19 Apr Simple stress busting strategies
Yowzers how nice is this sunshine we’re having in the UK! Doesn’t life seem so much lighter when the sun shines? (The pun isn’t lost on me 😉
So we’ve been talking all things stress over the past few weeks. This week I want to focus on the relationship between stress and emotions, and then look at some lovely, simple stress-busting strategies we can all implement.
When we’re experiencing stress we’re often experiencing lots of challenging, even painful emotions. Our natural tendency in response to such emotions is to suppress them or ignore them, and as discussed in last week’s post numb out to them or project them onto other people.
An important part of being resilient in the face of stressful circumstances is to learn how to ‘be with’ our emotions.
When I first got my running injury last year I took myself off to the physio for some help. The physio uses techniques that are painful, he puts pressure on muscles that have been holding tension for years and tries to soften them and loosen that tightness. And it really hurts. But what I’ve learned through going to the physio is that I can breathe through that pain. I can stay with the discomfort.
So the first simple strategy to busting stress is to notice the uncomfortable emotions that come up in response to stress, and to breathe through them. Breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.
The second simple strategy is to name the discomfort. When I feel nervous before a big presentation I notice where I feel that nervousness, and articulate it to myself ‘I’ve a churning in my stomach’ for example, and then I’ll label it ‘nervousness’. It does indeed sound like a really simple strategy, so simple you might say it’s pointless and doesn’t help at all. But, it works brilliantly. It works to actually process the emotion, to move it through your body.
The important part of breathing and noticing/ labeling emotion is that we’re allowing our emotions to exist, to be acknowledged, and then to move. I heard a beautiful quote recently by Omar El Akkad where he was talking about avoiding being with the challenging emotions that came up when his dad passed away: ‘Emotional wounds scar up real quick, and if you don’t do the work of [processing emotion] in the moment, it never goes away.’ It is so very important to process emotion, rather than leave it stagnant.
The third simple strategy here is to move the body. To again let the body process the emotion. Some go on hikes, some go on runs, some do 5Rhythms, some do yoga, some practice martial arts, some explore embodiment work, some just stick music on in their sitting room and dance. But getting the body up and moving, helps you to feel and experience emotion, which is turn helps you to process it.
All of this can feel alien and weird, it’s not how we’re taught to navigate our way through life. But it is the way we’re heading. More of us are realising the importance of emotional intelligence, and how actually your enjoyment of life depends more on how you feel than what you have and what you know. Being emotionally intelligent and becoming super familiar with these kinds of techniques makes you strong and resilient and able to tackle the stresses of daily life.
If you’d like to explore further please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
With love, Hannah