During times of great uncertainty and transition, stress can get the better of us. It’s during these times that we need to be most kind toward ourselves, so that we may in turn share that same tenderness and generosity with others.
Below, I share ten tips to help you manage stress with mindfulness. Regardless of what causes your stress, there are a number of meaningful steps you can take to manage it:
1. Make a list of your personal stressors. Physically writing down what’s stressing or worrying you can help you deconstruct them, making them less overwhelming and more manageable by externalizing them. We don’t have to BE them; we can simply have them. Remember: stressors are finite – thank goodness for that!
2. Determine which stressors you can change and which ones you can’t. Once you identify a stressor that can’t be changed, ask yourself:
How could I bring a change in attitude or perspective to this?
Can I see this differently?
Can this problem become a learning opportunity or a challenge to overcome?
Can this task become something that gives me a sense of accomplishment?
3. Do one small thing. Can you come up with a small, manageable action or way of beginning to address the stressor? Make sure the action you are going to take is stated in positive and concrete terms – think about what you are going to do rather than what you won’t do. Set a time to start and to finish. Don’t try to do too much. Remember, small steps are key. Progress, no matter how small, is still progress.
4. Build a support network.Can you identify your inner and outer resources for getting support and managing? For example, if you are feeling burned out from work, consider making a list of your internal resources. What are your strengths? Make a list of people, places, activities, or things that could be external supports. Maybe you need an exercise buddy, a friend to vent to regularly, or do an online search for a “meet up” group that might fill a need.
Monitor and write down those times when you feel even a little bit better. Monitoring whatever you do brings some kind of change. Maybe there are small activities you find nourishing that you’ve stopped doing like that cappuccino and podcast you used to listen to first thing in the morning, or simply slowing yourself down and taking a few deep breaths when feeling overwhelmed. Remember: The breath is always with you! Above all, start small and schedule. Trying to do too much will likely result in you not doing anything except wanting to pull the covers over your head in a state of overwhelm.
5. Identify your triggers.Can you become mindful of your automatic and habitual reactions to the stressor? Be curious. Become more self aware and enquire about: what shows up in your experience in terms of your thoughts, emotions, body sensations, behaviours, and impulses to act? Can you write these down using the web of reactivity? After you make a list, ask yourself where and how you might bring mindfulness to these reactions. Perhaps pausing, and taking a breath, bringing attention to body sensations, or bringing curiosity to the experience may disrupt the tendency to cascade into a stress spiral.
6. Your health care starts with self care. What can you do right now that would recharge your own battery? When was the last time you pulled up stumps early and went for a mindful walk, cooked a nutritious dinner and went to bed for a little extra rest and sleep? Moving your body is essential not just for physical wellbeing but also for boosting mood and mental health. Exercise increases productivity and creativity plus reduces cognitive pathologies like depression, Alzheimer’s and dementia. It also makes us happy by producing feel-good chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine.
7. Take your shoes off outdoors. Being in nature has the ability to increase our mood and self-esteem, reduce anxiety and stress and help prevent illness and disease. The earth’s surface contains limitless healing energy. This energy promotes health, harmonizes and stabilises the body’s basic biological rhythms, and neutralizes inflammation. Walking barefoot on the beach or grass promotes the absorption of this healing power.
8. Mindful breathing. Focusing on your breath and being present in what you do is a valuable tool in reducing the stress and pressures of life and helps to maintain a positive attitude. 47% of our time is spent thinking about the past or worrying about the future, which contributes to negative feelings. On the flip side, we’re happiest when fully engaged in the moment, and using our breath as the focal point we can keep ourselves focused on what’s right in front of us. Feel free to join me each Monday at midday for 15mins of guided mindfulness meditation practice – register here
9. Reflection. Taking the time to reflect is a valuable tool for our learning, performance and building self-awareness and self-regulation. These benefits support us to better understand our emotions, strengths, weaknesses and our impact on others, while also allowing us to appreciate where we are at, offering an opportunity to bring positive change to our every day.
10. Finally, remember that everything changes. Nothing lasts forever. And since change is inevitable, we can remind ourselves of this and get a little breathing room if nothing else until the stress storm passes.
Now it’s your turn:
What other tips do you have for managing stress? I’d really love to know what works for you. Leave a comment, or drop me a line and share your ideas with me.
Until next time, let’s carry each other in our hearts, and may you be safe, may you be calm, and may you well.