In our roles and lives we will have stressful periods. Will we get this delivery out? Will I complete the task asked of me? A personal issue. This can cause us to feel stressed, nervous or anxious. It is perfectly normal to feel like this. As mental health week is approaching I would like to share 3 quick tools which have helped me and others I have worked with help reduce the feeling of stress.
Zoom out – Perspective
In my coaching work one of the tools I introduce people to is a stress scale. I draw a line and write 1 at one end and 100 at the other, then I ask the person what’s the worst thing that could happen tpo them, we talk about that and then make a note that is it 100. We then move on to talk about something which may happen which is around 50 on the scale, something less bad but usually pretty serious. Then what is 25 and so on until we arrive at where the current situation is. It’s often between 0-20, most people tend to land around the 5 mark on their scale. Ask yourself where is this current issue on your personal stress scale?
This allows you to gain perspective on where this is on your own personal scale. It’s very rarely the zombie apocalypse at 100. Note: I would not use this with people who are for example have experienced the loss of a loved one or similar life changing event.
Question: How much will this matter in 10 years?
Talk to someone who really listens
“Thinking stops when we are upset. But if we express feelings just enough, thinking re-starts.” Nancy Kline
Having someone who you can talk to who really listens to you, doesn’t interrupt and allows you to unload your emotion just enough to start to think clearly again. For example, studies show that when we anticipate high conflict environments we lose IQ points, the cognitive load placed on us by anticipating the high conflict event makes us less intelligent.
You could be the person who waits for the person to finish, doesn’t interrupt, doesn’t listen to reply but instead listens completely for the person to finish. Throughout my coaching career my number one tool has been simply listening to people for a length of time without interrupting. When emotion emerges being ok with that and staying with the listening until the person resumes thinking is often incredibly powerful.
Question: Do you have someone who listens to you?
Question: When was the last time you listened to someone until they were truly finished?
There are many mindfulness techniques and apps springing up these days as the evidence grows for this highly useful technique. The two techniques which really work for me personally are guided meditation and breathing exercises.
My favourite guided meditation technique is a body scan, first get yourself in a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted and then pop on a track on. Lie back and relax and follow the words and music. There are loads of good ones on Youtube, Alexa for example. Headspace is a great app too, this has many different meditations and series.
If you can’t find somewhere quiet or are limited by time, or even think meditation is a bit too hippy for me then 5/7 breathing is a easy alternative. The technique here is to close your eyes, or if you can’t or don’t feel comfortable too then place your hands in your lap face up then gently stare into your open hands. Simply breath in counting slowly to 5 noticing your chest inflating, pause and then breath out of your mouth slowly counting to 7. Do a few iterations of this, usually 5 is sufficient to restore a sense of calm.
Question: How could you be more mindful?
Oxytocin is a peptide hormone and neuropeptide called the love hormone by some and produced in the hippocampus. Is it possible for you to use the love hormone in stressful moments? You could you have a picture of loved ones, a pet, something that sparks joy and love which you can look at in order to release a little oxytocin and return yourself to a positive state?
I would love to hear your experiences with any of these tools, or other tools which you have used to help you with stress.