3 Simple Steps To De-Stress TodayJun 04, 2021
These are uncertain, unsettling times. People are feeling anxious and worried about Covid-19. But while it’s completely normal to have these feelings, it doesn’t have to be this way. In my work with organisational stress I show people how to turn worry into wellbeing, anxiety into calm and panic into productivity whatever’s going on around them.
I don’t give tips on exercise, meditation and eating well. My five-step programme takes a very different approach to stress. It focuses on the invisible – what’s going on in your mind and how that reflects your emotional state.
Here I share the first three steps of the programme…
STEP 1: TUNE INTO YOUR FEELINGS
This might sound like an odd request but go with it and check in with how you’re feeling right now. Are you feeling worried, anxious, stressed, overwhelmed? I know that I’ve experienced all those feelings recently! It’s perfectly normal, perfectly human.
Most of us don’t like those feelings. They’re considered negative and bad, so we think they have to be managed or eliminated. They don’t. Your feelings are natural and helpful. The trick is to welcome your feelings in and understand them.
Feelings are signals. Not, as we mistakenly believe, signals of what’s going on outside in our life but barometers of what’s happening inside, in our mind. If you try to push away your feelings without understanding them, you will lose the message. To understand the message you have to look inside your mind.
STEP 2: LOOK INSIDE YOUR MIND
When we stop looking outside and go inside, we start to notice the constant internal chatter. Vast amounts of information are processed by our brain 24/7 and we’re left trying to make sense of it all.
What are you thinking about right now?
Perhaps you’re thinking about a Zoom call you’re about to make. And about how your parents are coping with lockdown. And about an idea you’ve had for a new project. And if that cough you’ve got is just a cold. And how your colleagues are managing working from home.
Thought after thought after thought. And with every new thought comes a new feeling – anxious, excited, curious, scared. Wherever our thoughts go, our feelings follow. All you need to do is pay attention – to tune into your mind and understand how all your thoughts and feelings are connected.
STEP 3: DO NOTHING ABOUT YOUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS
Yes, this step surprises a lot of people – but it’s one of the most powerful elements of my 5-step programme.
Traditional approaches to stress often focus on stress triggers and how we should minimise those triggers, avoid them or, if possible, remove them for good. With Covid-19, we can’t do that. We’re also advised to manage our stress by doing things like going to the gym – impossible right now – and thinking positive, which isn’t an easy task in the current circumstances.
The way through stress is so much easier and simpler.
Thought is an electrical activity transiently reverberating among the subset of neurons in our brain cells. And as thought reverberates, it creates a sensation – such as stress, anxiety or frustration – in our bodies. But thought only reverberates for a few seconds. That’s it! The thought comes – and then it’s gone.
The only way that a sensation, or feeling, can continue is if you keep paying attention to that thought, going over it again and again in your mind. That’s how thoughts keep vibrating. And so, the simple solution to stress is to stop paying attention to unhelpful thoughts. You can’t stop those thoughts coming and going – there’s no point trying – but you can decide not to focus on them.
The more you understand about your thoughts and feelings, the more you realise how your mind works to generate your experience of stress in this and every moment, the easier it becomes to stop paying attention to unhelpful thoughts. Calm is a by-product of this understanding.
And then, from that place, it is makes sense to pay attention to helpful thoughts – new insights and creative ideas – and to follow them.
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