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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.

Everybody is Stressed, but What Can You do About it?

Stress - Everybody is Stressed, but What Can You do About it?

 

I’ve been a therapist now since 2004 and, for most of that time, when people asked me what I specialised in, I told them that anxiety disorders and work-related stress management were my forte but, on reflection, and for several years now, I would say that both life and work have made me a stress specialist.

That term still covers anxiety disorders and work-stress but, it also covers a whole lot more. Stress affects us all and we are becoming more stressed, not less so. In fact, research from the Chartered Institute of Development has found staff absences due to stress are at their highest levels in over a decade, with the pandemic, the high cost of living and other issues all being significant contributing factors, (click here). But what is stress?

According to the World Health Organisation, “stress can be defined as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation.”

However, there are two types of stress: good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress).

Eustress refers to the sort of challenge and pressure that you thrive under or rise to meet with excitement. It could be a work deadline, or a wedding, or a rollercoaster ride. Meanwhile, distress is what we often mean when we are talking about ‘stress.’ It can refer to seemingly insurmountable pressures in any context (life or work), pressures that you feel you can’t cope with, or are not dealing with as well as you’d like. But stress isn’t a diagnosis in and of itself. It’s an umbrella term for a variety of things including:

 

  • Anxiety
  • Reactive depression
  • Anger-management
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Procrastination
  • Insomnia (often stress related)
  • Skin conditions such as psoriasis (also often stress related)
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, (nearly always stress related)

 

You can turn to unhealthy coping strategies when you are stressed, such as alcohol, drugs (both prescription and recreational) and comforting eating. Stress can wear you down, it can affect you physically as well as mentally. You can become distracted, less productive, more forgetful, and more prone to illness (stress affects your immune system). Chronic work stress even has its own diagnosis: Burnout Syndrome. This is a purely occupational phenomenon not official recognised until 2019 and characterised by exhaustion, increased negativity (or cynicism) towards your job, and reduced professional efficacy.

Stress is such as small word for something with so many distressing ramifications.

Stress affects both your mind and your body. A little bit of it is good for you, but too much stress can easily overwhelm you. And we are living in a very stressful world; one that doesn’t seem to be interested in getting any easier. Stress quickly mounts up and it soon takes its toll.

Thankfully, there are things you can do to help mitigate your stress, such as yoga, meditation, taking regular breaks, and going for long walks. And, if those things aren’t enough then therapy and coaching can help.

I practice rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT) and clinical hypnotherapy, and both can help you mitigate your stress and build effective coping strategies in the face of it. With REBT and hypnotherapy the seemingly insurmountable obstacles in your daily live become something much easier to deal with.

So, if you think your stress is getting the better of you, feel free to book a call. I work face-to-face and online and can see anyone, anywhere (time zones permitting). And online therapy is just as effective as face-to-face, studies say so (click here).

Where Does the Time Go?

Ask - Where Does the Time Go?

 

Can it really be three years and five months since I last blogged on my own website? The answer to that question, going by the dates, is obviously yes. Yes, it has been more than three years.

Okay, in that time, I wrote and published one book (you can find a link to it here) and I’ve been writing a regular column over at Psychology Today (you can click on that here) and I’ve also been writing elsewhere (you can check a selection of those articles out here) but, still. Three years.

It’s been a tad remiss of me and so, to address that imbalance, I am going back to blogging on my own website where, over the coming months, I will hopefully be not only offering words of wisdom, but also helpful tips, exercises, and insights to help you manage your mental health and wellbeing that much better. After all, it’s a stressful world out there. So much so, that I’ve had to slightly redefine what it is that I offer (or, more importantly, what it is I treat).

I offer rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT) and clinical hypnotherapy (either separately or combined) together with elements of positive psychology and I offer it in both a psychotherapeutic and coaching capacity.

Times past, I said I specialised in the treatment of anxiety disorders and work-related stress management as, at the time, I was receiving more referrals for these things than anything else. So, that is how and where I built my areas of expertise.  I can also help you with pain control, but that’s another story.

Meanwhile, back to stress.

Since the pandemic and everything else that came after it, I’ve just accepted the fact that I am now a stress specialist. This still covers anxiety disorders and work-related stress management but, also a whole host of other things (more of that in another blog, I reckon).

“Stress,” is what people state the most when I ask them what they want help with. “I want you to help me manage my stress more effectively,” they say. And this I can do.

People also ask me to provide them with coping strategies (again, this I can do) but, when I used to ask them what they wanted those coping strategies for, they used to mention specific things, such as “my job,” or “my boss” or “my relationship” or “my challenging friend.” Nowadays, however, when I ask people what they want those coping strategies for, the most common response is, “everything.”

Despite all the strides made in mental health and wellbeing, despite the mine of information and the wealth of support that is out there, life has become even more stressful, not less so. And people need help in dealing with that.

To that end, my next book (out Spring 2024) is called How to Cope with Almost Anything with Hypnotherapy. And it will do just what the title suggests, using not only hypnotherapy, but also elements of REBT and positive psychology to help you increase your resilience, improve your wellbeing, and handle whatever life throws at you next more effectively.

In the meantime, I can personally help you cope with almost anything either face-to-face or online. And a recent study (click here) has found that online therapy is just as effective as face-to-face therapy.

People also value the convenience of it and the ability to engage with a therapist from the comfort of their own homes. So too do many of the therapists that offer online therapy.

So, face-to-face, or online, if there is stress in your life, if there is something you would like help in coping with, now is a good time to start. Because life always has that something to throw at you.

Stress: take back control

stressy 300x225 - Stress: take back control

 

Earlier this month, I talked about stress and how, according to a massive survey last year, three out of every four Brits are feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope. I also mentioned that therapy could help you to regain control. And it can, only not always in the way that you think.  But, what does that mean exactly? Read more

Take the Stress out of Christmas

keep calm its only christmas 200x300 - Take the Stress out of Christmas

 

Depending upon your point of view then, either sadly or happily, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. But, what does Christmas mean to you? For many it just means stress. What was once a celebration of the winter solstice, then an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ and is now, for all intents and purposes, simply an invitation to boost the economy as much as you can, has become a very stressful experience indeed. But, how can you mitigate that stress? Read more

It Gives me the Pip

The Pip 1 300x200 - It Gives me the Pip

 

People are always looking for a quick fix, especially in today’s time-pressured world where we always seem to have so much to do. Sadly, when it comes to your mental health, there are no quick fixes. But, there are things that can help. Which is where smartphones and apps could come in handy.  Read more

Do You Want to Feel like Spring has Sprung?

easter 300x210 - Do You Want to Feel like Spring has Sprung?

 

It’s Easter, a time for renewal, rebirth and resurrection, a celebration of new life and the passing of spring into summer. It’s also the time for a good old spring clean, literally, metaphorically, physically and emotionally. So, as the days get longer, brighter and warmer and as summer beckons, where do you want to start? Read more