"I can't cope!" Techniques to get your stress under control

Updated: Jul 25




High levels of stress can be 'ageing'. In the short term, stress can disrupt sleep and get us reaching for alcohol or "comfort food". Longer term, it can change our hormonal responses in dangerous ways including increased risk of low mood and depression, and the preferential laying down of fat around your waist area which is associated with diabetes and increased risk of heart attack.


In this article we look at techniques to help you take action and get you back under control.


Technique 1: Create a plan and act on it

The largest contributor to stress is not the actual situation but the feeling of having no control. So, when you are feeling stressed it really helps to calmly work through what the actual issue is and what your response will be to get back into control.


The technique: Take a pen and paper and write down:

  • What is the issue?

  • What is the cause?

  • What should I personally do to improve the situation and why?

  • When will I do this?

They key here is not only to plan what to do, but actually do it. Whenever possible, take action immediately, as it will make you feel back in control. However, if you can't act immediately, make sure you plan the time when you can and block time in your diary to ensure it happens.



Technique 2: Eating the elephant... one bite at a time

Stress often comes from feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things you have to do or the complexity of a situation.

However the saying "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time" is really true.


In all cases (stress related or not) the only way to achieve something big is to approach it in smaller pieces. Plus, the very process of starting to tackle an issue in a structured and planned way gives you the feeling of being control and starts to build confidence that you can indeed achieve what you want.


The technique: Take a pen and paper and write down:

  • What is the overall task

  • What are the steps that need to be taken to achieve it, and in what order

  • How long each task will take and the cost (if relevant)

  • When can you commit time (and money) to do each step

  • Create to do list and block diary time to complete step 1, and repeat with each step when you are ready

  • As you complete each step, celebrate knowing you are one step closer to achieving your goal


Technique 3: "String it"

Techniques 1 & 2 work well when you have a good understanding of the situation. However, many times, we do not have all the necessary information, and these “unknowns” are actually a large source of the stress and feeling of being out of control.


In these cases, you need to employ the "String it" principle. This means creating a plan to find out the information you need and then consciously forcing yourself not to worry about the problem until you have the required information. This "head on" practical approach stops you trying to second guess other people or situations, and avoids unnecessary rumination which many times can build problems into something much larger in your mind than it actually is.


The technique: Take a pen and paper and write down:

  • What is the issue?

  • Do I know what the cause is?

  • If yes, write it down. If not, plan and write down what you need to do to find out (String it*)

  • Once you know what the cause is, do you know what you could you do to improve the situation and why?

  • If yes, write is down, If not, plan and write down what you need to do to find out (String it*)

  • Once you have all the necessary information work out what you need to do, create a plan, and do it (see technique 3).


As with the other techniques, try to take action to find out the information immediately if possible. However, if it dependent on the outcome of something out of your control, note when this information will become available and block time in your diary to give you time to deal with it once you have the information.

This technique is successfully used by many people in high pressured and complex situations as it allows them to create "space" to deal with immediate issues and not waste energy worrying about things that are not possible to deal with in that particular moment.


Technique 4: "Let go" and focus only on what you can influence.

As we have said at the beginning of this post, the largest contributor to stress is not actually the situation, but the feeling that you have no control over it. Techniques 1-3 describe how you get control back, but in some situations, you have to accept that things are out of your control.


For some people, especially those who describe themselves as "high achievers", a major source of stress comes from an unrealistic belief that they are responsible for managing and controlling everything (and everyone) around them. This way of thinking is dangerous as it is an impossible task, and ultimately leads to frustration and disappointment, and in extreme cases, burn out.


The important thing to remember is that the only thing in life we can truly control is ourselves and our responses to situations. We may have some influence on the world and others, but in the end what they do is up to them, just as what you do is up to you.


Although this may initially sound scary, once you accept this, it is actually one of the most empowering “truths” about life. It means that you have ultimate control over your life and can create the life that you need and deserve.


Remember:

You have control of yourself - you control what you say and do, and how you choose to react to a certain situation or person - in the end, someone or something can only stress you if you allow yourself to react to it.

Accept what you cannot change - if you accept that in some situations whatever you do will make little difference, it makes it easier to let go of negative feelings about yourself in the situation and be able move on.

Stop worrying about what others think – easier said than done, but rather than constantly worry about what others think, you need to focus on what matters to you. This doesn’t mean it's ok to be selfish - It means building a life that makes you happy that in turn will generate the energy for you to make others happy.


IS STRESS AGEING YOU?

If you want to find whether stress (along with other lifestyle factors) might be ageing you - our Life Age test is just what you need. To find out more about our Life Age test and all our Age-Reversing support click the button below:



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