- in Self-Care
Many people find that their energy is zapped by evening because of the stress that grinds them down throughout the day.
That might even be your primary area of focus, if your desired outcome includes “Living with less stress and feeling more relaxed and confident each day.”
Unfortunately, for most people stress is a fact of life, something that just circulates and colors everything else but never really leaves you alone.
Stress comes in many forms.
There is so-called “good stress” that motivates us and drives us to reach new heights, and then there is “bad stress” that consumes us and makes us less effective in our day-to-day activities.
I believe that any unmanaged and unwanted stress is bad stress, so I am going to review some options for diminishing it. Emotional stress factors are just as painful as physical stress factors, and must be considered and treated gently.
The right approach to managing stress has much to do with our behavioral style.
A person who is a high-energy, physically active, and fast-moving type of person will need to dissipate their energy by physical activities — by taking a run, climbing a mountain, cardio-boxing, and the like.
Someone who is more laid-back, quiet, and unemotional in style will need quiet time or alone time to recharge his or her batteries.
When the two styles are married to one another and both people are stressed, this can create new stress in and of itself.
If, for example, I relieve stress by mountain biking with my spouse, but my spouse just wants to relieve stress by quietly reading the newspaper in the den, our disagreement about what we need to do in our shared time may add to the stress!
Be aware of what you need to do to relieve stress, and work to feed that part of yourself on a regular basis.
If I first identify how I can best recharge my batteries, then I can find ways to work those activities into my life. It comes back to having a plan.
If I realize I am starting to be too pulled and too triggered, I may want to prioritize activities that are de-stressing to me.
What I do not want to do is ignore the warning signs until I find myself sick or unable to cope because I didn’t act on those warnings.
Learning to breathe is so important for stress reduction.
One of my clients went to a coaching program for a week and came back very excited. He told me that after almost 50 years, he finally learned how to breathe! Unbelievably, learning how to breathe effectively made a significant difference in his feelings about his work, his family, and his life.
In hypnosis we focus a lot on breathing the right way.
Here is a simple way to help you learn effectively how to take deep, cleansing breaths.
- Close your eyes for a minute and imagine a blue balloon in your stomach.
- Imagine that the balloon is deflated and you will inflate it with your breath.
- Breathe in deeply through your nose and focus on filling that balloon to its most round state.
- Breathe in very deeply but not so deeply that you get light-headed.
- This should be comfortable, not something that adds to your stress!
- As you gently breathe in, imagine the balloon filling up with air.
- Once it is filled, release the air through your mouth.
- Remember that rather than breathing into your diaphragm, as most of us have learned to do, you are breathing in and out from your stomach.
- Allow the breath to fill you, and then release it.
- Do this at least 3-4 times until you can feel your entire body relaxing.
Whenever you get into a strained situation, use this breathing technique.
It immediately draws your attention away from what is stressing you and toward your breath. We can’t focus our minds on two things at once, so if you are focused on your breathing, you can’t focus on how worried you are about your boss having called you into his office.
The act of focusing on breathing turns your attention to your breath, instead of the concern or thought that is distracting.
In order to have a more confident and decisive approach, clear your mind of the distractions that impede focus.
Take your time to breathe this way before facing any potentially stressful or worrisome situation.
At first, the act of breathing will require your attention. Once you are breathing comfortably, you can start to turn your attention to whatever it is you need to deal with at that time. Your breathing allows you the clarity and focus you need to think about the problem or issue in a more rational and logical manner.
Another important way to alleviate stress is to take breaks throughout the day.
It is hard to sit for hours on end, or stand at a machine or in a showroom for hours, without some kind of a break. Even if you just walk into a bathroom, close the stall door, and sit down on a closed toilet to do your breathing exercise, it creates a mental and physical break in your day.
Because of my career I tend to sit a lot at a computer, as I am doing now, just typing. I also spend hours talking on the phone. In fact, my kids say I get paid to “talk and type!”
Because of these activities, my arms often hurt and my back gets very stiff. During my breaks, I stand up and reach my arms up as far as I can. I roll my head from side to side, just to move my muscles in a new direction.
Allowing your body and your mind some sort of break in the action can bring you back to your task with a renewed focus.
When I really feel the stress creeping in, I may drop what I am doing and if I am at home, grab one of the dogs for a quick run around the block. At work, I’ll go downstairs to the coffee shop. I might not even buy anything, but just giving myself the mental and physical break helps.
Do your best to dispense with worry, especially as you move toward your desired goals.
When I was 19 years old I read a story by Zig Ziglar, the famous motivational speaker. He quoted the writer David Mamet who said, “Worry is interest paid in advance on a debt that never comes due.”
Zig advised his readers to make lists of things that worry them so they were out of mind and onto paper for planning purposes, or thrown out entirely.
I resolved to become less of a worrier and more of a planner.
Over time I have faced things that I wouldn’t have thought I could possibly deal with, but by making a plan instead of worrying I have always been able to find ways to shift to a new situation.
Some people seem to think that worry is like a cloak that will protect them, as if worrying about it enough will stop it from happening. But how much energy is spent during the worrying process? Especially if whatever you’re worrying about never actually happens!
If the feared trouble does happen, you need all of your energy and faculties to deal with it most effectively, do you not? So try to catch yourself whenever you find yourself giving energyover to worry states.
Ask yourself what you are worrying about and whether it is something you could use the S.H.I.F.T. Model™ to deal with.
Worrying, if you can turn it into a trigger that helps you plan, can be productive.
A common dynamic with some professional people I work with occurs when there are changes looming in their work environment and they are feeling the fear of what might happen to them.
Fear of the unknown overwhelms them, and they find themselves fixating on the worst possibility of what could go wrong.
When this dynamic takes shape, the process of worrying hampers their ability to be a top performer, because the worry begins to permeate their day-to-day abilities. Someone who may have been competent and confident is now slinking by their manager’s door or fearfully watching the faces of senior managers in a meeting.
His or her fear takes on a life of its own, and the person could be labeled as someone who isn’t confident enough for the next phase of the business, or even put on a list to be let go! Ultimately the worry has turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Likewise, I’ve worked with single people who are in a relationship and spend a lot of time worrying about whether their significant other is really interested in them or is going to stick around. The worry and the ensuing behavior it often brings about can sometimes drive the other person away.
I’ve come to understand that there aren’t a lot of good reasons to worry, and that it takes a toll on our emotional and physical strength when we let it consume us.
Finding ways to focus your attention on more positive steps to take will ultimately benefit you much more than worrying will, no matter what you are facing.
To the degree that you can keep away from people who are gloom and doom, or away from reading undesirable things or watching TV programs with dire predictions, you will find you may be less worried in general.
I’m not suggesting denial is a good state to be in, but if you are a person prone to worry, exposing yourself to those things that create more pointless fear and concern may be counterproductive.
For example, one year my son’s Boy Scout group went on a Ghost Walk. It sounded like fun to me, so I agreed to take the place of one of the troop leader moms and go with the boys. I’m not afraid of ghosts myself, so I thought it was a nice time and I enjoyed learning about the history of many “true” ghost stories in this particular area.
However, one boy on the walk had a latent fear of ghosts and the “undead” that both his family and I were unaware of. He didn’t sleep for several months after the ghost tour.
This was a good lesson for me. In this boy’s case no one knew the fear was there, but if you know something upsets you, by all means, stay away from it unless your desired outcome is to overcome that particular fear!
Create a Positive Trigger
One last idea for stress reduction is to learn self-hypnosis techniques, like developing a positive trigger for when you face something that concerns you.
- Sitting in a quiet spot and taking three deep breaths can accomplish this.
- Close your eyes on the third breath and just sit there, being aware of your breathing and how it calms you.
- As you sit, continue to focus on your breath and to breathe in and out as your body adjusts and becomes more relaxed.
- Once you feel you are truly relaxed, put the first three fingers of your right or left hand (thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger) together as your “trigger,” or reminder.
- Allow these three fingers to touch one another at the same time at the tips.
- Hold this position as you continue to breathe and feel relaxed.
- Quietly say to yourself, “I am calm. I am relaxed. I am in control.
- My three fingers remind me that I am calm, I am relaxed, I am in control.
- Because I have identified this as a trigger, every time I put my three fingers together, I will remember to be calm, relaxed, and in control.”
- As you say this to yourself, continue to breathe, hold your fingers together, and see yourself as calm and confident.
Practice this a few times each day until you can put your three fingers together with your eyes open and allow the mental “trigger” to calm your body.
For years and years I used this technique before I made a speech. I was never afraid — I actually enjoy public speaking — but I always felt a degree of nervousness right before I would walk out on the stage. I would look out at the audience and start to worry about getting cold feet.
Putting my three fingers together at my side allowed me to calm down and feel in control as I began speaking. Once I was into my speech, I would continue to become more and more relaxed.
Over the years, I have developed into what I hope is an excellent public speaker, and as I’ve stated before it is one of the things I most enjoy doing. Even now, from time to time when an event is really big and very important, I still find myself unconsciously putting my fingers together before I walk up on the stage.
This article is an excerpt from Beverly Flaxington’s book: Make Your SHIFT: The Five Most Powerful Moves You Can Make to Get Where YOU Want to Go and has been published with the author’s permission.
About the author
Beverly Flaxington has spent over 25 years in the investment industry in a variety of business building and senior management roles. As a sales and marketing expert, corporate consultant, college professor, bestselling and Gold-award winning author, she has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, USA Today, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is on the speaker’s list for the CFA Institute. She currently writes a column for Adviser Perspectives magazine on people issues in the financial services workplace.
Her bestselling book, Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior, won the Gold Award from Readers Favorite. The American Entrepreneur called it, “one of the best business books in the country today”. She authored Make the Shift: The Proven Five-Step Plan to Success for Corporate Teams based upon her trademarked change management and goal achievement model. In March 2012, she released Make Your SHIFT: The Five Most Powerful Moves You Can Make to Get Where YOU Want to Go which became a bestseller on its first day of availability. She also authored The 7 Steps to Effective Business Building for Financial Advisors which was selected by the Financial Planning Association to make available to their members. She is co-author of Wealthbuilding: A Consumer’s Guide to Making Profitable and Comfortable Investment Decisions, published by Dearborn Financial Publishing.
To know more about Beverly, visit www.the-collaborative.com.