Don’t let stress take over your life. In an average day, we experience a variety of emotions, and stress is only one of them. If our range of emotions is like a choir, perhaps stress and anxiety are the voices that shout the loudest, demanding our attention and disrupting the harmony. We can all learn to channel our energy into creating a more harmonious life and that starts by learning to manage our stress.
Ways To Manage Stress
Shift Your Thinking
One simple way to limit stress, even though it may be temporary, is to question your thinking patterns. You can ask yourself: How do I feel now? Why am I stressed? What is making me stressed? What can I do to feel less stressed? By switching from problem-centred to problem-solving mode, you are giving your brain the opportunity to get some rest from the vicious circle of worrying and creating tension, and use up your mental energy in a more positive way. Diverging your attention away from negative thoughts gives you a welcome break, and you can build on that feeling of relief by taking more steps to tackle stress.
Write Things Down
Another easy and effective way to manage stress is by writing down what is bothering you, which can also be useful for putting things that worry you into perspective. First of all, when you write your brain switches from one mode to another. When you write you move your hand and fingers, which means your body is starting to become more activated. The nervous system is engaged in a different way, as the part of the brain responsible for voluntary movement is now active. Your mind will start to focus so your emotions can be channelled into doing something. You can write how you feel at a specific moment of the day and come back to what you wrote down a few hours later. Ideally, you can compare the way you feel at the beginning and at the end of a day by doing a writing mindfulness exercise. In Sophrology, we use writing to describe how we feel after a Sophrology session. It’s called “phenodescription”: you write down all the sensations, thoughts and perceptions you have experienced, both negative and positive, following the simple combination of breathing, relaxation, gentle movements and visualisation you practice. It gives you an opportunity for reflection and to become more aware of the transformation that takes place in body and mind. For example, you could try a simple tense and release exercise, noticing how your body feels afterwards and write how you feel once you have completed the exercise. There may be a shift in energy levels, and you may feel either more energised if you were feeling sluggish, or more relaxed if you were feeling anxious. Keeping a record of these feelings can help you see any changes in your mind and body, ideally showing a progression towards a more positive mindset.
Go Out for a Walk
Why not make the time for a quick change of scenery? Why not go outside for a 10-minute brisk walk, maybe during your lunch break? If you stare at a screen all day and you have been in meetings, getting some fresh air and moving will help to pump the blood around and can be just what you need for a bit of extra energy in the day or to help you wind down in the evening before going home from work. If you prefer to go to the gym, you can choose a type of workout that you know you enjoy, so you can look forward to it instead of thinking it’s a chore. Whatever you do, just remember that physical activity can help burn off excess levels of stress hormones and releases feel-good endorphins, which means it acts as a natural tranquilliser. If you are exhausted, no need to do anything strenuous, be gentle with yourself and start with something that feels doable.
Slow Down Your Breathing
Did you notice that you are running out of breath when you are feeling stressed? You can consciously change the rhythm of your breathing, making it slower and deeper. By slowing down your in and out-breath you can start to feel calmer. Try as much as possible to breathe in and out from your abdomen so your diaphragm fully engages. Abdominal breathing is deeper and more relaxing than the shallow chest breathing. In our Sophrology online course, you can explore ways in which you can use your breath to induce a sense of relaxation. You will find exercises such as the body scan and the Bubble, which can help you reach a state of relaxation and empowerment within a few minutes.
You can do a breathing exercise and a body scan before going to bed, to help you prepare for a good night’s sleep. Getting enough sleep is essential to keep stress at bay, making you feel refreshed and energised in the morning. For more tips on how Sophrology can help with your sleep read our recent blog on this topic here.