Stress Management - How you feel
Please note, SLS Health Coaching does not receive compensation for promoting the content presented here.
These resources are simply examples of information that we find useful and we hope you will too.
What is Stress?
Stress is a natural reaction to a real or perceived threat. It's actually a wonderful defensive mechanism. When you're in danger, your brain sends signals to your body that flood your system with chemicals which give you extra energy to either fight or take flight and run, or the signal may be to freeze. Have you ever found yourself in a stressful situation and noticed your arms or legs shaking? Your muscles are simply getting ready for action. Without this special ability, it's unlikely humans could have survived in the wild all those years ago.
But what do you do with this burst of extra energy when you feel stress in our "civilized" world? You can't take a club to your co-workers or simply run away when you have a disagreement with friends or family. With practice, being mindful of your emotions and this natural physical reaction to your feelings about the situation can sometimes be enough to help you calm down and deal with the situation. Occasional, short bouts of stress are often manageable and not necessarily harmful. But if you experience stress often and for long periods of time, this chronic stress can be very unhealthy. Those same chemicals that your body creates to save you can harm you over time. For example, adrenaline increases your heart rate and elevates your blood pressure. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars in the bloodstream. Chronic stress will disrupt sleep resulting in mental and physical fatigue. And when you are in this fatigued, weakened state, your relationships can also suffer. This can create a vicious cycle.
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference."
Be Mindful of Your Emotions
One of your first lines of defense to reduce the amount of stress you experience (and we all experience some) is to be mindful of your emotions. Stress is a physical reaction to an emotional state. You only experience stress in situations that you perceive as threatening in some way. And the key is your perception.
Your emotions are a result of your thoughts. Your thoughts are a result of your beliefs. Your belief are a result of your references.
So, while controlling emotions is difficult if not impossible, you can be mindful of your emotions in a given situation and ask yourself (perhaps later) what thoughts, beliefs, and references (information, experiences, role-models, etc.) caused the emotions. By asking the right questions and getting new references we can develop new beliefs which result in different thoughts in the same situation and lead to different, calmer emotions.
People with different references can have very different emotions in the same situation and, therefore, different stress levels. For example, two people are sitting next to each other on the same roller-coaster. One believes roller-coasters are dangerous (perhaps s/he saw someone get hurt on a roller-coaster) which causes her/him to worry and finish the ride with a body full of health-damaging hormones. The other person believes it is safe (perhaps s/he is the engineer who designed it with great care) which allows her/him to have fun and finish the ride with a body full of health-promoting hormones (such as dopamine and serotonin). Same experience but different health outcome.
Create a "Toolbox" for Managing Stress
Since stress is your body's natural way to get ready to do something physical (fight or flight), one great way to reduce our stress is to do something physical. One of the great health benefits of physical exercise is that it reduces stress. So, go for a walk or hit the gym and leave a big puddle of stress on the floor when you leave.
Talk with someone supportive for a shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear, or some helpful advice. It's important to know we are not alone.
Breathe. So simple but so powerful. Try taking 10 full, but not forced, breaths. That long line at the grocery store checkout or that traffic jam, is the universe's way of saying, "Take 10 breaths. You deserve it."
Help others in need. Helping others is a wonderful way to feel better about ourselves, especially if we receive their gratitude directly. It can be something as simple as holding the door for someone, or letting them go in front of you at the grocery store checkout.
Do something you love to do. You have to take care of yourself first. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.
Create boundaries. It's OK to say "No". In the long run, no one benefits from you over-committing yourself. It's OK to carve out some 'you' time in 'your' space.
Laugh! It truly is wonderful medicine.
Rest and restore. Take regular short periods in your day to "unplug".
Sleep. Lack of sleep alone can cause stress and, on top of that, fatigue makes dealing with even normal tasks more demanding. Develop a regular habit of winding down (start to dim the lights, turn off electronics, etc) and going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are
If Your Stress Requires More Than Our Services
While the stress management techniques taught by SLS Health Coaching can be very beneficial, we recognize that occasionally our clients may require more assistance than we are able to provide. That's why we are very grateful to be affiliated with two wonderful services in Fredericton, NB, who offer a higher level of care for mental well-being:
Dr. Shiona McIntosh's Brookside Wellness Centre which specializes in Mindfulness training, and
Psychologist Dr. Joan Wright's Mindshift Clinic, a multi-disciplinary clinic which has the goal of providing rehabilitation to those with emotional, and physical pain, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms.
More Stress Management Tools
Here are some resources for stress management that we value. Please visit them when you have time. There's no rush. Don't stress about it. 🙂
"Stress management techniques can help you react to potentially stressful situations in more healthful and productive ways. Your ability to handle stress increases. In other words, your short fuse gets longer."
An important component of the Dr. Dean Ornish Lifestyle Program (which teaches to eat well, move more, love more, and stress less) involves opening one’s heart to one’s feelings and to inner peace through the practice of a variety of stress management and relaxation techniques: Stretching, Meditation, Deep breathing, Progressive relaxation, and Imagery.
"Brilliant things happen in calm minds."
Meditation made simple. Headspace is an app that teaches meditation in fun, bite-sized sessions for busy schedules. The free version provides 10 ten-minute sessions that lead the listener step-by-step through simple, relaxing meditations. We both have this on our phones and it's been very helpful.
"Explore the power of you."
Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to empowering people and communities to realize their full potential through the transformative wisdom and practice of yoga. The center is located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
"Through innovative educational experiences that awaken the best in the human spirit, Omega provides hope and healing for individuals and society."
Omega is a nonprofit, mission-driven, and donor-supported educational organization. For more than 40 years Omega has been a pioneer in holistic studies – helping people and organizations integrate personal growth and social change, moving beyond ‘the way it is’ toward ‘the way it can be’.
"Yes, actions are important; they are absolutely essential, in fact. But I don’t believe we can survive for long in a state of constant agitation. Our bodies and hearts need rest to replenish stores of energy. This is something best done from a place of love."
Sharon Salzberg is a central figure in the field of meditation, a world-renowned teacher and NY Times bestselling author. She has played a crucial role in bringing meditation and mindfulness practices to the West and into mainstream culture since 1974, when she first began teaching. Acclaimed for her humorous, down-to-earth teaching style, Sharon offers a secular, modern approach to Buddhist teachings, making them instantly accessible.
"No one can depress you. No one can make you anxious. No one can hurt your feelings. No one can make you anything other than what you allow inside."
Dr. Wayne W. Dyer was an internationally renowned author and speaker in the fields of self-development and spiritual growth. We had the pleasure of attending one of his public talks (only a few short months before this great man left his body, returning to Infinite Source to embark on his next adventure. One of our favourite quotes of his is, "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
"To awaken means to awaken out of the self-talk in the head because the self-talk is a form of hypnosis - self hypnosis."
The work of Eckhart Tolle is in response to the urgent need of our times: the transformation of consciousness and the arising of a more enlightened humanity.
"It takes time to practice generosity, but being generous is the best use of our time."
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is a global spiritual leader, poet, and peace activist, revered throughout the world for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace. His key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment—the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.