Eight ways to reduce your stress. It would appear that we are getting better and better at being stressed these days.
In this modern era of competition, unrealistic expectations, comparisons and the rat race many people find themselves in, stress is prevalent. Once in a while we find ourselves amidst overloaded responsibilities and expectations leading to frustrations, hopelessness and occasional disappointments.
When stress is causing major problems in life, then I recommend going to see a professional hypnotherapist like myself. However, there are a number of things you can do to help lower stress by managing it better on a daily basis.
Here are 8 ways you can reduce your stress starting right this very moment:
1) Be Realistic:
Many people catastrophise. That is, they imagine the worst possible thing happening.
Stress tends to feed worst-case scenario thinking.
For example, the goal of meeting a work deadline may be stressful. The fear of missing the deadline can lead to thoughts of being fired, having no money, losing the car, the house, your spouse and kids. Everything. You’ve gone from working towards a deadline to being destitute, alone and living on the streets in about 30 seconds! Catastrophe!!
Get real, reduce your stress. What’s most likely to actually happen if you miss the deadline? Chances are you will simply be asked what caused the delay. You might get a stern word from your boss – but you’re strong enough to cope with that, right? Chances are, like all of the other times you have been stressed before, things will turn out OK. After all you’re still alive, aren’t you? You’ll cope.
These two articles offer very specific techniques to help directly with this:
Stop Catastrophising With The Help Of Self-Hypnosis
Using the Worst Case Scenario For Benefit With Self-Hypnosis
2) Change Your Perception:
“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” – From William Shakespeare’s Hamlet
“The problem is not the problem, the problem is your attitude about the problem” – Captain Jack Sparrow
It’s not really the problem that’s the problem. It’s your perception of the problem that’s the problem. That’s what’s causing you the stress. What meaning are you giving to the situation in front of you? Is it an opportunity to mess up and fail? Or is it an opportunity for you to grow and learn? What are the stressors in your life highlighting to you that you need to work on or change?
“Choose not to be harmed and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed and you haven’t been.” -Marcus Aurelius
One thing you can do is learn to relish and enjoy life’s problems by reframing them as challenges, here is an article showing how to do just that:
Learn To Enjoy Life’s Problems
3) Anticipate The Stress:
One thing that got firmly imprinted upon me when I was a cub scout was the Cub Scout motto – “Be Prepared.” This was referring to learning how to be in a state of readiness to do your duty in accordance with other aspects of the Cub scout “duty” according to Cub scout founder Robert Baden-Powell. There is much that translates well to modern, adult life here too.
May be the main reason you were stressed was that you hadn’t planned for things to go wrong. You hadn’t considered a plan B or got a contingency plan in place. If you had done this, then your stress could have been reduced. Take a look at the areas in your life where you habitually feel stress and ask yourself, “What measures or plans can I put in place to reduce the level of stress I experience in this scenario in the future?”
To add a psychological component to this, you can mentally rehearse a contingency plan or mentally rehearse yourself coping if things do not go exactly as you may wish them to. Having mentally prepared for such an outcome, you’ll feel less stressed and more confident if the situation does arise.
4) Ground Yourself:
Be present. Get rooted in the now.
Stress is sometimes a fear of something going wrong in the future. It’s important to recognise that whatever it is you are imagining to go wrong is just that – your imagination. We know that we haven’t learnt the ability to predict the future yet. So for the sake of your sanity, stop trying to. Imagining all the various possible outcomes of something going wrong is not only pointless but it increases stress. It’ll drive you mad.
The process of grounding yourself is a technique that can help you get out of your imaginary future and into the reality of the present moment. Whenever you find your mind is in overdrive with all of the potential outcomes of a given situation, do the following:
- Think about 5 things you can see in your present environment. Look at them in detail. Think about the colour, size, shape etc.
- Think about 4 things you can hear, focusing on their volume, type of sound, pitch etc.
- Find 3 things you can touch. Touch them and really pay attention to their texture
- Find 2 things you can smell. Maybe a cup of coffee or some flowers, and sniff away!
- Take 1-5 slow deep breaths. As you breathe in, shift the focus away from your thoughts and focus on the physical sensations in your body that arise when you breathe deeply. Notice how your lungs and muscles in your rib cage feel when they expand. Feel the air fill your lungs. Observe what else happens in your body and where. Do this for a couple of minutes and notice how both your mind and body instantly become calmer.
Repeat the process until you feel grounded and back in the present. Notice what is ‘right now’ and how differently you feel about your imaginary future… it doesn’t feel so real now, does it? This and other mindfulness techniques and strategies that enable you to get rooted in the present are great ways supported by evidence to help you reduce stress.
5) Know Your Triggers To Reduce Stress:
Ask yourself a number of questions about what triggers your stress, for each stressful episode, ask yourself:
– What happened?
– Who was I with?
– Where was I?
– What was I thinking?
– How did I feel?
You can log this, journal about it or use any other form of self-monitoring for you to chart how stress occurs in your life. In order to make change, you need to be responsible for it and you cannot be responsible of something you are not aware of, right?
What this will help you with, is to spot the circumstances, situations and events that typically result in stress in order that you can prepare more readily for them. It’ll also advance your self-awareness of what you have been doing in the past. You’ll be able to nip stress in the bud before it occurs by using your thoughts more effectively and so on.
6) Get Some Exercise:
I know, I do tend to refer to this in most articles I write….. You do not have to run marathons or ultra marathons as I do though (and to be honest, that can sometimes add to my stress!)
Research has shown however, that even a 3-minute burst of exercise can help reduce stress levels. If you can, take a break and go for a brisk walk around the block. Failing that, sneaking into an unused meeting room and doing 3 minutes of fast jumping jacks can really get the blood pumping. Just make sure you lock the door first… Or actually, no, don’t… People listening at the door may wonder what on earth you are up to in there….
7) Find a Role Model:
Vicarious learning, observational learning or modelling can be of great value. Who do you know who deals with stress well? Who do you know who has a relaxed, calm demeanour? Learn to model them; physically, mentally and emotionally. Adopt the role of being them when it comes to stress and calmness.
Seek out someone who handles stress really well and model them. Watch how they behave in potentially stressful situations. If they are accessible in real-life, then ask them for tips on how to stay calm and, if possible, to mentor you.
If you’d like to learn some important principles on how to do this well, you might like to read this article over at my running hobby blog, it has a number of important principles on using this notion effectively.
Should we model other runners?
You can follow a simple process to model the person you thought of earlier:
If you know self-hypnosis, then do this type of process in self-hypnosis to make it even more effective (if you want to learn, go read my book or email me for details on how to get started with that). Think about the person you considered earlier. See that person out there, notice how they hold their body, how they look, what they are wearing and just accept that as you look at and identify that person, know that they have a relaxed, calm demeanour or that they handle stressful situations wonderfully well.
Once you have accepted that image of them and what you know of them, start to play clips of that person at various situations that you have found to be stressful in the past. Play clips of them prior to, then during the event, and then afterwards when they are continuing to be effective and at ease. Make them as vivid as you can in your mind.
As you watch, be inspired by that person. Be motivated by that person. Feel reassured by watching them. Let the motivation build up inside of you.
Learn lessons as you observe, watch what they did, what they do, watch how they handle that situation, based upon what you know of them. Start thinking about how what you are seeing could be useful to you, what you can also adopt. Note the attitude they have and how they approach things.
Start to move closer to that person and look deep into the eyes of the person. Imagine reaching out and taking that person’s hand…. Now step inside that person’s shoes. Become them for a few moments. See through those eyes, hear through those ears, feel with that heart, and think with that mind. Immerse yourself in being that person and get as vivid an experience as you possibly can. Imagine being that person in every way.
Notice how that person moves in their body, become aware of the attitude they have, notice the cognitions and thoughts they think and feel how it feels to approach life in this way. Note the emotions and engage with this person on as many levels as possible.
Learn all that you can and imagine your own mind soaking up these strategies and this information for you to adopt and benefit from. Move in this body for a while and learn from it.
Once you have learned all you can step back out of that body, and start to mentally rehearse scenarios where you are adopting those same attitudes and habits. See yourself in the coming days and weeks being positive, being motivated and inspired. Notice yourself adopting what strategies you can to advance your relaxation and mental calmness and feel more in control of your own destiny.
Once you have mentally rehearsed a couple of future scenarios of your life, then assure yourself that this is going to happen, and while retaining an appropriate level of realism, tell yourself about your positive expectation for your life.
8) Be Honest With Yourself:
As we get more self-aware, so we also tend to become more honest with ourselves.
People who regularly get stressed, even at the smallest of things can almost seem as if they are addicted to stress. Having problems and stress in your life, can make you feel significant. Some people equate busyness and stress with importance. If your work, life and problems weren’t important, why would you get stressed about it? Be brutally honest with yourself – does being stressed give you a sense of significance? Does it get you more attention at work or home? If this is the case, perhaps it’s time to let go of this habit and get your need for significance met for doing something positive – rather than for your problems.
Challenge yourself to be brutally honest with yourself.
“A consciousness of wrongdoing is the first step to salvation.” – Epicurus
Be aware of the urges that obstruct you from fully showing up each day in your life, engaging, committing, and being present. “Why, exactly, am I feeling this way?” Get to the bottom of that. The practice of self-awareness—to think about your thinking—in how you think, feel, and behave is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes.
Also – learn self-hypnosis. Evidence shows how much it advances relaxation and helps you de-stress in a number of ways. Go read the very excellent book The Science of Self-Hypnosis by Adam Eason, or use some of our inexpensive audio tracks to help yourself relax and be more calm.You can read about and buy it here: Science of self-hypnosis book.
Develop these habits and become invested in an overall attitude that counteracts inappropriate and non-useful levels of stress and life will feel very different indeed.
Have some of themes here resonated with you? Then have a read of these pages:
1. Do you need help or support in a particular area of your life?
Coaching with Adam Eason Or Hypnotherapy with Adam Eason
2. Would you like a satisfying and meaningful career as a hypnotherapist helping others? Are you a hypnotherapist looking for stimulating and career enhancing continued professional development and advanced studies?
Adam Eason’s Anglo European training college.
3. Are you a hypnotherapist looking to fulfil your ambitions or advance your career?
Hypnotherapist Mentoring with Adam Eason.
Likewise, if you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar.
Hi Adam ! Wonderful and nice practical information you have shared with us. Regarding self Hypnosis I must say here that Self-hypnosis induces a state of extreme relaxation and increased suggestibility to treat a host of mental and physical conditions. I liked your blog and surely with others also. Thanks for sharing.
Hi Dawn, thank you for taking the time to write and say so.
I just wanted to pick up on a point you made here – self-hypnosis does not “induce a state of extreme relaxation” necessarily. Hypnosis and relaxation are not correlated and are not dependent upon one another to exist.
A couple of pieces of research by Eva Banyai (one with the well know Ernest Hilgard) showed that people can respond to hypnotic suggestions just as well, regardless of whether they are relaxed or not. Similarly, the field of neuroscience has shown that the effects of hypnotic suggestions upon the brain indicate that relaxation does not need to be present for suggestions to be effective.
This is great news for people like myself who wish to use self-hypnosis during high intensity and endurance sports, for example, when we are unlikely to want to be “in a state of extreme relaxation” and it is also good news for people who we work with in hypnotherapy sessions who worry that they’ll not be a good candidate for hypnotherapy due to their stress, worry or anxiety preventing them from relaxing – you do not have to relax to benefit from hypnotherapy.
Thanks for taking the time to respond, best wishes to you,