There are four key steps that we need to take in order to regain, and maintain, control over our stress and anxiety:
- Reducing our current stress level
- Understanding how we experience stress
- Rewiring our brain
- Developing and practicing the skills needed to keep stress under control
Reducing our current stress level
When we are experiencing stress it affects our ability to think clearly. This creates an obstacle for us, because we need to be able to think clearly in order to take the next three steps.
In order to get our 'thinking brain' back on line, we need to reduce the level of stress we’re currently experiencing.
One of the most effective ways to reduce our current stress level is to activate our innate Relaxation Response. The Relaxation Response is the branch of our autonomic nervous system that goes into action to restore balance once the Stress Response ("Fight or Flight") is deactivated.
The Stress Response and the Relaxation Response can’t both be active at the same time – when one’s on, the other is off. So in order to reduce our stress level we need to ensure that our Relaxation Response is in action more often than our Stress Response.
During the day the best way to activate the Relaxation Response is through diaphragmatic breathing. You can do it anytime, anywhere. There are many different patterns of diaphragmatic breathing, and the one I teach my clients is called 7/11 breathing. You can find out more about it here.
Understanding how we experience stress - the S.T.R.E.S.S Process
The phrase “Knowledge is Power” is often attributed to Francis Bacon (1597). Bacon was referring to the fact that knowledge reduces uncertainty and empowers people to achieve great results. In the context of stress management, a good, clear understanding of how we experience stress is invaluable, because it helps:
- reduce our fear of the unknown
- put us back in control of the stress experience
- us to tailor our stress management activities to those that serve us best
In my work with individual clients and groups, I use the STRESS PROCESS MODEL to explain how stress is created and how we experience it. I’ve written about the Stress Process in earlier blogs. You can check out the first blog in the series here.
Rewiring our Brain
It is often the case that the stress we experience is due to our brain having becoming over sensitive to potential threats. To use an analogy, our amygdala (our brain's threat detector) is performing like a faulty car alarm, triggering the stress response even when there’s little or no danger to us.
The good news is it’s possible to reset the faulty alarm so it only goes off when it needs to. One of the effective techniques I use with my clients to ‘reset the alarm’ is the REWIND technique. This amazing technique is also effective in helping people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and phobias.
Developing and practicing the skills needed to keep stress under control
With our current stress level reduced, and with a good understanding of how we experience stress, and with our alarm system reset, we’re now ready to learn and apply some effective tools and techniques to keep our stress under control. These tools once learned become skills for life, that we can use as and when we need them.
An example of a really powerful stress management tool/skill is visualisation (also known as mental rehearsal).
“If You Can Visualize It, You Can Make It Happen” ~ Jack Cranfield
Very often anxiety is triggered by a misuse of our imagination – we imagine worse case scenarios, and our brains respond to the situation as if it is real and happening now. By practicing visualization, we can deliberately get our imagination working for us instead of against us. Visualization trains the brain to stress less and achieve more. Successful athletes and business people have long known this, and they use visualisation to aid their success and well-being. To learn more about visualisation click here.
If anxiety or stress are causing ongoing problems in your life, give me a call me on 021 056 8389, email email@example.com to schedule your first session.
REMEMBER - "When you change your mind you change your life."
Here's to a relaxing weekend.
Tony helps individuals to harness the power of their mind to achieve success and well-being in life, work and business. Tony's particular area of expertise lies in helping people to 'change their minds' so they gain freedom from worry, anxiety and stress, overcome limiting beliefs and unhelpful habits. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of solution focused coaching, neuroscience, positive psychology and clinical hypnosis.