Even though the quick tricks are very useful, the best way to cope with stress is to develop long-term strategies. This will help develop some tool to be in a better position to cope with stress afterwards.
Here are the different steps… that can take more time, but really pays off!
In order to identify and evaluate the situations that stress us, we need some time to figure out what it is about them that is activating our stress response system. So, you feel your heart and mind racing and you start to sweat and your breathing changes. Bingo, you are in a stressful situation!
Now is not necessarily the best time to ask yourself if the situation is N.U.T.S. you are in the thick of it! Do you think that our ancestors stopped when the mammoth was charging to say, “Hum, is this unpredictable, this must be why I am stressed!?! They did what they needed to survive and went back to the cave and then tried to figure out what went wrong on the hunt.
What does this mean today? We go home, get dinner, help with homework, give baths, read stories, clean up, maybe work a little, get laundry done and then watch a little TV. We then go to bed only to find that ah ha, our brain just does not turn off. The events of the day keep popping into our minds and we have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep! Sounds Familiar?
Walk the Dog
This next piece of advise is perhaps the most difficult to implement but you are worth it! What we propose is very simple, every day spend 1 hour alone, no TV, no books, no computer, in other words no outside source of stimulation.
Walking the dog is one way of spending one hour alone everyday, but they are many other ways to do this: Sewing, knitting, walking, swimming, meditating, running, etc.
When you go to bed at night, this is often the first moment of the day that your brain is not being bombarded with the thousands of thoughts and ideas swimming around all day. You literally shut down. But your brain does not like to be without stimulation, we dream most of the night in part because of this. This is why the events of the day start to pop into your mind, because it is the first time the brain has had a chance to stop thinking!
By taking an hour out of your day to be alone, this will give your brain and mind a moment to go through things well before you go to bed. In fact, it can be a great time to think of the day’s events and figure out what it is about them that stress you.
Right now you might be thinking…. One hour a day, are you nuts? I don’t have a minute to spare let alone an hour! Here lies the difference between having the time and taking the time. And taking the time….is taking control over your life and stress.
If this means going to bed earlier so you can walk the dog (cat, bird, turtle…) alone at 5:30am before the kids wake up for school, then try it. Watch one less TV show at night and take a walk, go lie down in the basement, or have a long bath. If you drop the kids off at soccer, then spend some time in the park nearby, don’t go run errands! If you have a partner, you take an hour in the morning and your partner can take an hour at night or vice-versa.
There are surely ways in which domestic tasks can be re-assigned to free up some time. Perhaps your partner can make lunches, and gives the kids breakfast while you spend your HOUR alone. Yes, you may have to sacrifice, but you and your family will benefit in the end. Short-term pain for long-term gain!
This is where principle number 1 comes into play. “There are no easy solutions”. You may be asking yourself, can I split the hour into four 15min breaks? Could the times I go to the bathroom or go to lunch count? NO! Such short periods do not give your brain enough time to get antsy from the lack of stimulation and start to bring out the events of the day/week/month. You need enough time so you can then identify the true source of your stress, which just happens to be the second step in long-term stress management.