How do you stay sane in times that are a bit nuts?
It’s a tough time for many people, systems, and enterprises. On the other hand, this is a particularly good time to examine and update your methods of managing stress. Tuning things up? Will make you better able to catch the curve balls life throws out.
Here is a short video that explains why you need to try this out,
and how these 4 Steps to Destress will rock your world.
New support groups to tame stress start in January 2023
Find out more about Amazon Stress Zapping groups
This next video explains Step 1 of the 4 Steps to Destress.
Coping with stress is different and unique for each person. Different copes for different folks, you might say. One person’s method of relaxing may not make any sense at all to others. But if it works for them and does no harm, no problem there.
Covid closed off a lot of the usual fun coping (rec centers, massage centers, libraries and book stores, restaurants and cafes, etc.). And that loss made you see the need to have some back up plans, and to add new options to your coping skills palette.
It’s a great time to add options or revamp the ways you cope. The more the merrier. And you likely need more methods to detress than you might think. Many friends, family and neighbors are stressed and struggling now. The less stressed you are, the more help you can offer.
RATE YOUR STRESS AS WE START
How are you doing so far? You can always take your temperature. Your stress temperature that is. Let’s call it the stress-ometer (sounds like ther-mom-eter. Except stress-om-eter. Not stress-o-meter, just so we’re clear).
On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the high end, how stressed are you right now. Yes, you can use 1/2 or .5.
Keep in mind that sometimes, very small things can help. It’s the ability to watch and learn that helps.
THE UNKNOWN – IT’S NO SMALL THING
It’s frustrating and disempowering when you’re dealing with the unknown. You may be used to being in control. Ha ha, that’s an illusion. Still, dealing with the unknown is one of the hardest types of stress to deal with.
The good news is it is not rocket science to ramp up your coping smarts. Even when you are coping with what you can’t control. With a little time and self-study, with a few experiments and some commitment to new practices, you can emerge from this more resilient than ever.
UH OH, IT’S FIGHT OR FLIGHT MODE (AKA FIGHT FLIGHT FREEZE MODE – the FFF)
So many crises at this time. Climate change, inflation, war. There might be a light at the end of the tunnel. But at times it seems to be a long way off.
In Japanese, the world CRISIS includes the glyph for DANGER as well as OPPORTUNITY. All stress, and all growth, has both. At first, all you might feel is the stress, and the threat. But if you look back at past shite storms you’ve weathered, you can see you got through them. You adjusted and you even may have grown or been better for that experience.
High levels of stress though do bring us back to the good ol’ Fight Flight or Freeze (FFF) response. FFF is an ancient instinct that has helped us survive. Wrestling with this instinct has led to fun shows like Survivor and The Walking Dead. While good in the short run to keep you alive and kicking, there’s trouble if you stay in FFF too long. This is what’s called chronic stress; it takes a toll on the body and can lead to chronic health problems.
Good news is you can learn to deal with FFF and take the reins when it kicks in. You can learn to notice its arrival sooner, and tame it down. This is one of the biggest keys to mastering stress. You can learn to manage your focus so you at least don’t ADD to your stress, by the inefficient methods of worrying or procrastinating.
MASLOW’S HIERARCHY RIDES AGAIN
Ever hear of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? It’s a pyramid of needs with the more basic human needs at the bottom. You start at the bottom with level 1 – physiological (body, health) and level 2 – safety. Well hello – that’s a bit bumpy today. No wonder it feels like the ground is shaking.
FYI the next levels are Love and Belonging, Esteem, and at the top is Self-actualization. Like many pyramids, you must master the lower level needs before going to the next rung. Those upper levels are grand – but first you need to have the basics in place. And today’s world changes are so challenging, they can kick you back to that survival level.
In a stressful world, you can pick up that external chaos even if you are calm. High stress may be pretty normal now though, due to the big picture. If you’re having trouble sleeping, if you’re going a little stir crazy or barking at your family – that’s pretty normal. Don’t expect that you’ll be a saint – not yet at least.
If you do feel it’s a bit over the top, ask for help. It’s out there. That is good stress mastery – to know when you could benefit from extra support.
THREE OTHER THINGS TO KNOW
What is our first most basic instinct with stress? #1, Avoidance. We tend to want to avoid stress. That’s natural at first. But if you actually sit down with it and face it, deal with it? You can lower your stress a bunch. First the flailing, first the avoidance may come up. So, after the binge watching, have a cup of tea with your stress.
And yes, #2, CHANGE is stressful for humans, we creatures of comfort. Nothing stays the same really – you know that Change is a constant. Still, times of big change can wear you down. That’s why good practices for wellbeing and stress management are so huge.
Third, a foundation of any stress management training is doing a regular contemplation, meditation or relaxation practice. Contemplative movement formats also count – think of yoga, tai chi, and chi kung. If you’re not already doing this and you’d like to start, start with 5-10 minutes a day. But more important than the length of time, is practicing as consistently (yes, that means daily or at least 5 days a week) as you can. Doing it first thing in the morning is when most people are more likely to get it done daily. It sure sets your day up in a good frame.
Here is an article about different free and paid apps you can explore, from Oprah mag. And another review of 14 apps from Kaiser Permanente, which separates neuroscience from spirituality leanings, beginner levels, music included or not – an also a video from NBA star Chris Paul. So cool, how accessible and acknowledged the benefits of meditation are now!
CONCLUSION OF LESSION 1
AND OH JOY, HOMEWORK
Stress can cause you to feel distracted, overwhelmed, hopeless, mad – you name it. No fun! It can be hard to handle yourself and your moods. You can lose productivity and perspective.
That sounds like FFF and survival mode. That’s OK at first but after a while, you’ll want to nip that dis-ease in the bud.
In this 4 Steps to Destress series, we’ll cover all kinds of helpful options for all kinds of stress. You’ll get proactive in managing stress. You’ll know what works best in any given stressful situation.
For now, here is a little homework to begin the practices that will help grow your mastery of stress, and increase your peace of mind and sense of perspective.
ACTIONS TO TAKE FOR LESSON 1
One and Two are quick and pretty easy. Three will be ongoing HW during the series.
- Take out a piece of paper, or create a file for this series, and start a document. Write out every item that is on your stress plate. Big to-dos, and everything else that is stressful right now. Then rate your stress right now (stress-om-eter) on a scale of 1-10, with 10 the high side. Write that # on the list.
This is step 1 of the 4 Steps, and we’ll refer to this assignment in Lesson 2.
- Write down 15 things that increase your well-being. Put a star by any that you can do in fifteen minutes or less.
- Investigate starting a daily meditation / relaxation practice. Research on the benefits of relaxation date back to the 70s out of Harvard Medical School under Herbert Benson MD (“the relaxation response”.) Health, immunity and resiliency all improved after a couple of months of regular practice in the studies. To get started or revamp your current practice, explore these options. Aim for 5-10 minutes at first and do it every weekday.
Note: Many of these exercises will involve some writing. Research shows this works better at training your brain and reducing stress than just doing it in your head. You might use / repurpose a notebook to dedicate to this series. Print the worksheets and put them in a binder or folder, and use scrap paper when you go through the exercises-that’s one way.
Questions or comments? Use the comment section down under.
READY TO CONTINUE? PROCEED TO LESSON 2:
Helpful Coping Ideas:
Step 1 (con’t) and Step 2 of the 4 Steps to Destress