This week’s guest post comes from mental health worker Adewale Ademuyiwa, who runs a fantastic site called Stress Therapist . Adewale holds a BcSHons in Community Specialist Practice and a Post Graduate Certificate in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
How to deal with stress
Learn to pay attention to your symptoms. As you get increasingly stressed you might begin to notice rashes on your skin, or you might notice you are becoming easily fatigued. When you notice this stop, take some time out, do a calming activity or enjoyable activity to take your mind of things a little. Alternatively, maybe even go down to the gym if you can afford to, do some meditation and relaxation.
Personally, I don’t have anything against advice like this. In fact, I often advocate that people take a lot of time out to relax by doing a number of these activities.
The sad thing though is that most people carry out this advice and stop there. They do the relaxing activity, go to the gym, maybe do a bit of yoga or some meditation, a bit of tapping and stop there.
Now if you have a tendency towards experiencing bad, toxic stress, and you have been doing all these stress-reduction strategies, you might be wondering, why does my toxic stress keep coming back?
I like to refer to this experience as the yo-yoing experience with stress.
The yo-yoing experience is only because you have only been dealing with the symptoms of your stress. The underlying cause is still untouched, as such, as you carry on with your day to day activities, your toxic stress levels eventually swoop back up.
The approach I recommend cuts straight to the root of toxic stress.
Following this approach helps you to remain in a balanced mental and physical state, which will encourage improved productivity and effectiveness across all aspects of your daily activities.
This approach cuts through your thinking and behavioural styles. It looks at your personal style of interacting with the people and the world around you and enables you to create a stress management plan that is well suited to you.
The approach is very easy, and it can be explained in four steps.
Step 1: Use stress reduction strategies
Use stress reduction strategies regularly to keep the symptoms of stress down but don’t stop there. After finding a stress-reduction exercise that works successfully for you, keep using it whilst working through the next three steps. This is very important because you will not be able to get through the other steps if your level of toxic stress is high.
Always keep in mind the rule.
More stress = Less ability to concentrate.
As such the stress-reduction exercises will help to put you in a positive mental place which will allow you to follow the remaining process.
Step 2: Observe your stress colour
I like to see stress as existing in three colours.
• Red stress which is characterised by regular feelings of irritation and anger.
• Blue stress which is characterised by regular feelings of sadness and low mood.
• Green stress which is characterised by regular feelings of irritation and anger.
So, in observing your stress try to figure out which of those three moods, you experience the most. Once you can identify your most frequent emotion, then you will need to engage in a process of understanding this emotion.
Step 3: Analyse and understand your personal colour of stress
Ask questions about the emotion/s you have identified in step one. Carry out research about it. Read as many books as you can get your hands on about this emotion.
Get to understand it in and out.
Find out –
- What kinds of situations bring this emotion out in you?
- What kinds of environments do you experience this emotion the most?
- Are there any specific people who bring this emotion out most of the time?
- What makes you more predisposed to this emotion?
- What thoughts do you get the most when you are experiencing these emotions?
Following all the suggestions in this step will take you 99% of the way to your goal of a stress-free life.
Stress relies heavily on our perceptions about the various situations, we find ourselves in, and the negative emotions we experience give a very precise indication of the kinds of thoughts or assumptions we experience.
Hence understanding the emotion we experience when we are stressed is a good starting point since learning to find alternative neutral thoughts will have the impact of reducing our negative emotions thereby reducing our stress.
Step 4: Apply self-change strategies that are best suited to your colour of stress
By the time you have completed step 3, you should have a clear insight on what aspects of your stress needs a more focussed and practical approach.
For this, you can try a number of traditional and non traditional cognitive and behavioural strategies. These strategies offer practical techniques for addressing the unhelpful cognitive and behavioural aspect of stress and you can find a plethora of self-help books and websites on the techniques these days.
This is a really interesting video about why stress makes depression worse:
Photo by bottled void via flickr