“Stress” is sometimes considered a dirty word in this modern day. However stress is a normal physiological function that is designed to give us focus, strength, stamina and heightened alertness when challenges arise. However, when humans were designed eons ago those “challenges” were mostly running away from sabre tooth tigers, so the release of stress hormones into our system was short lived. Once we’d out run the sabre tooth tiger our stress levels would go back to equilibrium. Unfortunately the ‘sabre tooth tiger’ is everywhere these days – behind computer screens, in traffic jams, in raising children, in meeting work deadlines; stress is now so pervasive that often we don’t even realise we are stressed until one little thing pushes us over the edge and we lose it.
This is not a fun or healthy way to live. Chronic stress is tiring, draining, affects your relationships, your health and your ability to enjoy life.
Below are three strategies that you can implement into your life right now, which will take you (or your clients) from stressed to your best.
1. Ask yourself “is this something I can control?”
If the answer is no, then there is no point in giving it any more of your energy or time. Regardless of what you do, think or feel about the situation, you still will not be able to control it. So dump it. If the answer is “yes, I can control it”, great! Take confidence in the fact that you can do something to change it and ask the question “what can I do right now that will improve the situation?”. Your brain will start providing you with answers and you will feel more in control.
2. Be aware of your focus
What you focus on is what you get. If you focus on being stressed, you will find more stress in your life because your brain is wired to look for evidence of what you are thinking. Have you ever wanted a new car and then saw that car everywhere? Of course, because the car became your unconscious focus and your brain searched for the evidence. So be mindful, rather than focussing on stress focus on solutions.
3. Choose your emotions
Feeling stressed is a choice (controversial statement, I know), and there is wisdom in the quote “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. Yes, there may be challenging situations in life but you can choose to stay calm whilst still taking the situation seriously. Something I’ve been doing recently, with great success, when having a negative/stressful thought is to say “I could choose to feel this way, but what would be a more helpful feeling to have right now?” Again your brain will start looking for more helpful feelings, and your focus and energy will shift. Realising when you can control a situation, being mindful of what you focus on, and understanding that your emotions are actually a choice will keep your stress levels down and free you up to get out and enjoy life even more.
Article by Vanessa Aitken
Vanessa Aitken is a qualified Life Coach with a special interest in stress and anxiety. She is Melbourne based and practices one on one with clients over the phone or via Skype. Take The Stress Test or connect with Vanessa by clicking here.