Driven people, Type As, perfectionists always want to be the best version of themselves, to be successful on their own terms.
However, this pursuit often comes at a significant cost as often times, change & getting out of your comfort zones is required; with stress and anxiety resulting in sleepless nights and general deterioration of health and wellbeing. While it may feel like a detriment, if utilised strategically, stress can become the push we need in order to succeed.
This year in 2018, the focus for Mental Health Awareness Week is on stress, given its prevalence in society. More importantly, what can be done to cope and manage stress effectively?
To understand stress and its impact, we need to understand its underlying causes, how we react and cope, and the relationship between it all. Stress, to many, is often perceived & associated with fear, worry and feelings of pressure. Yet, stress in itself is not inherently bad or negative. Some forms of stress can be good, and can help us adapt & grow.
Have you ever looked at stress in a positive light?
Amongst other areas, Dr. Richard Lazarus was a pioneer in the field of stress and coping. He established that one’s stress is often less about the actual situation, but more about the perception of one’s own resources.
He theorised that we cope with stress in one of two ways: dealing with it directly or reducing its pain through distraction. The latter is familiar with emotional eating or frivolous spending - gravitating our minds & attention to a feeling that everything is easy, good, safe and right, at that very moment.
But, what if we learnt to love the grind and deal with it directly?
Stress Management: Biohacking style
Here are 3 tips you can do to effectively improve your relationship with stress:
Get Organised with Your Stress and Build a Toolkit
Though stress is a reaction, it is not something we need to follow passively. Truly understanding and being aware of your underlying stressors – such as feeling overwhelmed in new scenarios or desires for perfection – defines how well you deal with it.
Building a personalised Kill-Stress Toolkit is a great way to target future stresses. Does your heart race when public speaking or when you need to introduce yourself? Perhaps your Toolkit should include power posing for five minutes before you start. Feeling jittery at work? Why not download a meditation app to re-centre yourself? You can effectively equip your Toolkit once you know your stressors, how it relates to your bigger goal & purpose, and understand what works best for you.
What resources are you building into your kit to identify and target stress head-on?
Reset Your Diet
Craving caffeine, alcohol, or other indulgences peak during stress because of their feel-good effects, while also lowering stress. However, its temporary fix leads to stronger cravings and can introduce new health issues like inflammation, poor skin, and fatigue.
Perhaps, a good first step to controlling your diet is enjoying a nutrition detox. Not only does it eliminate bodily toxins including stress hormones, it also brings awareness to when we crave bad foods, which allows us to better understand why - hopefully, working towards a long-term solution. There are many cleanses available, and it’s best to experiment with guidance by a healthcare professional.
Sound intimidating? Why not bring fun to a nutrition detox and try it with an accountability partner?
Find Joy in Habits
Despite its lack of novelty, we fall back on habits in times of stress, regardless of if they are good or bad. This explains why some of us prefer to exercise while others choose to eat. Developing a good habit (even a meaningless one), is important because it will either enhance or dampen your wellbeing when stress inevitably shows up.
Practice a positive habit daily to prepare for future stress events, such as journaling down your thoughts and things you are grateful for, or breathwork & mindfulness exercises.
Other reads: Facing your fears head-on with this 10-min activity.
Try consciously (or unconsciously) inviting stress into your life, to a reasonable extent. The more often you deal with stress head-on successfully, the more comfortable you will be when out of your comfort zones - and, the more confident & resilient you become when faced with changes / challenges.
Article contributed by The Busy Woman Project Expert - Hellena Wang.
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