We get asked a lot about managing stress and then also about how to turn your mind off so you can fall asleep or get back to sleep if woken up. These are great questions and I am betting there is not a one of us who hasn’t had stress and trouble with sleep at some point in our lives. We also have children who need to learn these skills as well and parents can provide great life tools to their children to learn to relax. We all have ups and downs, we are all trying to do more in less time and we all feel challenged to figure it out…after all everyone on social media seems to think they have the answers!
The thing is much of the time instead of taking a step back and seeing our stress, we forge ahead ignoring our bodies and the signs. Instead, we need to take a break. We think to ourselves, other people have figured it out, why can’t I…what is wrong with me? The first thing we need to do is listen to our own inner dialogue and pay attention to our bodies, what signs are indicating we are stressed and need a break. We are our own worst enemies, we expect perfection. We would never expect the same out of others around us, we give them breaks…we need to give ourselves a break too!
So, how do we actually manage things differently, paying attention to our bodies, reducing the tension we are experiencing?
According to Elizabeth Scott, M.S. a stress management expert at about.com, sometimes stressful situations seem to culminate quickly, and we can go from feeling fine to overwhelmed in a very short period of time. When this happens, it’s impractical to stop your life to go practice yoga, get a massage, or try other effective but time-consuming stress relievers. It’s best to have a quick and effective way to turn off your fight or flight response and trigger your relaxation response.
Here are some simple tips to better manage stress.
- Unplug before bedtime. Set a time at least an hour before going to sleep to limit texts, emails and social media. Just looking at the screens can inhibit your ability to rest and relax.
- Breathing Exercises
I like to use what is called square breathing.
Click here for a video on another helpful breathing technique.
- Progressive muscle relaxation
I like to use what is called Autogenic training. Follow this link to learn more.
Start small, the important thing is to just get moving (if you have not been regularly exercising). There is a euphoria that comes from the release of chemicals (endorphins) in your body that will combat stress and help you relax. (Please consult your physician before engaging in physical activity).
The next thing you can do is take charge of our own thoughts, we cannot expect others to “make” us happy, we have to do that for ourselves. I believe this has a lot to do with perspective, do you naturally see the positive or the negative in a situation. So, change your perspective and spend time thinking about looking at the situation differently. According to Elizabeth Scott, M.S much of what stresses you does not come from your stressors themselves, but from your response to them. More specifically, your interpretation of your stressors, as well as your approach to dealing with them, can make the events themselves feel much more (or less) stressful.
You can watch this music video if you want to identify with your kids through a pop song about stress. These young adults are re-living how nice it used to be when they were kids and they didn’t have the stress of adulthood.
Contrary to the video you can’t go back into your childhood when things were simpler and less stressful! Thankfully, you can choose your thoughts, even if you can’t choose your life circumstances. There are a few ‘tricks’ for gaining a better perspective for remaining relaxed under trying conditions: first, you can adopt the thinking style of optimists by interpreting certain facets of a situation in a way that brings hope and eliminates self-doubt. You can also adopt the view that you may have more power in a situation than you realize (called having an internal locus of control, which is also known to eliminate feelings of stress), and then looking for new solutions. Finally, be sure that you’re not already sabotaging yourself with overly negative thinking, and read over these common distorted thinking patterns, or cognitive distortions–do any sound familiar? If so, you can become aware of them and eliminate this type of thinking.
Here at Quakerdale we have several mental health professionals who can help you learn more about managing stress and how to take back control of your thoughts and moods.
So use these techniques if you need them or share them with your friends or children!
The Quakerdale Team