Stress and anxiety management

What is stress?

Physically, when we feel stressed we find it difficult, if not impossible to relax.  Sleep eludes us despite feeling exhausted - either we can't get to sleep or we wake up in the middle of the night feeling 'wired'.  We might get headaches, stomach churning - eating problems (too much food or not enough), our heart may pound, our breathing gets quicker and we sweat more.  We turn things  over and over in our head - what might happen or go wrong - or we can't stop thinking about something that has already happened and didn't go exactly to plan or how we envisaged it. We feel as though something terrible is going to happen - we might get images of some awful disaster. We can often be our own worse critic and that 'inner critic' can be screaming at you.  This, unfortunately, is all too common but it CAN be changed.

Some stress is ok

A little bit of stress can be useful - it can give us the edge for an event or situation but chronic stress is really not good for us.  It depletes our energy and our immune system.  It can impact on relationships, our job and certainly on our levels of happiness.  It can also impact on our physical health - stress releases a chemical cocktail in our bodies that can make us sick - 'dis-ease'.

Change the 'worry' habit

It is much easier said than done to turn the worrying off.  The more you tell yourself there is nothing to worry about, the more stressed you feel. It is yet another thing to worry about!  The good news is, this is just a habit and all habits CAN be changed!  I can help you cement in some new, more helpful habits, more useful thought patterns and reaction-habits

Ever watched a cat get a fright?  There is an instant reaction - it arches its back, the tail gets fluffed out, it may hiss...but once the cat realizes the danger has gone, it stretches and goes back to sleep - totally relaxed.  People on the other hand, stay in that 'fight/flight response' - imagining all sorts of scenarios.  Even small incidents - or a memory -  can trigger the stress response (which is not a conscious decision) - the phone goes, an email arrives or your boss requests a meeting.....heart pumps, stomach churns....

Know that this is a 'learned' reaction and has become a habit - and it can be changed, it takes a little bit of practice, that is all - just like any new skill.

Establishing your triggers and developing self awareness is a good start.

Start keeping a journal - either on paper or on your phone fo when he feel stressed/anxious/paniced. Try not to beat yourself up or woryy about worrying - just notice the feelings.  Look at it as you would the weather - sometimes sunny, sometimes still, othertimes stormy, wet, windy.  Your feelings are not right or wrong so just notice them and take note.

Conscious breathing can help too.  It starts to reset some of the chemical reactions that stress can cause - cortisol, adrenalyn and focus on breathing in.  Feel the air moving through your nose or mouth, down your throat and into your lungs.  Be aware of the life-giving oxygen filling the lungs and entering your blood system.  Notice how your ribs expand, how your belly goes up.  Hold the breath for a second or two and then slowly relaese it - again, being very aware of all that you sense and feel.  See if you can hold on empty and notice the feelings there too.  Then repeat.

Try counting as you breathe in...thenhold the breathe in your lungs for the same count....then release to the same count and hold on empty for the same count - might be 4, 5, 6 or may want to imagine drawing a square as you breathe...side 1 as you breathe in and count, then the top as you hold and count...then the next side as you breathe out and count and then the bottom line as you hold on empty.

Keep repeating this consious "square" breathing until you feel calmer.

Posted: Wednesday 24 April 2019