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Five Things to Stop Stress in its Tracks

Five - Five Things to Stop Stress in its Tracks

 

Stress is pernicious and all-pervading, when people come to see me for therapy for it and all the ways it presents (click here for more on that), they understand that it will take more than the one session to get a handle on it, but they also often ask, “is there something I can do now that will help?” And the short answer to that is, “yes.” If you do any of the below daily, it will help you take back control, if you practice all five things on a regular basis, you might well work wonders.

 

One: Walk away

 

Whatever the stressful situation is, if you feel your heart pumping and your pulse racing, if you feel dizzy or like that infamous red mist is descending, just walk away. Take time out, rest, relax, let your mind and body return to baseline and then, when you feel ready to, go back into the situation. Chances are that things will have calmed down by then anyway. And there is nothing wrong in taking time out, or saying, “I just need to take a few minutes to reflect on this,” and then getting the hell out of there.

 

Two: Regular breaks

 

Whilst on the topic of time out, taking regular breaks in your day needs to be routine. One job I had, back in the day (when I was still a fresh-faced teenager) not only had a full hour for lunch (with luncheon vouchers) but also mandatory 15-minute breaks twice a day. People who take regular breaks, those who come in on time and leave on time (special occasions excepting) are less stressed, more productive, less likely to take time of work sick and save money in terms of recruitment and training by staying where they are for longer. In terms of both mental health and business success, pacing yourself is the way!

 

Three: Get some nature

 

Nature is essential to your mental health and wellbeing. You need a daily dose of it and getting it will help. The more, the better! Go for a walk in a park, sit by a pond or river if you can (or a fountain in a square if you can’t). Visit forests, moors, and beaches. Even pot plants on your desk improve wellbeing and mitigate stress. One of the nicest environments I even walked into, there to deliver a workplace wellness seminar, had so much foliage within it that it looked like the Amazon jungle, only with desks and monitors poking out of the lush greenery instead of birds and reptiles.

 

Four: Box breathing

 

Your breath is a great stressbuster. When used properly that is. First up, remove yourself from the stressful situation. Then regulate your breathing. Sit or stand, close your eyes, or leave them open, and breathe deeply, preferably in through your nose and out through your mouth (but either/or works well too), but in a rhythmic fashion. First hold your breath for the count of four, then breathe in for the count of four, hold it in for the count of four, and then breathe out slowly for the count of four. And repeat this for as often as you think you need or until you feel calm and balanced.

 

Five: Meditate

 

Any form of meditation will work wonders on your stress levels, even if you do it for just five minutes a day. One of the easiest ways to meditate also involves your breath. Sit somewhere comfortable and just focus on your breathing, in and out, softly, and gently; in and out, either through your nose or through your mouth, or both. And really give your full attention to your breathing. Notice what it feels like, and what it sounds like. Feel the temperature of your breath, notice all the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between your in breath and your out breath. Try to become as vitally absorbed with your breathing as you can. Whilst fully accepting that your mind will wander. This is perfectly normal. Don’t become frustrated by this. Just accept it as part of the process. Whenever you notice your attention has wandered, just bring it back to your breath. With practice, you can stay with your breath for longer, your attention will wander less and less, and your mind calms right down pretty quick.

 

Chronic stress and situations where you often feel out of control will need a little bit more help than the above and I can heartily recommend both rational emotive behaviour therapy (click here for more on that) and clinical hypnotherapy (click here for more on that too). But, in the heat of the moment, the above things will help calm you down.

There’s No Need to Panic About this Pandemic

IMG 7302 687x1030 - There’s No Need to Panic About this Pandemic

 

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) makes a distinction between unhealthy anxiety and healthy concern. Both share the same theme, or inference, as both are about the threats and dangers of everyday life. It doesn’t matter if the threat is real (something that is happening or is about to happen) or imaginary (something that hasn’t happened yet and probably won’t happen at all); anxiety and concern are all about threat and danger.

 

Unhealthy anxiety is the result of irrational (or unhelpful) beliefs about a given event or situation; whilst healthy concern arises when you hold rational (or helpful) beliefs about the exact same event or situation.

 

When you are unhealthily anxious you overestimate the probability of that threat occurring and underestimate your ability to deal with it, you can create an even more negative threat in your mind and might find it difficult to concentrate on other matters. Typically, the anxious will avoid the threat (physically or mentally), ward off the threat, tranquilise their feelings and seek reassurance about it.

 

When you are healthily concerned, however, you are more realistic about the probability of the threat occurring and are equally realistic about your ability to cope with it. You do not create even more negative scenarios in your mind, and you are able to concentrate on other tasks and matters. As a result, the concerned are more able to face up to the threat (if it even occurs) and are more able to take constructive action to minimise said risk or danger.

 

This also applies to health anxieties. A health anxiety is an obsessive and irrational worry that you have caught or are about to come down with a severe medical condition.

 

And, right now, as a health anxiety, as a public and medical concern and as a severe medical condition Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is right up there and scaring us all.

 

But, are our news outlets and our governments overdoing it or not; are we all literally making a drama out of a crisis; are our fears rational or irrational; founded or unfounded? In short, are we experiencing collective Coronavirus anxiety or COVID-19 concern?

 

Considering the statistics (at the time of writing of the 107,828 cases so far, 86 percent have been of a mild condition and a massive 94 percent have so far recovered and/or been discharged.) it would seem to be the former. And so, asset stripping the shelves in supermarkets and chemists of bog roll, antibacterial hand gels and facemasks does seem like reassurance seeking writ large, whilst completely shunning people, public places and public transport could count as avoidance.

 

Beating people up based on their ethnicity or holiday choices, meanwhile, is definitely overkill.

 

Yes, people have sadly died but there have been other factors involved (such as age and other underlying health conditions).

 

Caution is advised, certainly, but the current advice is to wash your hands regularly and thoroughly (for at least 20 seconds) and that’s about it. That is considered effective protection, not just against COVID-19, but all other cough and cold-related germs and viruses.

 

Whilst the Coronavirus is something to be concerned with, and something to take reasonable precautions against, it is nothing to get anxious about.

 

For more on the current global pandemic panic, please feel free to read my post over at Psychology Today (click here).

 

If you want to know more about REBT, the thoughts that can freak you out and, more importantly, how to deal with them, please feel free to purchase a copy of this book that I wrote (click here).

 

If You Only Buy One Book This Christmas

4thoughts 1030x579 - If You Only Buy One Book This Christmas

 

So, I wrote a book. It’s available to buy right now as you’re reading this and it would be awfully remiss of me if I didn’t blog about my book in my own actual blog so, here it is.

 

It’s called The Four Thoughts That F*ck You Up (and how to fix them) and it’s a hopefully humorous and insightful (I leave that for you to decide) book about rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT).

 

REBT was invented in the mid 1950s by a psychotherapist called Albert Ellis. It’s actually considered to be the first form of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) to be developed. And it’s brilliant.

 

REBT is the form of CBT that I practice and promote. It follows the philosophy that it is not the events in life that disturb you, but what you tell yourself about those events that disturbs you. So if you are thinking, feeling and acting in ways that you don’t like, but don’t seem to be able to change, it’s not because of the thing, but down to what you tell yourself about the thing, change what it is that you tell yourself and you get to change how you think, feel and act.

 

Now, it’s not saying when stuff happens, that it doesn’t have an influence, because it does but, it’s only an influence. So, even in the face of something difficult, or challenging, or downright negative, you can still remain in control (or regain control if you think you’ve lost it) by looking at what you tell yourself in the face of that difficult, challenging or negative thing.

 

This means that nobody makes you angry, nothing makes you anxious, and nobody and nothing can drive you to drink, drugs, distraction, despair or doughnuts. It’s what you tell yourself about those things and people that does that.

 

REBT says that there is always a thing (or an activating event) and a reaction to that thing (a consequence) but, between the thing and the reaction there will be a specific thought process (known as a belief) that drive the reaction about the thing.

 

So, REBT is all about beliefs. My book is all about the four beliefs that REBT says lie at the heart of psychological disturbance (i.e., that f*ck you up) and the four healthy equivalents that can help keep you calm and rational. It also has a step-by-step guide to help you work on a specific problem

 

Someone recently asked me why I wrote it. That answer could be a whole blog in itself but, briefly, I’ve been in practice now for over 15 years and just for once, when I was finishing therapy with someone and they asked if there is any reading material I could suggest, I wanted to be able to say, “why yes, there is this very book right here.”

 

And now I can.

 

It’s available on Amazon and Waterstones and WHSmith, or directly from the Penguin Random House website and it’s available from all good online bookshops in your country, area and/or territory (so it’s not just available in the UK).

 

I am reliably informed that it is both “super-wise” and “warm and funny.” And it wasn’t my friends that said that. It would make for a good Christmas stocking filler, or last-minute Christmas gift idea. And for those of you looking a little further ahead, it would be a great way of coming up with and sticking to any one of a number of New Year’s resolutions.

 

If you haven’t bought it yet, I hope you consider buying a copy. If you have already bought one, I thank you for doing so. And, either way, I hope you will enjoy it, are enjoying it and/or have enjoyed it.

 

Personally, as much as I enjoyed writing it, I will never forget the thrill of standing in the WHSmith bookshop in Paddington station on the day of publication and seeing out on the shelves already.

 

All the feels.

 

 

 

Mental Health is Normal

IMG 5063 300x210 - Mental Health is Normal

I think one of the most surprising things about psychotherapy is that, despite the many, many strides in mental health awareness, more than a fair few people are still loathe to admit that they just might have mental health issues. But, guess what? Having a mental health issue is completely normal. Read more

Ten Quotes That Sum Up CBT Perfectly

Unknown - Ten Quotes That Sum Up CBT Perfectly

 

I do like a witty bon mot or a word of wisdom here and there, especially when I think they’ll make a therapeutic point. The following quotes epitomise (sometimes literally) the philosophy and practice of cognitive behaviour therapy . . . Read more

Why You Need to Give up Your Demands

Demand1 300x210 - Why You Need to Give up Your Demands

 

In Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), the form of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) that I advocate, we say that your demands are at the root of your psychological disturbance. But, what is a demand exactly, and how does it disturb you?  Read more

Work Stress: It Isn’t Getting Any Easier

A recent report has found that the our working culture of high stress and long hours means that there are more people off work with mental health problems here than in any other country in the developed world (click here) but, what’s to be done about it? Read more

Depression: Do You Even Have It?

A recent study found that many people are being wrongly diagnosed with depression and are being medicated when they don’t need to be (click here). Antidepressants are being handed out to people who are just going through a bad patch, or simply feeling a bit down in the dumps about something. In short, they’re being popped on pills whilst simply dealing with the realities of life. But, is depression ever normal and should it always be medicated? Read more

Executive Stress: It’s Tough at the Top

Last year I posted a blog about work-related stress management (click here). Today, I’m writing about a specific sub-section of it known as ‘executive stress.’ Being a director or CEO, being in charge, hiring and firing, dealing with the day-to-day problems of everyone else below you, it’s no surprise that executives can come with their own special brand of work-related stress. But, what can you do about it?  Read more

In CBT, what do we mean by beliefs?

As I’ve mentioned before (click here) Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) is a form of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) that has a very particular view on your emotional problems, namely that you are disturbing yourself by the beliefs that you hold in any given event or situation. But, what does REBT mean by beliefs and how exactly do they disturb you?  Read more