Managing Stress

Stress is inevitable and part of our everyday lives, often presenting itself during the most arduous situations.

In fact, our Sympathetic Nervous System, known for activating our “fight or flight” response and considered to be half of our autonomic nervous system, is designed to support us in the daily activities that cause us stress. The other half, known as the Parasympathetic Nervous System and responsible for promoting our “rest and digest” response, is designed to help us to recover from the stressors of our daily life.

So the goal isn’t to eliminate stress altogether, but rather, to make sure that we are giving ourselves the space and time needed to counter and balance the effects of stress by activating our parasympathetic nervous system.

In other words, we would aim to pulse between times of stress and times of comfort and relaxation. Many times, we can get stuck in a cycle of stress that makes our bodies tense and prevents our minds from coping and letting go of difficult experiences.

“One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a horse master. He told me to go slow to go fast. I think that applies to everything in life. We live as though there aren’t enough hours in the day but if we do each thing calmly and carefully we will get it done quicker and with much less stress.”

— Viggo Mortensen

  1. 1. Activating Your Relaxation Response

    Checking in with yourself each day is so necessary. There can be a snowball effect as life becomes busy. Business begets business. And if we don't take enough time each day to pause the rolling of the "snowball," it becomes larger, stronger, and harder to avoid, leading to burning out or smashing into a wall.  By pausing and taking some time for yourself consciously, this can be avoided.

    What helps you to rejuvenate?

    - Visualization

    - Time with animals

    - Exercise

    - Mindful movement or yoga

    - Stretching

    - Slowing down

    - Fresh air

    - Performing an activity mindfully Single-tasking (versus multitasking)

    - Walking

    - Deep breathing 

    - Talking to a friend

    - Listening to music

    - Bodywork (massage, acupuncture etc...)

    - Meditation

    - Giving yourself double the time to complete a task

    You can easily incorporate all of these aspects into your day and use them to alleviate stress as it develops. For instance, reaching out to a friend who always makes you laugh can help to put things in a better perspective or encourage your jaw to soften at the very least. 

    This can also be done by imagining your own calm place. In a beautiful place that you love, envision yourself. Maybe it's your favorite spot to watch the sun go down, a stream, a lush forest, a hidden beach, or your own bedroom. Invite all of your senses to envision yourself there. Hear the crickets in the evening, feel the ground between your toes, smell the roses, or just feel the peace surround you as you breathe.

    Take a moment to think of a few more ways to bring more of these types of activities into your routine.

  2. 2. Let Go of Multitasking

    post it wall of love

    When we concentrate on the present moment without constant interruptions, we can perform tasks more effectively and efficiently. Fundamentally, in action, this is mindfulness. It's not always possible, so choose single-tasking versus multitasking whenever you can. Although multitasking may feel very exciting and productive, it can make you more anxious and pressured. 

    Tips for Single-Tasking:

    - Put away any digital distractions and turn off notifications.

    - Set a timer and focus for that amount of time (start small, begin with 10 minutes, and work your way up to 90 minutes). During this time, you will avoid anything that may distract you, and you could decide to pass the time by going outside, drinking some water, cleaning, or eating a snack.

    - One of the many reasons we like to multitask is because, when we get stuck on a task, we can escape it by checking our social media outlets, but it’s important to sit down and face the problem to allow for creativity to arise.

    - Take a small break after you’ve focused for a set amount of time to restore your body and mind before starting something new.

    Where in your life could you benefit from single-tasking?

  3. 3. The "STOP" Technique

    woman sitting on a brown sofa in front of a neon sign that says "slow down"

    Stop.

    Take a breath.

    Observe.

    Proceed.

    According to Calm, by stopping, taking a breath, observing what’s going on within, and then proceeding, we can get present, and de-escalate our stress before it grows. Try this practice the next time you feel stress starting to build.

    “The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”

    — Sydney Harris

  4. 4. Cultivate a Calm Attitude

    a pink neon "and breathe" sign over a plant wall

    The tricky thing about stress is that it affects the capacity of the body to do its work effectively. You will want to eat a nutritious lunch, for example, but if you eat it when you're exhausted (perhaps you feel like you don't have time to eat and you should be working), the body won't be able to digest and absorb all the amazing nutrients you've consumed. The same is true with exercise. If you workout from a place of feeling “not good enough” and like you need to fix yourself, you’ll build unnecessary tension, stay in fight-or-flight mode, and miss out on the awesome benefits of nurturing your body in the first place.

    Here are few ways to help reward yourself:

    Before eating, take a few deep breaths and take the time just for yourself, eating at your own pace.

    When exercising, be mindful of your body’s limits, and congratulate yourself often for the small accomplishments and milestones that you achieve.

    If you’re overwhelmed by your responsibilities or tasks, try to find ways to respond to your workload rather than react to it. For example, write a list of everything that you have to do and then choose the most important thing to do and start there.

    Give yourself one minute stretch breaks to feel and honor your body. Bring a sense of humor and light-heartedness to the situation.

    Bring a hint of a smile to your lips. Smiling can trick your brain into happiness and boost your health. A smile spurs a powerful chemical reaction in the brain that can make you feel happier.

    What activities can you approach with more ease?

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.”

— Etty Hillesum