We all experience stress in our daily lives.
A recent survey estimated that 35% people in Australia suffer from stress. In the same survey, the majority of people felt that stress impacts their physical health (72% of respondents) and mental health (64% of respondents)(1).
There are three main methods of dealing with stress, especially if it is due to a specific event :-
- Prevention / minimisation before the stressful event
- Management during the stressful event
- Recovery / minimising of the effects afterwards
Each of us will find that some of these methods will suit us more than others – so what is your stress management profile?
- Stress prevention
We can prevent or minimise some sources of stress by doing the following:-
- avoiding stressful events (if appropriate). This doesn’t need any explanation, and if this is appropriate, can be a very useful strategy. However, it is best not to use it as the main strategy for managing stress, as it can lead to an inability to use the other methods, and limit our life experiences by encouraging avoidance of too many activities. An example of where this may be appropriate is:- if my friends like entering ‘pub quizzes’ but I am not competitive, and find quizzes stressful, I can simply avoid the quiz nights and see my friends at other events.
- managing stress felt in anticipation of events. This can be achieved by using positive visualisation, where we imagine that the forthcoming event or situation will happen in a positive and realistic way. It is best to include all likely variations of the events, and visualise them in a positive way. An example would be if someone is going to give a presentation to a group, but she does not have much experience of presenting and is thus feeling stressed.
- A positive and realistic visualisation would be that the audience shows interest in what she is saying, ask questions at the appropriate time (which she answers competently, stating that she will respond later to any questions for which she does not know the answer) and at the end of the presentation, the audience applauds.
This visualisation will give the presenter confidence to deliver the presentation, but is not so outside of her abilities that she will feel she has not achieved the desired result when she reviews her performance.
- Another point, which is sometimes overlooked, is that if we are feeling stressed about a forthcoming event we can ensure that we have investigated sources of support or training which will decrease the stress. ‘Jane’ may be able to co-present with a colleague, share preparation with that colleague, or at least have a few supportive friends in the audience when she presents. Jane may also be able to get coaching from somebody at work, join a public speaking club or obtain other training in advance of the event.
- lowering stress in general. This can be done by practising relaxation strategies. One of these is deep, slow breathing, where we breathe out for longer than we breathe in. This is sometimes called 7:11 breathing (where we breathe in for the count of 7, and out for the count of 11). However, as long as the out-breath is longer than the in-breath, any ‘counts’ will be successful. We may have to continue this 7:11 breathing for a while – maybe two or three minutes – until we experience the results.Meditation can also be useful for both lowering the anxiety threshold, and also allowing us to recognise thoughts and feelings as separate from ourselves (we are not our thoughts and feelings).
(2) Stress management during the event
This method allows us to minimise the effect of stress while it is happening, I.e., when our stress buttons are being pushed! If we can deal with the stress as it is happening, this can also minimise the after effects of the stress.
- Safe place meditationThis is a form of meditation which involves imagining that we are in a place which feels completely safe, and needs to be practised beforehand, so that we can quickly ‘return’ to this place in our mind and evoke the feelings of calmness and relaxation that this place brings to us.This safe place can be a real place – perhaps somewhere that we visited, or lived in – or alternatively a completely imaginary place which we can design exactly as we wish.In order to ‘return’ to the safe place quickly, and feel the calm feelings that it generates for us, we need to ‘anchor’ the peaceful feelings generated while we imagine that we are in the safe place. This can be done by e.g. taking a deep breath, or touching our thumb and index finger together once the feelings of calmness and peacefulness are at their peak.
- 7:11 breathing / slow breathing As described above
(3) Minimising the effects afterwards
- Forgiveness (of ourselves and anyone else involved). It is worth remembering that forgiveness is for the forgiver, not the forgiven (unless you are forgiving yourself for something!). Forgiveness allows us to move on, and learn from any actions taken, but not hold on to what happened. If there has been a stressful event, and we are blaming ourselves or someone else for what happened, it can be worth forgiving ourselves and others.
- Self-hypnosis. Visualisation can be used to rehearse new behaviours within our minds. As an example, if ‘Jane’ in our earlier example wanted to improve her public speaking performance, she could visualise herself going through the presentation that she has delivered, but presenting it even more competently than she did. It is still important to keep the visualisation realistic but positive, e.g., she may visualise dealing with difficult questions better than she did, or visualise presenting with confidence despite faulty equipment which let her down.
(1) One-third of Australia stressed out https://www.psychology.org.au/news/media_releases/8Nov2015-pw
If you would like help in resolving stress in your life, contact me at Sunset Coast Hypnotherapy on 0403 932311, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free no-obligation phone consultation.
© Lisa Billingham, 2018