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The Stress Factor - 3 secrets to increasing your stress “resistance”
Guest articles > The Stress Factor - 3 secrets to increasing your stress “resistance”
by: John Fillingham
Nearly 20 years ago I discovered a cure for stress and I can confidently say my life has never been the same since. I revived the techniques I was taught all those years ago recently, after combining them with some back exercises a therapist taught me after a particular nasty back wrenching tennis match some months ago. I still hold dear the theory that the world (and therefore people’s lives) would be a much better place if we learned to control our stress levels.
I had almost forgotten what it was like to be “cool as a cucumber” calm again, for a sustained period. For some people I know this could be quite a scary concept, they don’t feel alive if adrenalin isn’t racing through their body or there isn’t some crisis of immense proportions that needs their most urgent attention. Is that a feeling of wanting to be needed – I wonder.
The demands of the modern world takes its toll on every aspect of our lives, from the lifestyle we must maintain to the hours at work we must put in to sustain it. Simply being alive can be a very challenging activity, is it easy then to overcome the toils and pains of life to live a trouble free existence?
Living a trouble free life and controlling your stress are two very different things. If you are expecting an easy ride, hoping to miss all the things that “shouldn’t happen to me” then you would probably need to reset the model of your world you have created. Being “stress resistant” is what I prefer to call handling your stress well. Avoiding the irrational, thump, thump, thump of your heart racing when you hear the news that something isn’t right in your world takes effort, time and practice. It doesn’t change over night, but as they say, every journey begins with the first step.
For anyone who has an emotional thermometer that feels sometimes more like a roller coaster, then you may share many of the feelings and experiences in this short article. For those of you more in control of yourselves, well done I say, lucky you. However, we all at times get a little hot under the collar when put in awkward situations, when 299 things land in our lap and suddenly we are expected to hit them all running. So the bottom line is, we could all do with a bit of stress control practice, even though for some of us it’s more of a necessity rather than a luxury.
Let me start at a general level and work downwards, as best I can in this format. My first instruction is go visit a doctor and get expert medical advice before doing anything, for those of your don’t think you have the time or feel it’s unnecessary, please make the effort, it’s worth getting yourself checked before you do anything and get yourself an MOT!
My 3 secrets to increasing your stress resistance – Develop a positive attitude, practice breathing exercises and muscle control.
Breathing is of course at the centre of it all, because it has an instantaneous impact on your heart rate, therefore on your stress level, the 2 are very closely connected. So if you want to quickly calm yourself down at any time, concentrate on your breathing and slow it down, taking long, slow deep breaths. It’s a great tip for those tense situations such as giving talks and presentations or asking your boss for a pay rise.
So let’s begin with attitude, action is better than words as they say, indeed it is much better than “thinking” as often faulty thinking is a major root cause of stress. This is what I call “stress thinking” as opposed to “productive thinking” – remember those times when you’ve worked yourself up into a fury about something or worried about something so much, when it finally came to it, it was actually nothing like you expected – this is stress thinking in action.
So you have to stop thinking so much and get on and do something. Anything (well almost), but do something (positive). In life, a positive attitude can make a huge difference because you have to have the belief that you can make it better. This goes a long way in quickly switching your thinking from stress thinking to productive thinking. If you aren’t already a positive thinker by nature, then it will take some work but starting from a positive point of view may influence the outcomes of the situations you apply it to. If you can think of 1 million reasons why not, I can think of 1 million reasons why….so tip it in favour of the positive, it’s a choice, so choose it and notice the difference.
When you smile, you relax, try it, it works. I smile a lot. It often takes the heat out of situations and gives you another, often different perspective. Stress is often defined by the position/perspective you take, it seems like you’ve lost control, its out of your hands and you cant’ do anything about it, so much is going on and you can’t stop the giant rock rolling down the hill. You can nudge the rock though and bounce if off in a different direction. Tackle one thing at a time, prioritise, so what really needs your energy, where do you put it, you simply can’t spread it too thin and expect to stay in once piece!
Think of your brain as being like your laptop, too many programmes running, it slows down, ask it to do too much and the thing crashes and locks. Your mind is the like the memory of the computer, try to overload it and it can’t cope. Therefore important things I write down and put into my personal organiser and calendar for action, the rest I politely forget, I refuse to keep them in my short term memory, if they are really important to me, they will automatically go into long term memory.
Breath control – in my exercise routine everyday, I build in some breathing exercises. I take deep breaths, holding them for a few seconds and then let go. For most of us who are office or desk bound, our sitting position does not promote healthy full lung breathing. The muscle (the diaphragm) that controls our lungs is compressed when sitting down, therefore we spend most of our time taking shallow breaths, starving our bodies of the oxygen it needs to live fully and provide us with maximum energy. I used to do a full 20/30 minutes worth of these exercises, mixing it in with my gym workouts, I believe it’s really worth it. The greatest benefit comes from lowering the heart rate and making you feel relaxed – it’s a key cure for stress.
Muscle control – one of the key things I learned all that time ago, is that stress usually manifests itself in a physical way, headaches, stomach ache and so on and they clearly show you that you are in a “stressed” state of mind. A technique for change is to do something physical to change your mental state. Working on the different muscle groups in the body, from head to toe, tensing and relaxing the muscles with physical movements is one way, stretching and exercising another.
For me the essential ingredient in finding suitable cures for stress (and they can take different forms for every person – music is often a “mood changer” and therefore a stress cure for me) is the “me time” element. Dedicating some time, purely and selfishly just for you – even if it is only for 10 or 15 minutes a day is absolutely, the most important fundamental element in saving your sanity and relieving your stress.
For more information and advice you can contact John Fillingham at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contributor: John Fillingham
Published here on: 22-Nov-09
Classification: Development, Stress
MSWord: The Stress Factor.doc
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