The Tool You Need Right Now for Stress Reduction
This Covid19 "new normal" is so very far from anything even approaching normal.
Sure you have followed the advice of experts and implemented a routine that gives you time for work, attempting homeschooling and all that meal prep (oh so much meal prep)... but let's be honest: This new normal is far from ideal.
Most of us are living with an almost constant level of stress - from mild to moderate to freaking-off-the-charts-high-stress. And, over time, this stress can cause very real mental and physical health problems.
I am all about tools. I believe that the more tools you have in your proverbial toolbox, the better able you are to catch, juggle and manage all of the balls life throws at you.
In times like these, we could use a few more coping tools in our life management toolbox.
The goal of the exercise is to help you begin to build new habits to perform POSITIVE activities when you are under stress, rather than spending time dwelling in the negative, stress emotions and behaviors (a VERY human response to stress).
YOUR NEW TOOL: CREATE A NEW (HEALTHIER) STRESS HABIT LOOP
Think about how and where you feel stress. Sit for a moment: When you feel stressed, where do you feel it in your body? (Examples: tension in shoulders or neck, stomach pains, headache). Now, list the behaviors you exhibit under stress. (Examples: grouchy, snap at others, cry easily, feel irritable, isolate yourself)
Make a list of five smallish actions that bring you happiness right now. It might include walking the dog, reading your favorite author, watching you favorite Netflix shows, enjoying a great cup of coffee, or calling a supportive friend. Continue to update your list as you find more things that make you feel better.
Take your list of things happy actions and place the list in a spot where you can see it every day. Some ideas: bathroom mirror, refrigerator door, medicine cabinet, closet, pantry or underwear drawer. This step is VERY important.
When you FIRST start to feel stress or observe your stress behaviors (step #3), acknowledge it. (You can say "This is stress. I am feeling stress." It feels silly at first, but it helps. Trust me.)
Then, as soon as you can, go to that happiness list. DO something on the list. It may be three hours after your last Zoom call before you can make it happen, but make it happen!
Again, the goal here is to recognize our stress responses earlier so that we can reduce the amount of time we spend in stress AND THEN help us to move toward activities that help us feel better. It sounds simple, but it takes time. The reward is worth it. Trust me (and dozens of my clients!)
At first, the exercise feels clunky and it may take some time before you remember to DO Step 5 ... but lean in anyway. It gets easier - and you will likely feel better - after just one week of practice. (Imagine how great you can feel after weeks of investment in you!)
For most of us, the hits keep coming all day. So why not experiment with putting a little something back into your metaphorical mental and physical bank account?
Nicole Provonchee is an executive coach and strategist that works with women leaders and teams across the nation. After 20 years climbing the corporate ladder, she started Bright Blue Consulting, where she can combine her skills as a coach with her practical experiences as a leader and executive.