I can hear you saying “but stress management isn’t a trait”. I agree, but it’s still an important component of being resilient- and the best news is that it has some easy to learn techniques!
You will benefit from concentrating in this area if you rated the statements like this in the survey with Strongly Disagree, Disagree or Neutral.
I usually take things in my stride
I take things one day at a time
When I’m in a difficult situation, I can usually find a way out.
If I come across a problem, I usually work out a plant to tackle it.
Hopefully by now you can see that exerting control over what stresses us can be key to feeling more resilient. This is why it is a good idea to tackle, rather than avoid, our stressors.
Firstly, we need to be aware of what stresses us out. This can be at variance with what you actually believe, so take a few days to monitor when you are feeling highly stressed and what has happened to create that feeling.
Next, you need to tackle what stresses you can before they strike. I know, it seems a bit strange to say that the best stress management technique is to deal with it before it’s a stressor, but research by a psychologist called Epstein has shown us just that. Take a few minutes to do his online survey at http://MyStressManagementSkills.com to see how competent you are at managing stressors.
Besides nipping stressors in the bud before they start (which Epstien calls Competency P – Prevents stress from occurring), there are three other stress management competencies; R- practices relaxation techniques, M- manages source of stress and T- Manages thoughts. All of these areas are helpful in managing stress and all can be improved upon.
Meditation & other techniques
I mentioned in an earlier blog that meditation was important. In terms of increasing our competence in dealing with stressors, meditation is streets ahead of many other techniques. I’d encourage you to shop around for a meditation technique that works for you. It can be long, short, sitting, walking, guided or self-paced. Just have a go and see how much calmer you are when things blow up around you.
Last time, I also mentioned minding the gap between the stressor and your response. Learn to breathe deeply in that gap, and at other times when you recognize your stressor response, to help you lower your phsysiological arousal and let your thinking brain kick in.
Sometimes I have to laugh at the amount of lists around me, but what they have done is substantially reduce the ‘white noise’ that floats around in my brain.
Something that may interest you- when the brain sees a task as needing to be done or unfinished, it sets up an automatic reminder system. That’s the little reminder voice that jumps into your mind a hundred times a day! It’s called “..pulling on the skirts of your memory” and it does serve a function- to ensure that you have done all that is needed for the day. However, it can be very annoying! (This, by the way, is the same element that ensures that that annoying song you heard a bit of before switching it off this morning stays in your head all day. It’s reminding you that the song is unfinished. Next time, let the song complete itself and it will leave you alone).
There are two major ways to deal with this reminder voice. One is to do the task. The other is to write a plan, list or timetable a time to do it. Having my brain clear of these reminders is one reason I write everything down… but don’t just trust me; try it for yourself!
Deal with things in a positive way
It’s so easy to fall back on poor habits to make ourselves feel better quickly – like drinking or numbing ourselves and our pain. Instead, start to implement some good, positive habits and get them really embedded into your system by doing them regularly. That way, when stressors start to arise, you will fall back on these good habits instead of automatically reaching for the comfort food. Even if you just try this for a week, you’ll feel better, stronger and will value yourself more for exercising the discipline.
So, this week let’s try an easy exercise:
Exercise: Select and stick with one stress management technique. It can be breathing properly, learning a relaxation, learning or practicing meditation, being pro-active in avoiding stressors or starting a new positive tradition for managing stress.
Next week is our last blog! I’ll be sending out the final survey the week after so that you’ve had a chance to instigate the last exercise. Hope you are feeling more resilient!
Take care and stay steadfast…
Ingrid and the team.