Yes, today is National Stress Awareness Day!
So to do it justice here are my top ten tips for reducing stress in your life:-
1. Forgive Yourself – Some people spend their lives beating themselves up for things they should have done or things they shouldn’t have said. The past has happened. That’s done business. To mark your act of self-forgiveness, why not do some selfless act of good for someone else, as a kind of penance. While you’re doing it, concentrate on truly letting go of the emotions which you’ve been carrying around for so long. Visualise them just sliding away down the side of a very steep mountain, getting smaller and smaller until they are out of sight. Or tie them to a big helium balloon in your mind and watch them drift off and over the horizon. Feel the weight of anxiety and stress lifting from your shoulders as you forgive yourself forever.
2. Forgive Others – As well as forgiving ourselves, we also release stress and anxiety by forgiving others. Perhaps it’s something they’ve said or done, or not said or done. Perhaps you can’t forgive someone for not being the person you wanted them to be – a mother who found it impossible to be the caring loving person you wanted her to be, a bullying employer who wasn’t democratic leader who listened to the wise counsel of others. All these hurts are like thorns in your side, they have no impact on anyone but you and the more you focus on them the more power they have over you. But you can break their power by giving forgiveness to the person who hurt you. Sit with your eyes closed for a while and image that person tied to a chair, bound and gagged and helpless. Then march up and down in front of them telling them how they hurt you, how what they did affected your life; really lay into them so that they are in no doubt about how much you loathe what they did. Look into their eyes and see how they react. You might even remove the gag and let them answer for themselves. Hear their excuses. Maybe their apology. And then…. FORGIVE them for what they have done. Because your forgiveness will remove all the power of the hurt they inflicted on you. Forgiveness renders them and the hurt powerless. It’s like releasing a massive clamp around your heart and your head; to forgive is to let go. And with that letting go comes peace of mind and freedom from hurt and the anxiety and stress it causes.
3. Value Friends – we are all so busy that we often don’t value the support and security we gain from true friendship. True friends share our anxiety and stress, taking some of the load and helping us keep perspective. So take time to show your true friends how much you appreciate them – a small gift or a funny email with a YouTube link can make a friend’s day and remind you of how precious they are to you.
4. Be in the Now – We get stressed and anxious because we are all trying to do too much in one day. We might think we are taking time for ourselves at the gym but how often are we looking at the clock and thinking about what we’re going to be doing next? We are somewhere else, not enjoying the rhythm of feet pounding or the movement of breath through our lungs or feeling our muscles being stretched. Being In the Now is simple and highly effective. Just stop and be aware of where you are, how you’re feeling, all the sensations in your body, the sounds, smells, colours and textures around you. Give it a try; you’ll find yourself feeling calmer, more relaxed and more in touch with the real things in life.
5. Slow your Thoughts – When you’re stressed and anxious, your thoughts speed up. And the more stressed you get, the more they accelerate. So, as soon as you find yourself thinking fast, close your eyes and imagine your words running across a computer screen. See how fast they are running. Often, it’s a single phrase that’s going round and round. Now try slowing the words down. Make them run at half speed; then at quarter speed; then have them appear a word at a time filling the screen; and then have them appear at five second intervals, one at a time. Maybe even a letter at a time. And then just enjoy the feeling of control and absence of anxiety and stress which comes with the slowing down. When you open your eyes you will feel calmer, more relaxed and reinvigorated.
6. Only do What’s Necessary – Many of us have high expectations of ourselves. Often much higher than we would have of other people. We drive ourselves to clear our To Do lists each day, whether it has 10 jobs on it or 100. We’ll get in early, work through lunch and work late to clear it. And when arrive at work in the morning, we’ll have yet another long list of things to do. So we get increasingly anxious and stressed as the days go by and more and more exhausted and less and less effective. As an alternative strategy, why not try prioritising the five most important things to do today. And do them. Then see how much of the day is left and tackle the most urgent of the remaining tasks. And leaving the rest until the morning. Strangely, rather than having things build up, you’ll find that the five urgent task are done more quickly than you anticipated. And that you clear more of the secondary tasks by going home time than you thought you would. And that the overspill until tomorrow clears faster than you expected. You might even find yourself with time on your hands as the days go by. All because you are working in a more focussed way on what needs to be done NOW and have more energy left over to tackle what’s left, more efficiently and with more concentration.
7. Stop Rehearsing – Anxiety comes from over-concentration on preparation for action. From the piling of one piece of preparation onto another, over and over again in the course of the day. Many people find that this constant rehearsal becomes such a habit that they’ve had a day’s worth of meetings before they step out of the shower in the morning! Think about what needs to be done, prepare notes and imagine how the meeting might go, sort out any additional things you might want to take to the meeting, and then let it go. Stop rehearsing. You’ve done enough. Reward yourself by…
8. Take a Holiday on the Train – this is an easy an effective stress-buster. Find somewhere you can be undisturbed for five to ten minutes. You can do it sitting on a train or in a coffee shop. Turn off your mobile. Close your eyes and let all the tension drain out of your neck and shoulders. Move up through your body, starting at the tips of your toes and then moving upwards, relaxing every muscle and tendon bit by bit – toes, feet, lower legs, knees, thighs etc. right up to the top of your head and down over your face to the tip of your chin. This should take a minute or so. Then, keeping this feeling of relaxation, decide on a place you’d like to go. Somewhere you’d feel relaxed and safe and could have fun for a while. A favourite holiday destination would be good. Then feel yourself drifting up from your seat, moving up towards the nearest window, through it and up into the sky. Imagine yourself travelling across roof tops and fields towards your destination. Really feel yourself travelling, feeling confident and happy and excited about your trip. See your destination coming into view below you and slowly descend to a place you know really well. You are now in a place where time has no meaning. Clocks don’t exist. A minute in real-time could be a day, a week, a month or a year in this special time. So now, just go and enjoy yourself. Have adventures, visit places and people. Enjoy the sun. Swim. Do whatever you want for however long you want to. And when it’s time to come back you’ll know. Just return to the spot you landed. Drift up and travel back, right back to the window, through the window and into your seat. Cares and anxieties will just drop away as you open your eyes to continue your day.
9. Be Kind To Yourself – in what you eat, what you think about yourself, how you dress and how you occupy the space around you. You are unique. The only one. Love and respect yourself and others will too.
10. Avoid Quick Fixes – nicotine addiction depresses your natural mood. It means you must have a cigarette to get you back up to where you would have been anyway; alcohol depresses you – you might feel good when drunk but depressed when you’re sober – alcoholics need a drink to get them back up to where they would have been without the drink; cream cakes taste good for the moment they’re in your mouth and then they make you feel bad – and then you want another cream cake to make you feel better about feeling bad. Result – anxiety and stress. Because you can’t cope without the quick fix. Avoid the fix, avoid the stress!
Happy Stress Awareness Day….