Sometimes stress management isn’t about dialing back your responsibilities, it’s about getting better at being stressed. I help clients develop the skills to thrive in their pressured work-life blend. Here are some tips to get started.
- Check in with your thoughts
A lot of what’s weighing you down is happening in your mind. Fortunately, you have more leverage than it may seem to make some healthy and healing changes. Cognitive distortions are errors in thinking that almost never feel good. Errors like all-or-nothing thinking, mind-reading, and personalizing lead to increased (and unnecessary) stress and anxiety. Fortunately, it’s possible to correct these thinking errors and with a little practice, it becomes second nature to adjust for a more accurate – and more pleasant – view of the world and your place in it.
Rumination, which is thinking about the same thing over and over, is a “freight-train” of thought that is emotionally, mentally, and even physically exhausting. It can feel compelling to rethink some situations, but rumination is a fast-track to anxiety and depression. What to do instead: try a thought stopping technique. If you notice yourself ruminating, imagine turning the power off to that thought with a big switch or “clicking” it off like you would a TV show you don’t like. Then, shift your thoughts to something that’s incredibly pleasant such as being at the beach, swimming, or looking out over the mountains. Sit with this pleasant thought for about 2 minutes (or more) so that your body has time to calm down. You may have to repeat this several times a day, but often the habit of rumination subsides after a couple of weeks. If you’re finding that your thoughts are still intrusive, it might be time to talk with a counselor for some added support.
2. Make peace with your body.
Ever find yourself pushing the limits of what your body can do so that you can get through the demands of your day? You’re not alone and if you want to get an edge at work, it’s time to stop. Your body’s pain is a signal that it needs more support. Even low levels of chronic pain and fatigue can make a regular work day feel miserable. Address the pain and make peace with your body so you can ride the wave of a stressful day. I recommend starting with a clinical massage therapist to alleviate pain and improve range of motion. Next, make time for a daily workout of some sort. While it may not cure clinical depression, just 20 minutes of brisk exercise is enough to reduce anxiety and improve an overall sense of well being. Finally, begin your sleep routine at least 30 minutes earlier than you are now and fill that time with things that are comforting and will better prepare you for sleep. Have a cup of tea, journal, read, or even work on your to-do list for the next day. All of these things will quiet your mind and reduce the mental load you’re likely still carrying and allow you to get closer to that seemingly-unattainable 8 hours of sleep.
3. Learn to bounce back
Contrary to popular belief, resilience is not a personality trait that is set in stone; rather, it’s a skill that can be developed. While the previous two points mentioned in this article will contribute to resilience, you can add to it by thinking (and doing) something outside of the box. Want to bounce back from stress at work? Take up a hobby that’s totally different. If you’re not sure where to start, perhaps try on some hobbies that you used to love. The goal here is to engage a different part of your brain while evoking the opposite emotion. Not sure what pleasant emotions you’re looking for? Check out www.feelingswheel.com to see what resonates.
While it would be great to work fewer hours or tell your boss “no”, for many, it’s just not possible. Control and change what you can, starting with your thoughts. If you’d like more support in managing anxiety and reducing stress, working with a mental health professional is an effective and efficient next step. If you’re in Georgia or Florida, I’d be honored to work with you. To get started, email me to set up a free 15 minute consultation!