I was recently asked, “What do you do for your stress management routine?”
I thought this was a great question because, one, a routine implies that stress management is not a “once and done” thing; routine implies that it is a daily practice. And two, “do” is a verb; it is an action. Stress management doesn’t just happen by itself, like time passing. Even when one takes a “stress leave” from work, to successfully manage the stress, something must be done. Passing time is not going to solve a stress issue.
So, to answer the question, I said that roughly 4 times a week, I spend 15-20 minutes using Inner Balance (a biofeedback app from HeartMath, click here to learn more), go for a 30ish-minute walk, and do 20ish minutes of yoga in the evening (but since I got my new puppy, Toby, I haven’t been very faithful. LOL)
But that really isn’t all that I’m doing.
See, stress management is not about the activities you do, ie. going for walks, going to the gym, doing yoga, working on your hobbies, spending time at the cabin, etc. (there’s nothing wrong with doing any of these!!)
Stress management is less about the “what” you do, and more about the “how” you do it- the state of heart or the attitude with which you do it.
So, the real stress management routine I am doing is continually and frequently checking in with what state of heart I am in as I engage with anything I am doing or anything that is in front of me. And if I am in a negative state, I use one of a number of techniques to shift into a more positive one.
One can have a negative and depleting attitude when walking or doing any physical activity, and that’s where the true stress is.
When I am washing dishes, what state am I in? Irritated?
When I am walking, what state am I in? Impatient?
When I am talking with another, what state am I in? Judgemental?
The attitudes we have as we go about our daily life have a larger impact on our level of stress than the things we do (or don’t do). Shifting your attitude as you continue to do whatever activity you are doing is a large part of stress management.
But first comes awareness. You must increase your level of awareness as to what attitude you are holding.
Try this research-based Attitude Breathing® technique from HeartMath:
Step 1: Recognize an unwanted attitude: a feeling or attitude that you want to change. This could be things like worry, anxiety, frustration, anger, self-judgment, blame, guilt.
Step 2: Identify and breathe an attitude that would be a counter balance to the one you want to change. This is called a replacement attitude. Select a positive attitude, and then breathe the feeling of that new attitude slowly and casually through your heart area. Do this for a while to anchor the new replacement feeling.
This is not a mental exercise in visualizing what it might be like to be patient, or any other positive attitude. Instead, make a sincere attempt to truly experience and feel more patient. Right now. Breathing with your focus on the heart helps, rather than your focus on your thoughts and caught up in your mental dialogue.
What’s a replacement attitude? It is an attitude that is more positive, effective, and energy-smart. Here are some examples of unwanted attitudes and possible replacement attitudes: anxiety to calm and balance; overwhelmed to ease and peace; sadness or depression to appreciation and non-judgement; guilt to compassion; worry to care.
Checking in with and shifting your attitudes to more desirable ones is not a “once and done” thing. It is a routine. It is something you do over and over again.
The cool part about this routine: it doesn’t take any time! If you have time to be anxious, you have time to be calm.
With practice, you can do this routine on-the-go, no matter what activity you are doing, whenever, wherever, saving you a lot of energy and helping you conquer stress.
What attitude would you like to replace?
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Here’s to conquering stress.
The Stress Experts
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