With constant messages from the media about how poor or cold we are going to be this winter, it’s so easy to go down the rabbit hole of despair and to start feeling fearful about the future. Of course, we cannot be in control over all the prevailing political and economic winds of change. We are all affected by outside events to a greater or lesser degree. I too, found myself thinking recently about how I was going to manage with rising costs and wondering how this might affect my therapy practice? Realising I needed to make some changes to my thinking, here are three strategies for stress that I use to cope with life’s challenges:
The Question is the Answer
Back in 2008 when I did my cognitive hypnotherapy training, I learnt how to ask myself certain questions thanks to my tutor, Trevor Silvestor. Questions such as: ‘What can I do about this? Is there some positive action I can take in this situation? Are there some adjustments and action steps I need to take?’ Just by asking ourselves (instead of someone else) we go inside for the answers. This can immediately bring us back to a sense that we all have some control over our responses to life. Sometimes there isn’t much we can do to change the weather outside, but we can change the weather inside. As the great Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, said ‘our greatest freedom is the freedom to choose our attitude.’
Fixed or Growth Mindset
Making change in our lives can feel scary especially when familiar ground feels like its shifting underneath you. None of us knows what will happen in the future and the future is where anxiety lives – in that unknown territory where monsters threaten to engulf us! Some of you may have heard about fixed and growth mindsets. In a nutshell a person with a fixed mindset is tied to protecting their ego at all costs and believes that they are either good or bad at something. They feel they must prove themselves over and over, worrying about whether they will succeed or fail. They will often not attempt something unless they are assured of success.
A growth mindset however remains open and curious and is willing to try things and to learn from experiences. Growth mindset people do not need to have certainty about whether something will work or not as it is about the journey of learning and growth that is important. They also do not believe they are stuck with certain skills or qualities but that these can be developed through practice and, as such, they actively seek experiences that will stretch them. In fact, history is strewn with many people who overcame very challenging circumstances to become leaders in their field. The good thing is that even if you generally have a fixed mindset then you can develop a growth mindset with practice.
So, if you are feeling anxious about the future then ask yourself what action can you take whilst remaining open, curious and flexible about the outcome? You might be surprised at what your unconscious may come up with!
Developing Coherence & Resilience
Finally, whilst it’s always good to change our thinking we must attend to the body and our emotions, especially when the going gets tough and stress levels are rising. One of my main practices is breathwork and developing coherence. Some breathwork tools that I use, such as 7/11, actively promote the relaxation response in the body which is great for helping to wind down and increase para-sympathetic activity.
However, since training to become a HeartMath coach I also work on developing coherence by utilising the breath and by engaging positive heartfelt emotions. Coherence is not the same as relaxation. Relaxation involves disengaging from mental, emotional and physical states whereas coherence is experienced as a sense of calm and balance but also energised and responsive. It enables us to function at an optimal level.
If you are feeling anxious or depressed and are finding it hard to connect to positive emotion, you can start by simply breathing in and out through the heart area, making the breath slower and deeper and counting to five in and five out so that you have approximately a 10 second breath cycle. Try and keep it going for a good five or ten minutes at a time and it will help modulate the heart’s rhythm as well as calm down the stress centres in the brain. When we are calm we make better decisions and can more easily find solutions to our problems.
If you would like to know more about developing coherence and resilience then please get in touch. I hope you have found these three strategies for stress helpful. I am now offering coherence coaching sessions to help you shift into better states so that you can take life affirming action from a place of calm and balance.
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