Dear Candy - Managing Stress
Today's question is about how to manage stress.
Unfortunately life still continues to happen even when we are in the process of rewiring our brains. Sometimes we can't put a pause on all the stressors, and sometimes life throws unexpected things our way. Here we will be talking about ways to manage this when it happens, so that we can minimize the negative impact on the rewiring process.
It goes without saying that the first step to managing stressors is to minimize as many of them as you can. Your first response might be that there is nothing you can do about it. Double check with yourself to make sure that is true and not just the brain sending you false messages because it has an attachment to being stuck in a stress response.
Next, look at ways to minimize the stressor even if it is still present. For example, set aside specific times to deal with it and outside of those times if the thoughts pervade your mind treat them as automatic negative thoughts and redirect your attention. Increase the amount you are doing to elevate your emotional state and relax your nervous system to counteract the added stress. Also consider if there are other tools or skills that would help you manage this better. If so, take the time to learn them or get someone to help you with that. While we may not have a choice as to whether that stressor is present or not, we always have a choice in how we engage or interact with it.
Look at how you are operating in the world. Are you in high gear in general? Is there a way to slow things down a bit & be more mindful? A great way to help get out of this cycle is to set the tone for the day first thing in the morning, with calming practices (whether it is mediation, rounds, breathing, yoga, or some other variation). Then take a pause mid day to do the same, even if it just for 5-10 minutes. Give yourself a chance to hit the reset button and slow down. Finally, it is also nice to do something right before bed, which sets the tone for your subconscious while you sleep
Consider how you might be able to change your perspective about the stressor. How can you look at the situation differently? Is there a silver lining in it? Another way to change perspective is to ask yourself, "Five years or ten years from now, am I even going to remember this? How much is it going to matter then?" Or you can distance yourself by imaging yourself miles above the earth, in outer space, looking down on the stressful situation. From that bigger picture perspective, how does your perception change? Keep in mind that all things do eventually pass, or at least get easier to navigate over time.
And lastly, be gentle with yourself and practice self-compassion or loving kindness. Know that you are doing the best that you can to manage this stressor. If your inner critic is giving you a hard time, remember you don't have to believe everything you think. That is just the brain sending you false messages with an agenda of keeping you stuck in the stress. Don't buy into those messages and reinforce to yourself that you are doing your best, and that is good enough. Being gentle rather than hard on ourselves can sometimes free up energy and space to see and interact with the stressor differently.
The only true constant in life is change. Be open to that possibility of change and imagine what your life will be like without the stressor. How will you be in the world? How will you feel? Make it as real as you can and prepare your brain for the changes to come.
Next Monday: Ways to Work with Elevated Emotions (especially if you're having trouble accessing them)
If you have a question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Candy Widdifield is Registered Clinical Counsellor, Wellness Coach, and Registered Reiki Master Teacher in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. Her modalities include coaching, therapy, Reiki and the Safe & Sound Protocol. More information about Candy can be found at www.candywiddifield.com