Reduce Stress and Anxiety
A certain amount of stress is good for us, it strengthens us and helps us build resilience. Too much however, produces an excess of chemicals in our bodies, which over time will significantly and negatively impact our health. This post describes 7 techniques that will reduce stress and anxiety to healthy levels.
Think about stress and anxiety as friends not enemies. They are are important messengers letting us know what there is something for us to learn and/or change in our lives. They are a wake up call for us to continue our adventure into how to live our lives to the full, in the very best way we can.
Some people may find this too positive, but even in those cases seed it as an idea: even how we view stress and anxiety can change the effect they have on us.
The Stress Proof Individual
Garner Thomson in his excellent book, Magic in Practice, outlines 6 psychological modulators that protect us from excess stress.
- Social support and connectives: invest in our family, friends and network.
- A sense of control, we can focus more on what is under our control.
- Predictability, which we get bet better at when we accept whatever is, and start learning to enjoy and appreciate uncertainty.
- Positive expectancy, occasionally planning for the downside is really useful, however, 80% of our attention is best used on taking action towards what we want to achieve.
- Meaning, purpose and spirituality, it’s empowering to have a purpose both for us, and something bigger than us.
- Dissipation, it’s useful to develop ways of getting rid of excess stress. Exercise, healthy eating, drinking enough water, sleeping well, stretching and meditative practices all help.
Building Routines and Daily Habits
Establishing routines gives us senses of predictability and control, and also dramatically increases the odds that we’ll actually do those things that are genuinely important to us. A suggested start:
- short exercise session
- short meditation session
- confirm your 3 priorities of the day: what are the key areas you want to invest your time, energy and attention on?
- short body stretching session
- evening questions, mostly structured in the form – did I do my best to?
With some other structures. These questions are an input measure. What effort did we put in. Examples might include: Did I do my best to complete my 3 priorities today? Did I do my best to help my clients today? Did I do my best to move forward on my purpose? What 3 experiences did I appreciate today? What am I grateful for?
Reducing and or Inoculating Stressors
Life today includes a lot of stress triggers, many people are trying to attract our attention, and steal our time and energy, and push our emotional buttons to do so. An initial step can be to simply note whenever we’re distracted and triggered into a stressful situation. At the end of each day, review our list and decide which situations we’ll
- accept (because it helps us in some way
- simply avoid in future
- inoculate us against the trigger. Two ways of doing this are future pacing and spinning feelings, which follow later.
Doing this on its own improves our sense of control, which reduces stress . Taking further action reduces it further.
Amplifying ‘Feel Good’ Anchors
This is the reverse of the above: we often forget to notice the triggers that help us feel good. During any day, make a note of anything that triggers us to feel good, these may be very simple, such as enjoying the smell of a cup of coffee, watering a series of pot plants, and hugging the dog (as well as some things you may not want to share!)
Build what you’ve enjoyed and appreciated into your evening questions. Every good memory is a resource you can use in the future. The art is to anchor both good experiences and the process of noticing and remembering them.
Future Pacing to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
A lot of stress and anxiety is caused by bad planning. The challenge is that we’ve often got really good at it, and continually replay what goes on in our heads as too short a movie. By too short, I mean that we finish with the challenge and problem rather than continuing the movie until we’re happily carrying out the first steps of a solution.
So, think of a situation that we imagine will stress us. Continue with the movie in our heads until we’ve passed the challenge and found 1-3 positive actions we can take take to improve the situation. Replay the mental movie again, this time as we explore the future, we take the time to confirm what we’ve learnt, and start enjoying taking the steps to move forward.
Remember that within any challenge, however bad it may appear, there are the seeds of future success and fulfilment.
It’s worth future pacing any situation that’s important to us, so we improve our odds of making the very best of whatever happens.
Spinning Feelings to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
This is a technique that I’ve successfully used to cure headaches for many years, but only just started learning how to use it for stress and anxiety. It’s one of NLP co-creators Richard Bandler’s favourite approaches for helping with stress and anxiety.
Sit or lie comfortably, enjoy the feelings of relaxation for a few moments. Imagine a clock face in front of you (pointing outwards), the 12:00 on your chin, the 03:00 on your left, the 06:00 on your belt, and the 09:00 in your left. Think of something, that up to now has been a stress trigger. Imagine spinning the feelings first clockwise then anti clockwise. Which way increase the feeling of stress? Which way decrease it?
Move the imaginary clock so the 03:00 is in front of you and the 09:00 behind you. (The 12:00 is still near your chin, the 06:00 at you belt). Repeat, with clock in this position. Which feels better, clockwise or anti clockwise spinning? What else can you do with the sub modalities of either the trigger or triggered experience, to inoculate bad feelings and improve empowering ones?
Modelling happy, successful, stress free people
Who are the people you know that seem to be totally immune to stress? What do they do? What are their values, beliefs, strategies? What states can they access easily? Carry out your own modelling project using the full gambit of NLP Modelling approaches.
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