Stress got you down? Do you often experience an overwhelming urge to jam a fork into your own twitching eye? You’re not alone, girl!
In June 20th, Mind Matters is holding a workshop on stress management called “How To Not Give A Sh*t.” According to co-founder Alison Fosbery, “We know life can get cray, so we’ve created this workshop to equip people with the tools to help manage their stress and take the edge off.”
We chatted with Fosbery about how we can give fewer shits (and get on with our lives).
SDTC: What are some easy tips to combat stress?
KP: First step is to pay attention to how stress manifests physically; notice how your chest gets tight or when your breathing becomes quick. If we connect with the physical warning signs of stress it can act as a cue for us to find a way to combat these feelings. Stress can also manifest as irritability or feeling numb or depleted.
Breathe. Our breathing usually becomes short and quick when our alarm bells are going off. You can deliberately cause your mind and body to calm down by slowing down your breath. A great method is to use the 4-7-8 method: inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7, and exhale for 8. This tells your brain that it is time to relax. Do a few rounds of this deliberate breathing until you notice a change. Be patient, as this can take some practice. It would also be useful to commit to working on mindful breathing daily using a guided meditation app such as Stop, Breathe, & Think.
Next, ask yourself what is behind your stress. What thoughts or beliefs might be contributing? Are you telling yourself you’re not going to meet a deadline or that someone in your life isn’t pulling their weight? Challenge any thoughts you have that may not be accurate and replace those thoughts with a more logical statement. Tell yourself that “although I am feeling overwhelmed, I know I will get everything done.” Ask yourself if there is really a threat; is what you believe to be causing you stress really unmanageable, or have you conquered this in the past with great success? Bring awareness to those negative, false statements that may be causing these reactions.
Does stress ever serve a purpose?
Stress is caused when our parasympathetic nervous system is activated (also known as the flight or fight reaction). This can help us when we are in stressful situations, where we need to meet a deadline, give a speech, or if we are in a real emergency. The danger is when this system becomes activated too often, as it can wreak havoc on our body and mind. Often times our minds and bodies react as though we are in serious danger when there may not be a real threat around us.
I like to think of stress reduction techniques as a way of “updating your software.” When our brains react and cause us to panic as though we are being physically attacked, we are relying on old software that used to protect us when in danger. In 2016 we are rarely in real danger; we need to update our software so that we can adapt to today’s world.
It’s important to make stress reduction a priority. When we focus on calming strategies, it activates our sympathetic nervous system, replenishes our energy, and allows us to better combat stress and be less reactive. This can be done through awareness, focusing on calming breathing strategies, and by challenging the thoughts and beliefs that may be making it harder to keep our cool. Even if we do miss that deadline, is this a real threat to our success and happiness as a whole? It’s important to work on reacting appropriately to our daily demands so that we don’t become burnt out. It is not natural for our stress reactors to be firing all day, and this can contribute to illnesses over time.
Why are people more stressed out than EVER?
A study done by the Harvard School of Public Health in 2014 found that people are stressed about the things you would expect (money, work, relationships etc.), but what we think is interesting are the modern day pressures. For example, some psychologists argue millennials are stressed out because of FOBO (Fear of Better Options). We’re blessed with so many paths to choose from but can be paralyzed with too many options in front of us.
We would also say that technology has contributed to stress levels, as everyone is expected to be available and responsive at any hour of the day.
It may seem as though we as a society are more stressed now than ever, but it could also mean that more people are comfortable speaking up about their struggles. This has obviously brought more awareness, and we think it’s a great step in the right direction. The more people can talk about it and learn from one another and tactics used to reduce stress (which we’ll be going over in our workshop), the less on edge we’ll all be.