cognitive behavioural therapy

‘Tis the season to be stressed – How to leave stress behind you for good; Part Three

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.

 

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‘Tis the season to be stressed – How to leave stress behind you for good; Part Two

The first and most important step is admitting to ourselves when we are stressed, hopefully last week’s exercises will have helped you to see more easily whether you are stressed. Admitting we are stressed can often be difficult in our society which promotes a busy lifestyle. How many programmes on TV have you seen featuring ‘essential’ festive events and activities we simply cannot, and should not, miss? When being busy is the norm, admitting we are stressed can seem like announcing we cannot cope with the demands of daily life, but this is not entirely the case. Usually those of us that suffer from stress have chosen to take on what others would not and, consequently, have been burdened with demands that are unmanageable given the resources available to us.

 

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‘Tis the season to be stressed – How to leave stress behind you for good; Part One

It’s December and the festive season is upon us once again. Ahead of us lay hours of rushing through shops trying to mark off items from our seemingly endless shopping lists, barging through the crowds on our way. And then there are the party invites flooding into our inbox, several of these falling on the same night and all – without fail – impossible to decline less our friendships be strained forevermore. Add to this the torrent of cookery shows impressing upon us the urgent need to be a Michelin Star chef come Christmas day and no wonder the season fills us with an overwhelming sense of stress.

 

Recalling last Christmas it was clear I was stressed, I had just finished planning my parents honeymoon and was completely burnt out. At the time I was aware I wasn’t myself but, in the depths of my stress, I just saw a seemingly endless to do list which absolutely had to be done – whether I was up to it or not. It’s often so easy to recognise when we have been stressed in the past, but what do we do when we are in the midst of it? How can we learn to recognise what to look out for and react accordingly to reduce it?

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Stop the bus and leave drama at the next stop! Part Three

When we deal with the drama triangle assertively we often reap countless benefits. We are able to not only refuse disrespectful treatment from others but are also able to remain respectful towards others. In being assertive we can successfully avoid both the victim and prosecutor roles, taking ourselves completely out of the triangle. Once out of the drama triangle we can then engage in more assertive communication, promoting adult exchanges which are both respectful and honest.

 

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Stop the bus and leave drama at the next stop! Part Two

To avoid the vicious drama triangle we can use assertiveness, leaving the rescuer, victim and prosecutor roles behind us. If assertiveness is unfamiliar territory for you then fear not, the basic principles of assertive behaviour are very straight forward. When being assertive there are four key points to address:

 

  1. Acknowledge what has been said. E.g. use statements like ‘I understand’ and ‘I understand what you have said’. 
  2. State the facts about the situation using non-biased language. E.g. ‘It was a gift from everyone’. 
  3. State the impact the situation has had on you, avoiding divisive words like ‘really’, ‘very’ or ‘you’. E.g. I found your statement hurtful and offensive’. 
  4. State what future action you would like to be taken. E.g. ‘I would appreciate it if you could refrain from saying statements like that to me in future’. 

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Stop the bus and leave drama at the next stop! Part One

Recently I found myself in the middle of drama with one of my good friends. The experience was all consuming, one minute I was crying and the next I was angry. During this gut-wrenching conflict I couldn’t eat, I frequently cried myself to sleep and everything in my life seemed to stop. I even stopped training for my 5k run for charity (thankfully I managed to complete the race, albeit with a lot of huffing and puffing). This went on for around a month. What surprised me most was how the situation gained momentum and spiralled out of control so quickly. With no exaggeration, the impact of this conflict was devastating. As I had learned, when we are in conflict with those around us the toll on our lives can be profound. Loss of appetite, acute stress, sleep disturbance and depression can all result from intense conflict. If I was ever to escape this drama and all the stress it had caused me, I knew I had to get off the bus at the next stop.

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7 Steps to a Happier You; Part Three

Step Six: Hobbies and leisure pursuits

 

Having hobbies and ways to creatively express ourselves can also significantly boost our feelings of happiness. Why not try taking a class of something you have always wanted to do? When we creatively express ourselves we experience a deep sense of personal satisfaction, pride and achievement which all work to boost our happiness. Check out Tasterlab for an extensive directory of hobby taster classes.

 

Likewise, having leisure pursuits is essential as they serve to both reduce stress, relax us and are a valuable source of fun and enjoyment. I have an unlimited cinema card which I pay for monthly so when I need to relax I can get lost in a movie. Other fun leisure pursuits include bowling, a meal at a restaurant, fishing, roller-skating, exhibitions and museums and even karaoke with friends.

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7 Steps to a Happier You; Part Two

 

Step Three: Live for the moment

 

In all of my happiest memories I was totally absorbed and engaged in the moment. These moments were so crystal clear it is as if I had experienced them with eyes which were seeing for the very first time. Amazingly, we can all learn to develop this close relationship to the present moment. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the man responsible for bringing mindfulness meditation into the mainstream medical arena, defines mindfulness as ‘The awareness that emerges when we learn to pay attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally to things as they are.’ Mindfulness has been found to reduce stress, anxiety and depression and to help us better deal with pain. It also serves to help us fully immerse ourselves in the moment and allows us to develop a sense of appreciation and gratitude, both essential components of a happier life.

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7 Steps to a Happier You; Part One

 

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary happiness can be defined as ‘A state of well being and contentment’. We all want to be happy but is it something we can actively pursue? For years I struggled with depression and so I began questioning whether I could reduce the possibility of further bouts by proactively seeking happiness. I was fortunate that I began my research into happiness at a time when the area of positive psychology had exploded and was grateful to discover that there was extensive information and findings surrounding the field of happiness. In fact there are many things we can all do if we want to increase our happiness and live more contented lives. These changes may be small and manageable, like keeping a daily gratitude journal, or could be fundamental changes like integrating meditation into our daily lives.

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Personal productivity – How to achieve in record-breaking time; Part Three

Once we realize the importance of focussing on non-urgent but important tasks we are ready to set our diaries to work. When entering into your diary it is best to tackle the whole week and this can easily be done over a half an hour period. I review my coming week every Sunday as I find it puts me in a focussed state of mind for the week ahead.

 

I have to agree with Stephen R Covey that when planning your week it is best to consider when you are most awake. Are you a morning person or do you feel more productive in the afternoon? Leaving the most demanding activities for when you are most alert will result in superior work. Now you have your diary and you are ready to plan your week, Stephen R Covey recommends entering in time for all of your non-urgent but important tasks first, such as working on your goals.  After that schedule in your urgent and important tasks like working on goals or projects that are approaching a deadline for example. Leave slack or ‘free time’ for urgent but not important tasks such as phone calls and some mail which may crop up throughout the day as this will help make your schedule realistic. Last but not least, take time to schedule in fun and relaxation. If we fail to make time for fun and relaxation we can leave ourselves vulnerable to stress and even burn out. In my upcoming feature this December I will look further at stress and together we will explore how to not only manage our stress levels, but significantly reduce them too. So, in order to avoid our stress levels rising, it is vital to schedule in fun and relaxation, as no matter how focussed we are, we all need time to unwind and play. It is no exaggeration to say that this approach to time management has completely transformed my productivity.

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