Last month we took a stroll down a path to mindfulness. What better way to follow up mindful practice than with stress management? When you feel stressed, it can actually be a good thing. Your brain is wired with an alarm system that sends signals to your body when it perceives a threat. Hormones are released that increase your heart rate and raise your blood pressure, priming you for “fight or flight”. Your body returns to normal once the perceived threat is gone. So even though stress is incredibly frustrating, it’s also your body’s way of letting you know everything is working as intended.
Unfortunately, we don’t just experience one stressful thing a day. We may experience multiple events, sometimes hourly. Relationships, jobs, home maintenance, even passion projects can layer us with stress. This means that the alarm system runs the risk of never really shutting off, which over time can damage our health and impact our quality of life. That’s where stress management comes in. As our world keeps changing and evolving, it’s important to set yourself up with tools that can help your mind and body adapt with these changes. But where do you start?
The “4 A’s” are classic stress management tools—avoid, alter, adapt, and accept. It is so important to nourish our standards and boundaries as we start exploring management. That’s where these “4 A’s” can help!
- Avoiding is not about running away from what stresses us, but being aware of our own boundaries, such as learning when to say “no” or paring down our to-do lists. If we can’t avoid stress, we can at least alter how we operate within that stress.
- Altering your situation can mean expressing our feelings instead of bottling everything up, or communicating and practicing compromise within the situation.
- Sometimes we need to adapt to our stressors by recognizing the bigger picture surrounding the moment, gaining new perspectives, and adjusting our standards.
- The trickiest one is accepting that there are some stressors outside our control. By railing against what we can’t change, we create even more stress than what’s actually happening. It helps to share our feelings where and when we feel safest.
If all else fails? Get moving! The same way your body releases hormones in tense situations, your body also releases feel-good endorphins when you get your blood pumping. There are tons of benefits from regular exercise, even if it’s for just a few minutes. Over time, you can build more exercise into your daily routine, but it’s fine to start small and work up from there. Taking time to turn on your favorite song for a dance or finding a few moments to stretch your legs with a walk can have amazing daily benefits.
Listening to what our minds and our bodies need can have major benefits when we need to tackle stress. No matter what we decide to do, we need to make sure it’s something we enjoy. We’re more likely to stick with a daily routine if we’re enjoying ourselves when we’re doing it. Identifying our “A’s” and cataloging how we encounter and handle stress can help us navigate unexpected curveballs. We need to try and remember to be patient with ourselves and the process of stress management. We can’t control or change every situation, but we can change how we operate given elements we can’t control. Our bodies are constantly talking to us, so take a moment today—perhaps after a good dance—to hear what yours is saying.
Alterity offers training in mindfulness and stress management. Act today for peace of mind tomorrow!