Not all stress is bad in fact, we all need some stress in our lives. Too much stress, however, is very unpleasant and can cause nasty physical symptoms. This is distress, and if it isn’t addressed, these physical symptoms get worse and can undermine our overall health.
Physical symptoms can include things like muscle pain, insomnia, fatigue, headaches, chest pain, high blood pressure, and more. Unaddressed these symptoms can, in themselves, cause even more stress as we not only stress over the initial stressor but also over the stress symptoms we are experiencing. If we don’t take action a vicious cycle develops.
Because stress can impact our physical and mental health if we don’t address it, we want to have stress relief solutions that we can rely on as part of a routine. If we’re proactive about stress, we can manage it better. The problem is that often when we are distressed we let go of the very things that are stress relievers, e.g. we stop exercising, we start eating unhealthily, we let our minds loose at night, and then have trouble sleeping.
Mastering our mind is the single most important thing we can do to relieve stress and anxiety. Nothing that happens to use is innately stressful. Stress is always the result of how we respond to what is happening, or what has happened to us. If we can change our minds, we can literally change our lives.
This sounds simple but it is far from simple. Mind mastery is a practice that we can and should employ throughout our lives. Mastering our mind goes hand in hand with a growth mindset and the first step is to acknowledge that it is the most important thing we can do to take charge of our lives.
A great deal of what happens in our lives is beyond our control. All we can, or should even attempt to control, is ourselves. This is a tall order because the illusion of being able to change others seems easier. How often do we say things like “he makes me”, or “if only she didn’t then…”? These statements all reinforce to us that if something outside of ourselves was different, we would be different. Perhaps we would, for a while, but we would not have solved our problem, only avoided it until next time someone behaves in that way.
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Managing our mind is the single most important thing we can do to manage stress and anxiety, however, there are other things that we can do too.
Exercise is a great way to keep stress under control. This is because exercising gives us a boost in endorphins, our feel-good chemicals, and reduces the amount of cortisol, which is linked to stress.
Learning meditation techniques can prevent stress from escalating because it can relax the body and keep emotions calm. Meditation can give us relief from whatever is stressing us out. The practice gives us the ability to be centred and prevents our responses to little irritations from turning into major stressors.
Meditation helps to keep us centred in the present, and we don’t have to sit in a chair, or cross-legged on the floor to meditate. Yoga combines meditation and exercise, as does walking or running in nature. Even cycling can be a stress reliever because our mind has to be firmly in the present and on the road ahead.
Keep a Healthy Work/Life Balance
It’s important that we remember to leave room in our schedules to do the activities that relax us and give us a break from responsibilities. This means learning to say no to anything that would encroach on our downtime and zap our energy.
Setting limits means understanding what we’re capable of dealing with before we allow our minds to go into stress mode. Often the first thing that we skimp on is sleep, whether that’s due to pulling all-nighters or allowing our mind to run rampant so that we can’t sleep even though we want to. Stress is more likely to be an issue when we don’t get enough sleep, or we don’t get the restful sleep that rejuvenates us.
Food and Drink
Many of us have learned to use food as a comforter, when in fact maintaining a healthy diet is an important part of our mental health hygiene. Eating poorly increases stress because it can make us feel unwell, unattractive, overweight, and lethargic. Making the choice to relieve tension in a healthy way, rather than stuffing a box of donuts down our throat, is something we need to learn if we are to effectively manage stress. The same goes for alcohol and sports drinks.
We can talk about whatever is stressing us with a loved one or therapist. We might even choose to write it out in a journal or embark on art therapy. Gardening, cooking, sculpting, pottery; literally anything that absorbs us in the present and is enjoyable for us should not be overlooked as part of our mental health hygiene arsenal. Practicing calming techniques such as deep breathing, visualisation and the reframing of our thoughts are also useful.
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Thanks for reading 🙂