonder we suffer from exhaustion and terminal depression!

‘In the now’ seems impossible, doesn’t it? Well, let me share a secret with you; while you are so busy overthinking everything, planning and plotting your next move or mulling over past mistakes, life is passing you by. You are MISSING EVERYTHING that goes on around you!

Dixit’s article in Psychology Today  gives a few tips on how to practice your ‘now-mindset’ . I’m writing a shorter version for your reading pleasure, but you should really read the full article here.

Below a summary of some pointers for those of us having trouble taming our unruly thoughts:

  1. Stop being so self-conscious.

Do not overthink what you are doing now. Just let go and DO it. If you are, for instance, asked to draw a picture of a flower. Don’t fret about the type, what colour, what medium, how big or small, just GET ON WITH IT! Grab what you have at hand and draw that flower, you may surprise yourself and, who knows, even ENJOY what you did for a change!

  1. Enjoy the moment.

Stop worrying about the future or the past. Let it go and enjoy what you have NOW, here, this moment. If you are, for instance, on the beach, you might think: “The weather is so beautiful, I hope tomorrow will be so sunny too.” While this thought may seem innocent enough, it has already re-focused your mind to what is going to happen tomorrow. While you are fretting about this, the beautiful day at the beach is passing you by and you are MISSING OUT!

  1. Just BREATHE!

Meditation experts and yogis alike know this. Focus on your breathing to bring your thoughts back to the present. Breathing helps us to reconsider things. It may be that you are having a disagreement with a colleague or you are stuck with a maths problem, whatever it is, if you just close your eyes for a second and BREATHE, your mind will literally reorganize itself and bring everything back to ‘the now’. You will be able to think clearer and, by focusing on breathing, all other distractions will disappear.

  1. Flow with the moment.

What is meant by ‘flow’? Well, in short, it means being so involved with something you are doing that you lose track of time. Flow means you are focusing on the task at hand, without even noticing distractions. Dixit mentions the example of a pianist, who will focus on a piece of music, setting himself a goal of finishing the first few bars, then the next and he will immediately hear if he makes a mistake. For him nothing else but the piano and the music exist.

You can do this too by consciously focusing on getting things done, one little bit at a time and actively avoiding distractions.

  1. Accept what is wrong in your life.

Ask yourself this question: if something in my life is so terrible that I cannot possibly change it without enormous effort, should I allow it to spoil my enjoyment of life as a whole? The secret is to understand that your emotions connected with a bad situation is real, it is there, lingering in your mind.  Recognize it and accept it, but do not let it tease you into thoughts of despair.  You can still enjoy every moment, even with bad things going on.

That bad thing is not happening NOW, is it?? It is normal to have moments of sadness or anxiety about that which we cannot control, but focusing all your thoughts and energy on those negative emotions will do no good.  An example may be a car accident. Say, for instance, you and your family are in an accident. The car is written off, but you guys are fine. Yes, you can get all depressed about the wrecked car, worry about the insurance claim, the time you may spend without a car while yours is getting fixed, this is all normal. You may feel sad, upset and anxious, but don’t let those negative thoughts overpower the fact that your family is fine, without a scratch, IN THIS MOMENT! That is something to celebrate, don’t you agree?

  1. Engage with the moment.

I’ve experienced this many times over the years. You’re on autopilot and do things that you are not even aware of. Sometimes when driving, I will end up somewhere and not be able to recall the drive there. Or I’ll do chores at home and end up with a clean house, but no memory of the day. I zoned out completely! This may sound very funny (and it actually is, in a way), but it is also very disturbing to lose an entire day.

We should practice to engage with every moment of our lives. While driving somewhere, look at your surroundings, you may be pleasantly surprised about the view you’ve been missing all this time. When you clean your house, look at the items you’re dusting, appreciate them for a change. Remember, some of the items have stories attached to them and you should enjoy them for what they represent in your life.

I know what you will be saying: “This sounds like work.” Well, that’s the fun part! Being in the now is not work at all. Yes, it takes some practice to change your busy mind habit, but you can start immediately, with small things.

Where ever you are now, just stop for a minute and breathe, take in the scenery, be thankful you’re alive, appreciate the sunshine outside. That, my friends, is all it takes.

You don’t need to bend and shape your life around this ‘new’ idea. Living in the now doesn’t mean setting goals and reaching for the stars. You don’t have to look for it or strive to achieve it, because you are already there.

Do yourself a favour and read the full article by Jay Dixit here.

SOURCES:

DIXIT, Jay.  2008.  The Art of Now: Six Steps to Living in the Moment[Web:] https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200811/the-art-now-six-steps-living-in-the-moment [Date of Access:] February 14, 2018. [Short link: bit.ly/1RJmwrb]

IMAGE SOURCE:

MENDOZA, Omar.  2014.  The power of the now.  [Web:] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141030214042-195965566-the-power-of-the-now/  [Date of access:]  February 14, 2018 [Short link: bit.ly/2EDjarX]