Stress is something we all feel at times - but as the man who defined stress, Hans Selye, said, “it’s not the stress that kills you, it’s your reaction to it.”
This week, I give you three quick and easy tools you can use to help you manage your stress and find your calm.
1. Pre-empt feeling stressed
It really helps if you can pre-empt or short-cut feeling stressed.
This is because of “neuroplasticity”, which I mentioned in my first stress blog post.
The more often you think a particular thought, the stronger that specific neural pathway becomes.
It’s like if you have a field with two gates - people will walk between them, and the grass will become more worn away on that particular pathway, the more often people walk on it.
However, if one of those gates is moved, a new path will be created.
And grass will grow back over the old path.
And the amazing thing is that happens in the brain too.
If you can learn to stop yourself going down your stressed neural pathway, over time it will get weaker, and instead, your new calm neural pathway will get stronger.
They’ve actually taken videos of this happening in the brain: the synapses moving closer together as the path strengthens, and further apart as the path weakens.
So it really makes a difference if you can reduce the times when you feel stressed.
But how can you do this?
Here are two steps you can take.
First, you need to understand what makes you feel stressed.
Think about moments when you have felt stressed.
What do they have in common?
What kinds of situations do you most often feel stressed, or with which people?
Identify the most common or frequent situations when you feel stressed.
Next, think about what preparation can you do before you go into those situations.
What can you do to pre-emptively calm yourself down?
Is it go for a short walk outside
is it to take some deep breaths
is it to say a positive affirmation (“I am calm and can handle anything with balance”)?
What would work best for you?
Anything that involves breathing and getting perspective are is likely to help.
If you reduce the opportunities for you to feel stressed by pre-emptively taking action to find your calm, it will make a big difference.
2. How to calm down quickly when you feel stressed
How do feel when you are stressed?
Do your shoulders go up?
Does your jaw clench?
Does your breathing get faster and shallower?
We all recognise that stressed feeling, however we personally experience it.
And it’s not fun, healthy, or productive.
But there is a way you can quickly calm yourself in that moment.
It’s a very easy and discreet method, called box breathing.
This uses the breath to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (the system that calms you down).
And it also introduces an element of concentration, which helps as a distraction from the stressful thoughts.
It’s very simple. All you need to do is:
breathe in for a count of four
hold for a count of four
breathe out for a count of four
and hold for a count of four.
In for four
hold for four
out for four