I keep hearing people saying how stressed they have been feeling since the events of the last few weeks. All the uncertainty is leading to worrying thoughts and a sense of lack of control.
Prolonged feelings of stress are not good for our physical, mental and emotional health. It can lead to poor sleep, high blood pressure, palpitations, mood swings and trouble concentrating.
In addition, worry is not a resourceful state of mind. I was thinking today about a scene in the recent film, Bridge of Spies. Tom Hanks, as a solicitor, says to his client, played by Mark Rylance, ‘If you are found guilty you might be hanged. Aren’t you worried?’ ‘Would it help?’ replies his client, to which the answer is ‘No’.
When you experience stress, your brain prepares you for fight or flight or freeze. Parts of the brain function shut down so that you don’t get distracted and then you can’t think straight. ‘Strong emotions make us stupid’ as my teacher Trevor Silvester says.
So, if you find yourself worrying or feeling stress take a moment to try this quick and easy process.
Step 1: Find somewhere you can sit or lay down comfortably.
Step 2: Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Notice the rhythm, sensation and sound of your breathing. Make the out-breath longer than the in-breath by counting as you breathe in and counting longer as you breathe out. This will trigger your parasympathetic system which will automatically start to relax you.
Step 3: Think about the situation you have been worrying about. Is it something you can do anything about? If the answer is ‘no’, carry on with the long out-breath breathing until you feel more relaxed, at least three minutes. If the answer is ‘yes’ proceed to Step 4.
Step 4: Think again about the situation you have been worrying about. On a scale of 0 to 5, where 5 is very likely, how likely is it that the situation will happen? On a scale of 0 to 5, where 5 is very strong, how strong will the impact be on you if the situation happens?
Step 5: Multiply the two scores together. If the result is less than 5, go back to your breathing until you feel more relaxed. If the score is more than 5 what action can you take to deal with it? Which of the following options can you do?
- Tolerate – accept the situation
- Treat – take action to make the situation better
- Transfer – move some element of the situation to another person or organisation (for example: take out insurance)
- Terminate – don’t take part in the situation or event because the problems outweigh any benefits
Step 6: Now think about the situation again with you taking action on the option you have chosen. How does it feel now?
The point of this process is that the more options you perceive you have in any situation, the less stressful it is.
If you need any help with stress contact m
e to discuss how I could assist you.