Reducing stress: The first steps

Reducing stress: The first steps

The world is finally beginning to wake up to the enormous problem that is stress.

In the past this has been overlooked and misunderstood by medical professionals but much valuable research has been done that demonstrates the enormous harm – both physical and mental – that stress can cause us if it is ignored.

Of course, all of us feel stressed at one time or another – life would be boring if we weren’t nervous about that big job interview or whatever challenge is happening that day – but here, we are talking about serious, long-term, unresolved stress that can affect everything from your sleep, your mood, your eating, drinking and desire to have sex.

Step 1 – Acknowledgement

The first step is to acknowledge that you are stressed. Like all long-term problems, saying to yourself that you have that problem, in this case: “I am stressed” is very important. It externalises the feeling and in doing so immediately reduces the power it has over you.

Step 2 – Be honest

Stress is fundamentally about fear. So, ask yourself what you are scared of. You must be really honest with yourself here and name those fears. This is the next big step and reducing the power your fears have over you.

Step 3 – Write things down 

Start a journal and use it every day. At first, the idea is just to document your feelings in written form and express yourself. Over time, notice how and when you have been able to empty yourself on to the page. Your mind will give itself permission to start looking for solutions.

Step 4 – Brainstorming

It may not feel like it, but you have now made some good progress. The next step is to brainstorm your options for dealing with the stress. Put every idea you have down, no matter how far-fetched it may seem: nothing is off the table because this is brainstorming! Then, look carefully at your ideas and work out what you could actually do. This is an important process because when we are stressed we can naturally give ourselves the message that we have no choice, and in this way we victimise ourselves.

Step 5 – Take action

Commit to taking action to deal with your stress, according to the action points identified in step four. No matter how small these actions may be – it might be trying to get up 15 minutes earlier to make sure the children get to school on time – show commitment in seeing them through. Better still, commit your action plan to someone else. This means you are more likely to do it.

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