“Grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Something that comes up regularly with coaching clients, as it is something we all experience to varying degrees, is stress – which often goes hand in hand with anxiety. We get personally invested – emotionally and/or mentally – in the outcome of things we desire and the moment we feel we have lost control, stress and anxiety rear their angry heads. On the one hand, these emotions have a degree of value when their purpose is to alert us to danger, but more often than not they fail to be of any use as they stop us from acting and moving forward.
So, what tends to cause us stress and anxiety? The list is long, but here are a few things that come to mind:
- Imagining worst case scenarios – only seeing the negative.
- Not being able to find a middle ground – seeing things in black or white.
- Overthinking things.
- Reaction to a challenge or unexpected change.
- A lack of action/inability to take control.
- Habitual worry.
Chad LeJeune, PhD in Clinical Psychology, describes worry as “an attempt to exert control over the future by thinking about it.” The trouble with this is that worry keeps us from taking action, creating more stress and anxiety. Worry is a habit, and habits can be broken. Chad argues that if only we were to replace worrying with caring, we would be able to replace inaction with a desire for action.
Prolonged stress affects our ability to think, our emotions, the way we behave and can even manifest physically in the body, creating tension and chronic illnesses – warning signs that something is not right. If we can become aware of the early signs, we can learn to manage and address stress triggers in a healthy way.
When dealing with the strain of stress and anxiety, here are 11 tips to help you cope:
1. Become aware of what is causing you stress and anxiety. Uncover the root feeling
2. Get sufficient rest
3. Be more physically active
4. Talk to someone else
5. Visualize the positive
6. Manage your time and start to prioritise
7. Learn to say NO
8. Set better boundaries
9. Practice gratitude
10. Stay away from conflict and drama, particularly at work
11. Take back control of the situation by asking yourself what actions you can take
Tackle what is under your control, then let go. I have a lovely yoga teacher who always says “if you can’t let go, let be.” One of the greatest tools we own to help us control the way that we feel is our breath. If the above tips don’t work, come back to your breath. Take some deep inhalations and exhalations. There are plenty of breathing exercises you can practice – one of my favourites being 4-part breath: inhale for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 4 (repeat until you start to feel the body relax and your mind quiet down).
The better acquainted we become with ourselves and the thoughts that distress us, the better equipped we can be to draw ourselves away from what is causing us stress.