Beating Stress. Winning the War on Anxiety. Managing COVID.
A couple weeks ago, we received a mental health workshop from our friends at @FundacionRelacionesSanas. Our team loved it. Our mental health coaches first helped us build a foundation of emotional awareness, to enable us to label and identify our emotions. Then they focused on sharing an array of tools we could use to manage our emotions in our everyday lives.
The workshop was fun, and the tools were great. If you can participate in a mental health workshop, I highly recommend it. Regardless, I’d like to take this opportunity to share the tools with you and others who may benefit. At least, read them through and think about them.
Key Concept #1: Make the Most of a Stress Response
The first trick is to understand that the situation you are going through right now, globally, is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Your daily life will be overflown with common stressors (and stress responses!). Rather than to bottle it down, put it to good use. Your body will react to stressors by producing adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline will get you going, but excess cortisol will bring you down.
So make the most of a stress response.
Ask yourself “what is something that I can do about this? what is within my control?” and put that shot of adrenaline to productive/good use.
Key Concept #2: Label How You Feel
This is a common technique in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that suggests working to identify and label the emotions that you are feeling. There’s some neuropsychology to it. Your emotional state and response is assumed to be heavily influenced by your amygdala. Your amygdala is part of your limbic system, and is expected to play a lead role in your “fight-or-flight” response.
Here’s the thing. By trying to put a “name” to your emotions, you activate your prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for your executive functioning and thinking. Literally, shifting your brain into “thinking” mode and out of “feeling” mode; helps ‘tone down’ your emotional response and gain a bit more control over your emotional state.
Key Concept #3: Just Breathe
Take a Deep Breath. According to popular research, (just sharing my notes here), deep breathing strongly anchors us to the present moment. Here’s what happens.
Anxiety and worry, are your brain/body’s negative responses to an anticipated future outcome/state. We worry of something that “might happen” and become anxious about it.
By anchoring us to the present moment, we become more mindful of the “now” and detach ourselves from past memories or future possibilities; therefore helping to reduce anxiety.
Key Concept #4: Monitor your Stress
A really useful analogy we were given was monitoring “your emotional glass”. Imagine “how you feel” like a glass of water. When the glass is half empty, you feel well. When it’s filling up, you start feeling anxious.
The idea is to check-in with yourself, at least once a day to ask yourself how full is the glass? Write it down. If possible “draw it out” on a piece of paper. Depending on how you feel, do something to take some water out; preferably something you enjoy and find relaxing. Might have to be a good night’s rest or an intense workout session. Whatever works for you.
This simple trick is a way we can monitor and stay in tune with ourselves.
Other Tips and Tricks
Here are some other ideas that were shared amongst the group:
- Put it on a post-it. Get it out of your head and write it down.
- Plan out your day. A couple extra mins might help you feel more in control.
- Take a break. Take 5 minute micro-breaks to disconnect, watch a short video or listen to a song.
- Cook or play an instrument. Both activities requiere deep concentration and will hook you to the present.
- If in company, find space to connect, share and laugh with those around you.
- Keep a journal and write down how you are feeling. Write whenever and however you prefer.
- Learn to listen without judgement. This is a pretty rough time for everyone!
- Constantly think about your priorities and what matters most, to help put things into perspective when you’re gloomy.
If there’s anything you takeaway from this post, it’s these 3 things: I hope you find the courage to radically accept the present moment, in all it’s complexity and hardship. Radical times call for radical measures; so try out new things and find what works for you. Treat your mental and emotional health like a project of its own. Check in with yourself and visit the ‘mental gym’.
Give yourself the time and care you need.
Thanks for listening. Cheers till next time!