Stress is unavoidable.
It’s as much a part of life as joy and harmony.
Of course it’s not as pleasant to endure, but it does have its place.
In truth we need stress, without a bit of it we wouldn’t get much done.
So, it isn’t bad in itself.
There is a difference though, between helpful stress giving us a kick up the bum, and what can almost feel like a full body seige.
We can minimise the amount of stress we experience but there is a lot that we aren’t in control of, such as illness, unexpected events and the actions of others – this is the nature of life.
What we can control is how we react when stressful times do arise.
Here are my go to avenues when i'm feeling under siege.
When we feel stressed there’s always a reason for it. Reflecting on what’s causing the stress means that as well as managing the symptoms we can potentially tackle the root cause too.
When you feel stress rising, take a moment to reflect on what might be causing it.
It might be obvious and won’t require much thought.
If it’s harder to put your finger on one thing, try writing a list of everything that's currently causing you to feel stressed. You might find that it’s a collection of smaller things rather than one big one.
Once you’ve acknowledged your factor or factors think about whether you have any control over their existence.
If the answer is yes, what steps can you put into place to tackle the root cause of your stress? Can someone help to ease your load if you've got a lot on? Is it a toxic situation that you can make steps to remove yourself from? Is there a way of putting some boundaries in place to protect your peace?
If you’re avoiding something that you need to do can you remind yourself that you are brave enough to do it and reassure yourself that you’ll feel a lot better once you’ve done it (and that the thought of it is probably worse than the actual doing of it).
Putting a plan in place, even if it starts with a tiny step can make a huge difference to how empowered you feel in a disempowering situation.
If the answer is no, acknowledging that is a big step in itself. In this instance look to what you can do to manage your reaction to the stress you’re facing.
We might not be able to avoid stressful situations but what we can take steps to soothe ourselves and react mindfully and therefore limit the impact they have on our wellbeing.
Try these strategies:
Our breath is an incredible tool for restoring calm. I've recorded a soothing breath practise. It's 5mins long and you can do it on the bus, at home or at your desk.
Soothing breath practise recording
Move your body
Go for a walk, a swim, get to a yoga class, dance for the length of a song in your living room. Focus in on your physical experience of the activity you’re doing, what sensations can you notice? What details you can tune into?
When we move our bodies we create a shift that affects us on physical, energetic and mental level.
Try it out and take a moment to pause at the end of your chosen activity to notice how you feel - has anything shifted?
Write about it
Set a timer for 15mins and write about how you feel.
Write quickly; don’t worry about spelling or penmanship, just go where you go.
Write about the little things causing you stress alongside the bigger ones. Get it all out on paper and see how you feel afterwards.
And don't forget to...
...be kind to yourself. When you feel flighty come back to your body, your breath. Remind yourself of your resilience and all the times you’ve made it through stressful situations in the past.
Know that things are likely to ease.
I'll be sharing more strategies for facing and managing stress and anxiety at Supply Yoga on 18th Nov in my Yoga for Anxiety workshop. I'm also running a day retreat on 11 Nov called Show Up for Self Care which will be an exploration of what practices bring you grounding, spaciousness and a deeper connection to self, all wonderful antidotes to stress. Find out more here.