Last week we looked at decreasing our demands. This week we focus on the fun bit – how we can increase our resources. This is just as essential when tackling stress, as it helps us to gain a more objective and balanced perspective. When our resources are high we are more likely to see the situation for what it is and this can reduce our tendency to enter into a heightened fight, flight or freeze response. There are many positive ways we can actively increase our resources. For instance, if I am stressed at work an early nights sleep will greatly increase my resistance to stress the following day. Unsurprisingly, lack of sleep can significantly increase our stress levels and so it is vital that we make sleep a priority when we are stressed. An early night or a lay in over the weekend can make a vast difference and improve our resources tenfold.
One of the most powerful ways we can counteract stress is to prioritise exercise. Not only does exercise actively deplete stress hormones, it also releases endorphins which give us a feeling of overall well being, thereby increasing our resources. Although we feel the benefits immediately after exercising, for a more lasting effect it is recommended we engage in three thirty minute sessions throughout the week. Another great resource booster are breathing exercises. One of the things that make breathing exercises so invaluable is that we can use them anywhere. The next time you feel stressed try inhaling and exhaling ten times in deep, slow breaths. On each exhale imagine you are letting go of all your tensions and worries. This may seem silly at first but it can be very effective in calming our thoughts and reducing our physical reactions to stress.
Though it is usually forgotten or dismissed when trying to address stress, equally important is engaging in fun. Many think scheduling in time for fun frivolous, however, the positive impact of released endorphins upon our mood and stress levels should never be underestimated – fun can be a powerful device for alleviating stress! For those of us that have trouble switching off, mindfulness meditation can produce significant results. Mindfulness meditation allows our thoughts to come and go and reminds us to return our focus to our breathing. Mindfulness focuses on a non-judgemental acceptance of the present as is and allows us to access a more peaceful, relaxed and gracious state of mind. To look at mindfulness more in-depth see July’s series, ‘How to stop operating on auto-pilot and live for the moment’.
In truth there are almost limitless ways by which we can increase our resources and limit stress. Below is a list of stress busting activities that will have you well on the way to feeling restored.
Plan a time management strategy and write it into your diary (you will feel more in control)
Take the evening off all activities
Positive visualisation of goals
Read a fiction novel
Watch your favourite comedy
Bubble bath or hot shower
Tidy your surroundings and declutter
Early nights sleep or lay in
Indulge in creative interests
Spend quality time with your pet
Light candles and listen to soothing music
Call or see friends
Why don’t you spend some time to reflect on the activities which have brought you the most joy, relaxation or fun in the past and make your own list, tailored to suit you? As you create your list and remember how relaxing or fun those activities were, do you notice your mood shift? How much more impact would these activities have if you dedicated time to engage in them?
Generally the most important time to boost our resources is when we think we have the least time. To avoid a vicious cycle of no time, increased stress and worse productivity and concentration, we need to make time to prioritise fun and relaxation. So, as we embark on the festive season this year, with all the demands on our time and energy, lets dedicate some time to boosting our resources and decreasing our demands. Though many of our friends might question why, after realising the cost of not combating stress, the real question is, can any of us afford not to?
Which changes would you like to implement? Do you have any favourite stress busting activities that could help other readers? Please comment and join our community to gain encouragement, insight and support.
- Make your very own list of fun and relaxing activities you can engage in when stressed and keep it in the back of your diary or somewhere you will see on a regular basis.
- When you feel overwhelmed or stressed, make time for your fun and relaxing activities!
‘GUIDED mindfulness meditation CD series’ by Jon Kabat-Zinn, available on Amazon
‘Manage Your Stress for a Happier Life’ by Looker, Terry, Gregson, Olga, available on Amazon