We all experience stress - it's inevitable. Be it physical or psychological stress, positive or negative stress, it's always going to be something that's a part of our lives. The problem is, we don't all perceive stress as being a positive or productive thing and have misread stress to be a negative and destructive experience. While most stress is almost dysfunctional in today's society, it's all about using that stress in a more positive light.
So how exactly do we manifest stress to work for us instead of tear us down? Here are some excellent tried-and-true techniques that you can experiment with. Not every technique is going to work for everyone and it's important that you find something that works best for you.
I talk about mindfulness technique often and it's for a very solid reason. Mindfulness is the ability to bring awareness to the present moment, without judgment. It's a beautiful technique to help us get to know ourselves a bit better, to pay attention to any negative dialogue or physical responses to stress that we may have not already been aware of. Allowing negative self-talk and the related physical manifestations of stress to continue will only lead to more significant issues in the future. It's so incredibly important to understand how we perceive ourselves and learn how to be with those thoughts and sensations without becoming reactive to them and preventing the downward spiral that usually ensues. Mindfulness is about remaining calm amidst the storm and learning how to take a step back and observe what's going on within ourselves without judgment.
I know for myself that my ability to handle stress unravels if I'm not sticking to a regular yoga practice. Even in the literature, yoga has been shown to modify the physiologic stress response and allows us to become more resilient against stressors in the future. Starting a regular yoga practice is not only a great way to get stress-reducing exercise in during the week, but also provides routine. Having patterns and regularity during the week is a simple trick to help us feel less chaotic and little more "in control" of events that happen in our lives.
Yoga is also a physical way to bring mindfulness into our day. With each pose and movement between the poses, a certain aspect of awareness is required. This awareness helps us shine light a little more on what exactly is going on within ourselves - how the pose feels in our physical bodies but also the emotional experiences we are having when in certain poses. Finding an excellent yoga instructor and going to classes is a great way to help guide you with your practice and is also a smart way to ensure that you stick to a routine.
Writing is an excellent way to gain awareness and become more mindful of our thoughts, emotions and actions. Setting aside time daily to write about anything that's going on in your mind is truly an eye-opening experience. If you ever wanted to find out what's going on in your mind, taking out a pen and paper is a great way to do so. Not sure where to start? Set aside 15 mins as soon as you wake up and literally write out anything that comes to your mind. It could even be simple things, like what the weather is like right now. Eventually you will be able to open up with yourself and realize just how much is actually going on in the background of your thoughts. You'd be surprised.
Many people worry about writing down their true thoughts for fear or shame that others may read it. The simple answer is to destroy the evidence. Either type out your thoughts in your notebook on your computer and delete it afterwards or write on paper that you can easily shred or burn if you want to make a whole ritual out of it.
Whenever I prescribe supplementation for patients with high levels of stress, I always note the fact that popping supplements (or medications for that matter) are not going to make the stress go away. Usually they are temporary support, or something to help lessen the physical and emotional sensations that can manifest in the face of stress, such as anxiety, flat affect, mild depression and feelings of panic. Supplements are highly individual to each person and how stress manifests for them. From infusion therapy of various vitamins, minerals and amino acids to oral botanical and nutrient supplements, they do have an appropriate time and place in stress management and can provide wonderful benefits when used in conjunction with other dietary and lifestyle modifications.
Did you know that social isolation has been linked to episodes of psychosis in some individuals? By social isolation I'm not necessarily meaning physically not spending time with people but rather not having connectivity with others. Having alone time can actually be incredibly therapeutic for many people is a great opportunity to get to know yourself. However, humans are social creatures and to think that we're not is incredibly limited thinking. We require social interaction to feel like we are a part of something greater than ourselves. All the more reason why having open, honest and loving relationships is so incredibly important.
In today's society, being independent is certainly a valued trait but I'm up for challenging that idea. I believe that allowing to give and receive support from others should be more valued. It takes more courage to let people know who you truly are than it does to hide the real you behind an iron door of independency. Probably one of the hardest things for us to do is to allow others to see us in all our shame and messiness but what is connectivity all about if we are not able to express the full extent of ourselves to people we trust and respect?
It sounds impossible until it's done. Trust me on that.