Updated: Dec 2, 2021
If you put the phrase ‘stress-management techniques’ into the Google search engine, you will receive over 1,100,000,000 results in under a second. Wow! There are a lot of techniques out there, and if you are living on this Earth, you most likely used some of them, half of them or maybe even more than half, and a different combination of them.
I have used them too. I’ve tried a lot of different combinations of stress management techniques, developed thousands of different coping mechanisms, and put systems in place to fight the stress and overwhelm. But you know what? There I was, yet again, Googling, how to beat stress.
The funny thing is that you need to use several different techniques just to find out that all of them have two things in common: one: they won’t work in the long term if you don’t get to the core of why you’re stressed and two: on their own, they help you to fix the immediate burst of stress, not the underlying stress, which now most likely became chronic.
So, let’s have a look at what is the #1 stress management technique you need to use to build your optimal health and wellbeing.
What is stress?
We all know what stress is, but I think it’s important to start with the basics. There are different definitions of stress, and it may prove to be useful for you to create your own definition what stress means to you. Do you know why?
The simple answer is that what is stressful for me, may not cause any stress to you. Of course, there are certain stressors which are recognised as a big contributor to both me and you feeling overwhelmed and under pressure, for example, death comes to mind or public speaking. However, the level of our perception will most likely decide if the same stressor, has the same impact on both of us. Going a little bit deeper here, most of us live in such an overwhelming and stressful state that you no longer recognise what really causes your stress, what you add on top, and what is just a normal biological, survival reaction to living.
For a really long time, I used to live in a state of overwhelm and stress, and I didn’t even realise that I considered living in a state like that as normal. I thought that it’s what everyone else goes through.
But you won’t know that until you define what stress means to you.
As the research shows, acute stress (a one-off event) is a normal part of life and is encouraged to be experienced. It’s good to challenge yourself from time to time, to go outside your comfort zone and try something new, to have those feelings of joy and excitement. All of it is stress, but it won’t harm you. What's more, it may actually take you on this amazing adventure you always wanted to go.
Chronic stress (prolong stress), on the other hand, is a type of stress which if not managed, will severely affect your health, wellbeing, and quality of life. Unfortunately, but the majority of us live in a state of chronic stress. You’ve been stressing about your kids, the mortgage repayments, your job, career, or relationship that this type of thinking becomes your permanent state.
But I want to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.
The more specific you are with describing what stress really means to you, how it affects you, and what type of stress you’re experiencing, the more clarity you will gain. I’m going to state the obvious, but if you don’t know what the problem is, you can’t fix it. It kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?
How to manage stress?
Recognizing what stress means to you can be the breaking point because once you know what makes you stressed, what you think about stress, you can see a common pattern.
If you ever tried to meditate when you are under a lot of pressure or were trying to find something when you’re running late or were told to calm down when you’re fuming, you can see that not all techniques help in the same way. They may be effective, but depending on the situation, they may elevate your overwhelm even further.
But I would like to invite you to look for a common pattern when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. The definition of being insane is the repetition of the same thing and expecting a different result. So, if you are stressing about your career, going for a high-intensity exercise may be a great way to relieve the stress but if you find yourself stressing about your career the next week, and yet another time, and time after that, you need to ask yourself a hard question.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The stress management techniques have been developed and are interwoven to help you to overcome the stress you feel so your body can come back to homeostasis. In the long run, you need to get into the core of your stress, to address the underlying issues causing you stress in the first place.
The #1 stress management technique
Whatever you think about stress, the way how you define stress, the underlying causes of stress are all coming from the inside. To truly manage stress, you need to manage the inside mental house first.
The stress you experience outside starts inside before you even see and feel it. Let me say it again, the overwhelm and stress you encounter each day comes from your thoughts, expectations, rules, and belief systems you have developed. This may feel (dare I say it?) overwhelming to you, but this change of focus can lead you to using the tools and techniques in a more conscious way.
To manage stress means to manage your expectations you have towards yourself (and often others) which are so hard to meet, that at some point they became unrealistic. To manage stress means to drop the embedded stories of who you were told you should be when you grow up, what it should mean to be successful to you, or that you should always be perfect at everything, and if you’re not, you’re a failure.
If you’re thinking I’m crazy or getting impatient here because you were looking for the next quick fix, that’s great. It means you’ve started using the number one stress management technique and you’re on your way to beat the stress and overwhelm.
We are all living in a state of stress and overwhelm to a certain degree. And if you are like me, you’re juggling many responsibilities, many expectations, ‘should’s’ and stories about who you were supposed to be, what should matter to you, and how you should describe success. But the moment your reality doesn’t match with what you were taught to believe, your mental overwhelm can be excruciating. You go down the spiral of stress which if not addressed, can turn into a chronic event.
Looking into clearing your mental clutter, re-writing your stories, and changing your limiting beliefs are all tools to help you to beat stress and overwhelm. And if you can add a sprinkle of nature, some gentle body movement, and your favourite dish, the better.
So, how are you going to use the number #1 stress management technique today?
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