I reckon you can think of a dozen things that can cause you to feel stressed.
Relationships, money, work, pain, illness, traffic jams, squabbling kids or sleeplessness are just a few examples.
But I bet you missed one strong contender in the stress-causing stakes.
You see, feeling stressed contributes enormously to stress!
(Re-read that if you need, and give it a moment to really sink in.)
It’s true. When faced with a stressful situation or event, we’ve got two main things going on.
Firstly, of course, there’s the original source of the stress (which generally shows up in one or more of these 4 areas – the mind, emotions, behaviour or the physical body.)
Then layered on top of that, there’s likely a mix of emotions bubbling away, ranging from overwhelm, guilt, frustration, irritability, shame, anxiety and anger, which pop up as a by-product of the initial stressor. And of course, the cherry on top is often the physical aches and pains that start to become a consistent presence in your life.
Not knowing how to move through stress, combined with feeling hopeless and alone about your situation only adds to the problem, making it feel insurmountable.
So what can you do about it?
Stress can be complicated, but getting back into a healthy state of balance doesn’t have to be!
Here are 5 simple action steps that can help you out of stress, however it shows up for you:
Deciding that you’re ready to take action about your level of stress is a powerful first step. Recognising – and accepting – how much stress is impacting your life sounds simple but rarely is.
Think about how stress is currently affecting you. Now think about how, ideally, you would like to feel. Get really clear about how you WANT to feel about your life – this will help you figure out what direction to head in with your stress-busting approach.
Bonus step: Add some weight to this step by writing down your decision or sharing it with someone you trust.
2. Choose one thing
There are as many techniques and methodologies out there for tackling stress as there are sources of stress. All that choice can cause overwhelm and inaction, so try your best not to get caught up.
We’re going for simple, right?
Go with your gut and choose a technique or modality that really appeals to you. When choosing your one thing, consider your lifestyle, personal preferences, and finances.
Be true to you. What would you like to try? Are you going to ditch a bad habit or adopt a new, more positive one?
Something indoors, or out? Are you a ‘do-something-in-a-group’ person or do you prefer a more private approach? Are you a homebody or happy to venture out in search of solutions?
It’s better to take imperfect action sooner rather than dithering in a sea of options – you can always change your mind later.
3. Write it out
Taking pen to paper is a wonderful, low-fuss stress-buster. You can do it anywhere, anytime, and is a particularly useful antidote for emotional stress.
Journaling offers an opportunity to write down your stressful thoughts and feelings in a safe and constructive way. Oftentimes, much of the complexity of stress becomes clearer and feels lighter when transferred from the mind to the page.
There don’t need to be hard and fast rules with journaling either – simply write whatever pops into your head. If that feels too hard, try these prompts to get you started:
‘5 things that help me the most right now are….’
‘Right now, I feel challenged by….’
‘I feel most supported when….’
4. Ditch the negativity
It’s easy to get stuck in a loop of negative self-talk but it’s not helpful. Instead of judging yourself, practice self-compassion. Notice when that mean little voice pipes up and remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can. It’s a well known fact that humans have a strong negativity bias – our brains are so much better at focusing on the negative than the positive. Knowing this can help you catch yourself falling down that slippery slope before you get sucked too far in.
5. Prioritise self-care
Taking action to defuse your stress may not always feel easy. It’s possible you’ll experience setbacks and rough patches along the way. Be gentle with yourself – a little done often is better than never doing anything at all!
Choose something to do every day that nurtures your soul – a cup of hot tea in the morning, a walk in nature, time reading or playing with a pet.
If it feels too overwhelming to banish your stress on your own, please reach out for help. Stress can contribute to so many physical and mental health challenges but it really doesn’t have to get in the way of the life you want to live. The sooner you start developing (and using!) your own anti-stress toolkit, the sooner you’re going to be living a calmer, more peaceful life that’s rewarding and fulfilling.
Could TRE be for you?
If you know you need to do something about your stress, TRE (Stress, Tension and Trauma Release Exercises) may be just what you need.
This easy-to-learn practice uses a series of movements that stretch and fatigue the muscles of the body to the point of a light shaking response. This shaking releases deep muscular patterns of stress and tension, soothes the nervous system, and helps return the body to a healthy state of balance.
TRE requires no fancy equipment, can be learned privately or in a supportive group setting and helps people all around the world to:
- Improve sleep, energy levels, focus and concentration
- Reduce stress, pain, anxiety, depression and tension
- Develop greater resilience
- Recover more easily from injuries
- Build more harmonious relationships and stronger social connections
You can learn more about this powerful process by attending a TRE Taster Group (more details here). In a calm and peaceful country setting (or online from the convenience of your own home), you’ll learn a valuable self-care practice you can use whenever you notice your stress and anxiety levels stating to spiral out of control.
I’d love to chat if you want to learn more about simple, but effective, stress-busting solutions!