Stress and anxiety is all part of the human experience; it should not be viewed as a bad thing or a failure on your part – we all experience it from time to time, in various forms and various situations. In fact, a small dose of stress and anxiety in new and challenging situations can be great for focus and motivation to keep moving forward with goals/projects/sports we take on. Even when stress is heightened and is out of your control, we as human beings are built to be able to cope with it for a short amount of time without causing any negative effects to our body or mind (this is why we are made with the fight and flight response).
So why is it we need a toolkit to help manage stress and anxiety?
A lot of people let their stress and anxiety take over their day-to-day life and silently suffer the side effects that stress can manifest in the body. For some, they don’t even realise their unhappiness, unhealthy habits, procrastination, gut problems, struggle to lose weight… is linked with how they cope with stress and anxiety, often leading to blaming situations for neglecting their wellbeing or taking ‘quick (but short lived and unnecessary) medications to help.
Letting stress manifest in the body can cause long-term;
Being able to manage yourself better using the crowd out approach, you are able to cope with anxiety and stress in a much healthier and positive way.
The first step is to crowd out anxious moments with relaxing and nourishing moments. This will lead to an overall increase in wellbeing and when we increase our wellbeing the results are shown by being able to manage stress in a much healthier and positive way.
Below is a list of 5 ways you can start to use the ‘crowd out’ method to reduce negative anxious moments from your life today:
1. Keep a daily journal
For many, what can be frustrating about feeling anxious is not being able to pinpoint what it is that is actually causes the feeling of anxiety. Keeping a daily journal for a week or two to write down everything you did and how your felt doing it, can help reveal stressors that you haven’t considered before, such as having a black coffee before having a meeting with the boss (I can confess, was me!), not leaving enough time to get to work, or engaging with a toxic friend or work colleague on a regular basis.
To crowd out, say ‘black coffee before a meeting’, take 3 deep breaths before your meeting and treat yourself to a coffee afterwards. Keep it simple and write down how you feel after the change.
2. Use the 3 scenario’s exercise
We can feel anxious consciously and subconsciously about a stressful upcoming event or situation we’re facing. To help manage the stress, preparing for the possible outcomes can help reduce the feeling of anxiety and help put some perspective on the upcoming situation.
To do this write down:
3. Sensory engagement
This will not change a situation, it will help manage the negative emotions we can experience when feeling anxious and stressed. Sensory engagement is about being able to step out of whatever’s going on and to be able to mindfully engage your sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. For example, have you ever had a fight with a loved one, and to calm down go for a walk? Sensory engagement is similar to this; it is an emotion regulation technique borrowed from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. The goal behind this is to be gentle with yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed and distressed.
Think about ways you can engage your senses in a pleasurable and gentle way and identify where and how you can use these ways to crowd out anxious moments. Listed below are some ideas to help you get started:
Engaging your senses:
Sound; putting your headphones on and listening to your favourite music or motivational speaker.
Smell; Lighting a oil burner or candle or sitting in your favourite coffee roastery.
Taste; sipping a berry tea or eating a freshly ripened peach.
Touch; putting on a super soft jumper or cardigan or a getting a shoulder massage.
4. To-don’t list
Even though there are a lot of positives to writing a To-do list, dictating your life to completing your To-do list can make life feel flat and constricted – which in turn can spur on contextual anxiety by the lack of freedom in your life. By backing away from the To-do list and focusing on the To-don’t list you instantly create a sense of freedom, a weight lifted from your shoulders and help remind you there is more to life.
Create a To-don’t list:
Write down all the things you wont do and all of the things you feel like you ‘should’ but really don’t need to do.
5. Outdoor feel-good exercise
Enjoying nature is proven to help overall wellbeing, and as mentioned earlier, improved wellbeing helps overall management of stress and anxiety. Finding a sport or activity that takes you outdoors to move your body at least once a week will not only help improve overall wellbeing it will provide an opportunity to release the essential endorphins that naturally make you feel good. To start with choose something simple, like taking a walk on your lunch break, or a morning cycle at the weekend.
These methods are not listed as a cure for anxiety (or to be as a treatment for anyone who has been diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder by a psychologist or psychiatrist), they are listed as a toolkit for self-management and as positive-actions to support overall wellbeing for people who are experiencing the common side-effects of stress-related anxiety.
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