As we come to the end of stress awareness month 2023, I thought it would be helpful to share some of the simple tools I use with my clients that I encourage them to use frequently.
There’s another reason!
Like any awareness raising month, the subject doesn’t go away when the month ends.
We may think that stress is connected with some THING.
Like work for example – 13.5 million workdays were lost in Europe in 2021.
Or exams . . . 60% of young people suffer stress due to the pressure to succeed.
31% are stressed because of need or pressures to text.
Comparing self to others is highly stressful for 13.49% of 18- to 24-year-olds.
76% of employed people are stressed due to work and money issues.
48% of those have sleep problems.
2020 was a record year for stress related absences from work . . . hardly surprising really when we reflect on events of that year.
AND the cost of stress in 2021 was £4 Billion in the UK and an estimated $1 trillion in lost productivity globally.
That’s about seven hundred and eighty-five billion one hundred and fifty million pounds.
Something often missed is presenteeism.
People who perhaps need to take time off work don’t because they fear consequences. Instead, they go to work, under-perform and their stresses increase.
The total cost of presenteeism in the United States is more than $150 billion per year and £15.1 billion per year in the UK.
The statistics are perhaps a stressor in themselves. Listening or reading about them is a genuine cause for concern.
A study by the American Psychological Society found that the majority of respondents reported fatigue, anxiety, and loss of sleep because of influences provoked by news reports.
Yet 1 in 10 adults check their newsfeed every hour and 20% of Americans ‘constantly’ monitor their social media feeds.
More exposure, more stress.
Sounds like we’re up against a wall.
The thing is, it’s our thoughts about things that cause the stress, not the “things” in themselves.
Tools That Help
Some of these are also used to help relieve anxiety, however, stress and anxiety should not be confused.
People suffering from stress experience mental and physical symptoms, such as irritability, anger, fatigue, muscle pain, digestive challenges, and difficulty sleeping.
Stress is the feeling of overwhelm or inability to cope with mental or emotional pressure brought on by our reactions to current events in our lives.
Anxiety is defined by persistent, excessive worries that don’t go away even when there are no stressors.
All the tools that follow work if you work. They are easy to do, easy not to do.
Stay in your present moment time zone.
When you find yourself worrying about things that may or may not happen, ask yourself these questions.
Look at the questions with curiosity and aim to answer without making judgements.
What is happening right now?
Am I safe?
Is there something I need to do right now?
Relabel what’s happening.
If for example, you are worried and feeling stressed about a presentation you need to deliver and are thinking negative thoughts about potential outcomes, rephrase your thoughts.
“I am having the thought that I am nervous about failing at this presentation”.
To . . .
“It’s natural to feel a little nervous yet, I know my subject and I am prepared”.
Here’s an uncomplicated guide to some “stressed” symptoms.
Becoming easily and repeatedly agitated or irritable.
Feeling overwhelmed, losing control or a constant desire to take control.
Unable to relax or calm your mind.
Feeling negative about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, insignificant, low mood.
Occasionally we all feel some of these and a little doesn’t hurt. If, however, you recognise many of these symptoms frequently, it may be time to consult a professional.
Don’t hesitate to leave a message in the comments if you need support.
Stop and Breathe.
Deep breathing helps with calming down.
No need to make this complicated. If you feel any of those stressful symptoms rising, stop what you are doing and take a deep breath in, hold the breath, and breathe out.
Count how long your in-breath takes and match the hold and out-breath with the same count.
This will help slow down and re-center your mind and is useful for all occasions, not just the stressful moments.
Check your Thoughts.
AKA Put your thoughts on trial by asking a few questions when stressful symptoms or thoughts arise.
Are the thoughts I’m having accurate?
What is the evidence?
What alternatives are there?
What is the effect of thinking the way I do?
The Three, Threes.
Name 3 things you can see right now.
Name 3 current sounds.
Move any three parts of your body.
Just do it.
When the going gets tough; Stand up, walk around, rearrange your workspace, recycle a piece of trash from your desk . . . Do something that interrupts your train of thought because it will help you regain a sense of control.
Are You Breathing?
I frequently talk about breathing and positive breathing methods to assist in stress reduction.
One of the reasons for that is because when you’re stressed, breathing patterns change and can cause strain and tension in the middle of the back.
Next time you feel stressed, notice how your body feels by doing a quick body scan.
You may realize your shoulders are hunched up and there is some discomfort or pain in your upper and middle back.
If you have lower-back pain in the tailbone and lower half of the back muscles, your flexibility and posture can be affected.
Seek support from a qualified professional if these symptoms persist.
Reach for the sky.
Stood up or sitting, pull your shoulders back, with your feet apart, and open your chest. This can help your body sense that it has control.
Reduce or remove your sugar intake.
Research shows that too much sugar can worsen anxious feelings.
Rather than sweet, think water and protein because a slow energy release promotes recovery.
All the tools here are evidence based and help if they are used regularly.
Ask for a second opinion.
This is based on a tool I use where I encourage my clients to take their thoughts to an imaginary court. The client plays all roles.
The defence defends the thoughts, the prosecution works to disprove the validity of the thoughts. Finally, the judge decides on the value of the thoughts.
Asking for a second opinion is similar except another person is involved at your request.
Send a message, call, or visit a person you trust and share your worries. Speaking your thoughts out loud to another person can bring clarity.
Writing them down and reading them back 10-minutes later is also helpful.
There’s no shortage of humor on YouTube . . . sketches, funny animals, comedians, movie clips . . .
Laughter is a great antidote for a stressed mind.
Research shows that laughter has significant benefits for our mental health and well-being.
Responding in the comments section of this post with your questions is a secure method of contacting us. Your comments will never be published unless they are of a non-personal nature. Alternatively, you can email Steve Costello at email@example.com or Leo Faerberg at Leofaerberg@gmail.com
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Coaching and Tools That Help
Relating to these there are plenty of tools that can help with your Personal Growth and Development whether you feel challenged or just seek to advance the way you respond to your world and expand your success.
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Comments and Questions
Leave yours below. Your thoughts or questions may well ignite a positive spark in other readers thinking. You will always receive a prompt response to your questions and there is no such thing as a bad question; only the one that was never asked.
I bow to the place in you that is love, light, and joy
Peace & Light
Steve Costello is a British Community & Youth Studies and Psychology honors graduate with over 30-years academic and practical experience coaching in the Personal Development public and private sectors. He founded ExGro in 2018 with business partner, and friend, Leo Faerberg.
Leo is also a qualified psychologist with additional training in Clinical Psychology. He has over 20-years experience.