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    Inspired by the charity SANE who have sponsored a National Stress Awareness Day, I thought I would share my 10 STEPS TO REDUCE STRESS.  Aimed to:

    • Help you become aware of what stresses you
    • Teach you how you can manage those stresses
    • Take back control of the feelings and symptoms.

    10: FINDING OUT WHAT CAUSES YOU STRESS. Set 10 minutes aside to write down the first five things that come to mind when thinking about your to do list.  Rate them on a scale of 1 to 7 as how stressed the thought of tackling them makes you feel. (1 = happy, calm and relaxed, 4 = occupied with the task and neither calm nor stressed, 7 = agitated, overwhelmed, unable to concentrate on anything else.)

    9. REFLECT. When you identify something you’re stressed about, write down how you feel when you are stressed, what your responses are to others and how you typically deal with those feelings and behaviours.  What do you do to stop feeling stressed?  Here, we are looking to understand what your automatic and learned behaviour is, that removes you from a stressful situation.

    8. RATE YOUR BEHAVIOUR. Rate that behaviour on a scale of 1-7 for how effective you believe that behaviour to be a reducing your stress.  Many times we find that our learned response can cause us more initial stress as it has come from our fight or flight response and so is not authentic to how we would like to behave and who we believe our best version of ourselves to be.

    7.  IDENTIFY A NEW BEHAVIOUR. Write down how you would like to respond in a stressful situation.  What behaviour or response would you feel proud of yourself for displaying? (Remember this exercise can be successfully used for both tasks, like paying a bill, to relationships and dealing with others).

    6. PRACTISE. Now you have identified a stress trigger go back to your original list and scale from Tip 10 and find a task rated between 1 and 4.  These should be tasks or situations in which you do not normally feel stressed.  Begin practising your NEW BEHAVIOUR in these low / no stress situations.

    5. LEARN.  In order to LEARN effectively and gain positive experience, we must start in a safe place.  The low / no stress situations provide us with that safe environment in which to LEARN about how in control we can be of our own thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

    4. AUTOMATE. As your NEW BEHAVIOUR response becomes more automatic in low / no stress situations, look to start moving up the scale towards the 5, 6 and 7 situations.  Remember, this is not a race, slow and steady wins the day.

    3. BUILD CONFIDENCE. As you work your way up the scale of stressful situations and begin to successfully address them, take time out and reflect back and congratulate yourself on the changes you have put in place.  Recognition is key to building your confidence, and confidence is key to establishing your new response.

    2. KINDNESS. We will always have set backs.  Our default response is strong, has been automated for most of our lives, and is an innate part of fight or flight.  Sometimes it will take over.  What is important in these situations, and after, is not to berate ourselves or worse still, give up.  Recognise what happened and turn it into a learning experience.  Come back, review, recognise, and re-establish your ideal behaviour or response.

    1.  FRESH AIR. When all else fails, get some fresh air.  Be it from your desk or an argument, simply step outside and take in fresh air.  Exercise is great and highly recommended for reducing the physiological symptoms of stress, but it’s not always feasible.  Just 5 minutes of fresh air and a brief walk, will reduce your stress levels and help bring you back to focus on who you are, and how you want to respond.

    My BONUS TIP for dealing with stress and anxiety…TALK.  Talking to someone else about how you are feeling and what is causing you stress can really help you gain insights and perspective about what is going on for you.  It can also help you keep in check with how you are progressing, knowing that you have to update someone else.  So find a trusted friend or loved one, or seek the help of a professional and establish a route to change and taking back control of your anxiety and stress that works for you.

    Good luck and let me know how you get on in the comments below.

    Lydia x


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