Thursday, 15 January 2015

Surviving the Storms

I'm sure I'm not the only one who was awoken, and kept awake, last night by the terrible rampaging wind. Thankfully a can of air freshener was close at hand. Only joking of course, I was actually talking about the meteorological kind. All the wheelie bins in the street sounded like they were all making a bid for freedom, not to mention that fact that a few times the loft sounded like it was actually inflating and about to take off. It was certainly a wild and wooly one.

The thing is, storms do hit us occasionally, and not just literally. Quite often we also suffer from sudden storms of stress that seemingly come out of nowhere and hit us like a bomb. So what can we do to get through these stress storms when they strike?

First of all, we can start labelling our worrying thoughts as, “not useful”. Worrying never gets us anwhere. In my 41 years of intense worrying, not a single worry has ever improved my life and has often given birth to more worry, more anxiety, more paranoia, and kept me from the more helpful thoughts. 

By labeling a thought “not useful” you put distance between you and the thought that has invaded your brain. The more you label, the greater the distance eventually becomes. Sadly we all know that won't stop us worrying altogether, but it does give us a bit of breathing space.

You could try thinking from under your left elbow. (Bare with me here!) I don’t know what you'd call this technique but it does help. Just concentrate on the area of skin under your left elbow (or any other innocuous part of your body). Initially your brain will freak out and start yelling “wait a second! Get back up here! I’m worrying about things up here!!”. But if you keep breathing and thinking right underneath your left elbow, it can actually reduce stress, all be it temporarily. Sometimes that is enough to get your brain in gear to be able to deal with whatever it is.

Another thing you could try is plain old fashioned surrender. Generally speaking life will never throw anything at us that we can’t handle. So just surrender to whatever it is, take a deep breath and crack on. Deep down we know we will be able to handle whatever it is, if we remain calm and don’t succumb to the worry. Life will usually help us out, even if it seems at the time that there’s no way out. Look for the lessons in what you are going through. Surrender to those lessons and to the fact that you will learn much more in this particular class before it’s over.

Physically you could try tensing up. Just tense every muscle in your body for five seconds. Then relax. You just put your body in fight or flight mode. Then relaxed it. You will feel less stress. Then move on to having a great big stretch. Just hold your hands above your head and stretch as high and wide as possible, even going on the balls of your feet. Then take a deep breath, hold it . . . and exhale. Then lean a bit to the left, lean a bit to the right, and finally lean forward, all the way down, bend your knees, shake your head, take another deep breath, and then slowly come back as you exhale. (Although if you do try this, you might want to be somewhere discreet, if you try it in the middle of the office you might get some funny looks).

Just breathing is always useful. Inhale for 20 seconds. Hold for 20 seconds. Exhale for 20 seconds. Hold for 20 seconds. Rest a bit. Then repeat. Do that four times. Your body goes into into survival mode when we do this and we can’t stress out when your oxygen is being messed up. It’s another temporary fix but it does work.

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