In recent weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of discussing the topic of stress management with patients, friends, and colleagues, and I’ve found something quite interesting! The degree of variation in our definition of stress management could very well be what’s holding us back from managing our stress.

If you believe that stress management means never feeling stressed and never experiencing negative emotions, you are setting yourself up for imminent failure! We are meant to feel a whole spectrum of emotions, both positive and negative.

Anger, sadness, guilt, and fear are all natural responses that incite our bodies and minds to react in a way to preserve our health and happiness. When we feel fearful, we respond by moving ourselves to a safer environment. If we feel sad or lonely, we seek the comfort of others, strengthening bonds with our friends and family. If we feel guilty, we can learn from our experience, and find the strength within ourselves to apologise and to forgive. Anger helps to remind us of our boundaries and values.

Can you imagine if we didn’t have these emotions and responses? We would never have the motivation to improve, to work on our weaknesses, or to be empathetic to those around us who are experiencing these emotions.

So what does stress management look like?  Well, it certainly isn’t walking around in a euphoric state, with a constant smile on your face. How creepy would that be?? Stress management means holding a space for our negative emotions, using these emotions to improve ourselves, and moving forward without falling part. It means being kind to ourselves when life isn’t. It means knowing what makes us feel calm and whole, and implementing it regularly. And it means knowing what our strengths are, how to use them, and when to ask for help.

I was discussing this with Caleb, fellow practitioner here at The Pagoda Tree, and he had the following advice to give on stress management techniques:

“Always break up two-hour blocks with a deep breathing exercise, [physical] exercise, or some type of rest and disengagement from the stress stimulus… also implementing good sleeping habits, such as screen detox before bed, creating the right atmosphere in the bedroom, having the same sleeping patterns each night, etc.”

This is great advice!

Improving your sleep is a HUGE step towards stress management. This is the time when your body replenishes itself with new cells and your mind organises your thoughts of the past, present, and future. Sticking to a simple routine before bed can be a great way to start improving your sleep. Begin 10-15 minutes before bedtime.

What you do with your routine is up to you, but I would advise you to avoid electronics, when possible. A series of five deep belly-breaths will help to bring heart rate and blood pressure down, and initiates the parasympathetic nervous system (the ‘rest and digest’ one!). One week of committing to a regular bedtime routine would make a significant difference in the quality of your sleep, and ultimately, in your ability to cope with stress.

A few last pointers on stress management:

    • Embrace negative emotions as opportunities to grow
    • Set realistic goals with realistic timeframes
    • Experiment to find what works for you
    • If your stress management routine is stressing you out, you’re doing it wrong

And finally…

Be kind to yourself. Change is hard.

– Sarah

To arrange an appointment with Sarah, contact reception here.

*Feature image sourced here.