It’s National Stress Awareness Month. Raising awareness doesn’t necessarily mean you can do much about it though. And it seems more and more people are out there with growing stresses, less resilience and no daily stress busting tools. So I thought, as is typical of my approach to health, I would share with you some easily actionable tips to help you stop stress and think better:
1) The Reset Button
Take yourself to the last time you were stressed. It’s like a whirlwind of every thought you could possibly have encapsulated in one moment in your brain and you just can not cope. I get it. We all do. But when you recognise that feeling there is a really simple way to snap out of it. Take a deep breath and tell yourself 3 positive things about yourself, your life or the situation. Have a default combination to go back to for when you can not think of how to tailor it to the situation. Mine is “I am smart. I am confident. I am brillant.” You might not believe all 3 things but fake it ‘til you make it and you will start growing that inner belief and resilience to stop stress.
2) Mindful Breaks
Our calendars are so full nowadays it seems impossible to fit in time to actively de-stress: even when you put it in your calendar you can get caught in a loop of stressing about how you are not de-stressing! The truth is as well as actively finding time to relax you need to be opportunistic about stress relief. Use the random, less productive moments you have to breathe a little deeper or try out a new mindfulness app like Calm or Headspace. The best example would be your daily commute to work. If you can’t be bothered to get into mindfulness, just spend a few minutes each day focusing on your breath.
With everyone talking about mindfulness it can be really frustrating trying to understand what exactly it is. The best summary anyone has given me on it is ‘being entirely present in the moment’. It is a really nebulous concept and it seems that one can only really understand it after a period of practice. Interestingly, most methods of mindfulness or meditation ultimately come to focus just on your breathing. So that is all you need to do. Find a few minutes each day and do a breathing exercise: box breathing (count 4 in - hold 4 - out 4 - hold 4 - repeat), 5-7-8 to get to sleep (5 in - 7 hold - 8 out - repeat) or simply just focus on your breathing as is and deepen it over time.
4) Daily Gratitude
When trying to stop stress it is key to have a daily strategy. While the other few tips are excellent ways to integrate strategies into your everyday, it is still useful to have a defined and regular habit that will pick away at your stress. One of the most important aspects of understanding and unrooting stress is perspective. We so easily get caught up in our problems and trying to solve them we totally forget to appreciate who we are, what we do and what the world around us is constantly providing us with. Reflect each day on 3 things you are grateful for. This is actually the foundation of Tim Ferris’ 5 minute journal and is a great tool to stop stress.
5) Basics of Flow
Have you ever really considered what the opposite of stress is? Sukh Kalsi defines it as flow, a state I would equate to being ‘in the zone’ when playing a sport or writing a blog post. Through WeFlow Academy, Sukh has put out a FREE course called Basics of Flow to help people stop stress. Have a look and see which techniques take your fancy on your journey to flow.
By no means are these all the options available to you. My advice is find your tool and use it daily. There are so many options out there and it can be overwhelming; however trial and error is the way forward in order to stop stress. The key is to commit the time and effort to self-care in order to realise the true benefits of when you stop stress.
By the way, April is also IBS Awareness Month. Stress and IBS could not be more interlinked as I have realised more since starting the Whole30 food plan. In general my IBS symptoms have totally subsided but on a particularly stressful day my bloat came back. Check out my post on IBS remedies to combine with these stress busters for a complete approach to IBS.