As with any habit, it is always easier to go back to the ‘comfort’ of what we know than to retrain ourselves and practice a new or different response and behavior. Having said that, it will feel much easier to tense up and give into pressure in the beginning because it is familiar.
In order for us to become successful at quick stress relief, we will have to keep practicing it until it becomes second nature. This most definitely does not happen the first time we try it. We need to make a commitment to stick with the new behaviors, developing a variety of sensory tools that we know we can count on. With that in hand, we will then become ready and armed, ready to handle even the toughest of situations.
Here are a few suggestions that can make developing the quick stress relief habit easier.
• Talk it up. We all can relate to the topic of stress since we all experience it in some way. So talking about it will make for great conversation, but more importantly, it will also help integrate it as a new part of your life.
• Try, try again. The more willing you are to keep trying new ways to bring as much sensory input into your life as possible, the better. Try practicing at various times of the day when you know for sure you feel ‘minor’ levels of stress such as standing in line at the supermarket or the commute home from work. Make it audio one day by listening to your favorite music, try a special scented air freshener the next, or sucking on your favorite candy the following day. By mixing it up, you’ll find yourself building your arsenal in practically no time.
• Bite-Size Challenges. Start small with a lower-level source of stress to test your new skills on; maybe something like balancing a checkbook or getting the kids off to school.
• Laugh with it. Turn finding your favorite sensory input into a game. It isn’t something to push or shove, rather something that just fits easily when it’s right. Enjoy the self-discovery process.
• Conquer and Divide. Work on one stressor for a few weeks and then move on to a second one. Target one stressor with quick stress relief every time it occurs, religiously. Once that one is managed, move onto the next and so on.
The ultimate benefit is realizing that you have more control over day to day life than you think you do. By zeroing into our stress hotspots, we face them head on and can work specifically on tackling them.
Some Common Stress Hot-Spots and How to Tackle them.
• Sleep. This is much more common than you would think. Many of us get too stressed to sleep. Background sound (white noise) or scent diffusers may be just the ticket.
• For the Love of your Kids and your Mate. If you and your loved one have a difference of opinion that causes stress, try squeezing the tips of your thumb and forefinger while breathing deeply. When you deal with defiance or a battle of wills with your three-year old, get some hand lotion and breathe in the soothing smell while rubbing the lotion into your hands.
• Culinary Stress. How much does an onion weigh? How does it feel to stir milk into a saucepan? Even if all you’re doing is opening cans, take a moment and breathe in the smells of every ingredient you use.
• Clutter – Stress Connection. If you’re like me, clutter can be particularly upsetting. My new commitment to quick stress relief has me taking 10 minutes daily to tidy and organize. Another thought would be to paint a fresh coat of my favorite calming color at my workspace. Displaying images that make me feel happy is also a great idea. And making sure there is a lot of natural light whenever possible helps me distress too.
• Social Stress Prior to Hosting a Party. Lighting candles and playing lively music can help stimulate senses and heighten anticipation without anxiety. Also wearing clothes that are very comfortable and I know I look good in help me boost my confidence and feel relaxed instead of stiff and confined.
• Out of Office Efforts. Conduct phone business outside the office whenever possible. Try inhaling something like ginger, peppermint or coffee beans to help energize. Burn off excess energy while standing or pacing back and forth.
• All “Meetinged” Out. Sip coffee. Wiggle your toes. Rub and massage your finger tips. Pay close attention and connection to your breathing; all during your next stressful meeting. Nobody has to be aware of what you’re doing but you.
• It may not Compute. Computer work may be one of the worst stressors for back and neck. Try standing up when working. Something like 10-minute intervals for knee-bends can be a great idea. Suck on a lemon drop or peppermint candy. Wrap your neck with a favorite, ultra soft, scarf.
• Love Yourself Lunches. Nobody said lunches had to be exclusively for food. Try taking a walk outside or chatting with someone you love. When you eat lunch, listen to your favorite, calming music at the same time.
• Your Safe Place. Some of us work lots of hours in once place. Keep family photos or images that make you happy displayed around you. Always have something to look at that makes you feel connected and content.
Who is in your Corner?:
All of us feel better, calmer and more balanced instantly when we talk to people who are good for our mental health that we can count on. Building and maintaining a network of special friends who are good listeners, is one of the most important tools to help us equip ourselves to manage stress. That along with learning how to implement quick stress relief techniques efficiently and regularly will keep us in excellent shape in our quest to distress our lives.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!