Last week in our article on the effects of stress on our weight, we promised to provide some top tips for beating stress provided by our regular team of contributors. They are all involved in psychological care either academically or professionally and so we would hope that these tips are the best around. But whilst we promised ten, we couldn’t agree on which two from our list of eleven that we came up with to dump so you actually get a bonus tip.
Stress Tip 1 – Control and Letting Go – Dr Rick
In any given situation it is wise to identify that which you can control and let the rest go. To begin with, this isn’t so easy, but with practice it becomes second nature. The real skill is to be honest about that which you can control and then deliver. If you want to run to get fitter but have had knee surgery throwing your hands up in the air and crying foul won’t get you nearer the desired goal. But if your dodgy knee doesn’t exclude cycling then jump onto a bike and get pedaling. If you want to buy an expensive bike but have limited resources, bemoaning your financial position doesn’t get you moving, but borrowing a friend’s bike or buying a cheap doer upper will. Some years ago, my colleague Glyn was challenged with swimming three miles out to sea for the RNLI. Now Glyn has the worst swimming stroke I have ever seen and one usually needs a decent front crawl or free style for open water swimming. In the time available Glyn developed a passable breaststroke that he could utilise for hours on end and completed the swim in a world record slow time. But complete it he did while two thirds of the swimmers dropped out.
Stress Tip 2 – Redefine Success in Terms of Your Behaviour – Dr Rick
Following on from number one, we might do well to recognise that the only thing we can truly control is our own behaviour. Imagine prepping for a job interview with a great weight loss company. You learn everything that you can about the company and practice answering all of the questions that you think they might ask. On the day of the interview you arrive in plenty of time with a smart suit on and highly polished shoes. You’re a winner. Only another candidate had the same ideas and the same level of discipline. The lucky company has two world beating candidates to choose from. And they can only take one.
Because it is now 50/50 who they pick, you simply have to recognise that your behaviour is the only valid measure of success. BUT repeating the great behaviours will definitely give you the greatest chance of success over the course of a lifetime.
Stress Tip 3 – Plus 4s – Dr Rick
Waetugo has spoken about Plus 4s before so I don’t need to cover them in great detail here. A nice article on activity and mood utilizing the same technique can also be read by clicking here. But reinforcing the message that increasing the levels of pleasure and achievement in any given day reduces our stress, improves our mood and boosts our self-esteem is invaluable. Plus 4s include, Proper Selfishness, Investing in Relationships (or phoning a friend), Mini Projects and Altruistic Acts. Our bigger article on Plus 4s would be a great place to visit next.
But simply Proper Selfishness is all about performing actions that recharge your own batteries, Investing in Relationships is looking after the most important people in your life, Mini Projects is getting stuff done without getting bored doing it and Altruistic Acts is engaging in kindness and recognizing the importance of these behaviours.
Stress Tip 4 – Gratitude in General – Glyn
Take a walk around your life. Go on, it’s yours after all. Your very own life. Now stop and smell the roses. Sit on a comfortable bench seated somewhere nice and look at the blooms and the beautiful colours. If your life were a garden what would be the things you would want to treasure? What are the things you couldn’t live without? And what are the things we might be taking for granted simply because they are perennial – they are always there?
You might have a dodgy knee but access to great health care. Your children love you and TV has some great series on presently (Game of Thrones, anyone?). An earlier version of you learned to read and the current you gets all the benefits. The same with passing your driving test. Or do you have access to good transport links, great friends and lovely neighbours? Make a list of all that you have to be grateful for in your life, add to it everyday and read it frequently.
Stress Tip 5 – Gratitude in Situ – Glyn
Now you have learned about the power of gratitude put it to good use in times of real stress, frustration, disappointment or other less than friendly emotional responses.
If you are stuck in traffic and your fingers are gripping the old steering wheel in a white knuckle fury don’t count to ten. But list ten things about the current situation you have to be grateful for. You might identify that you are warm and dry or that the radio is tuned to decent entertainment. You might also be grateful that you are as advanced as you are in the traffic flow and not swallowing fumes like the motorcyclist who just tried to squeeze past.
I used this technique recently whilst being pressed upon by a crowd of people in the underground (I was pressing too I suppose). However uncomfortable it was, I was moving forward in a clean and safe environment. The cost of the journey was relatively inexpensive and I hadn’t had to wait more than a few minutes for the train to arrive. That’s gratitude listing in situ.
Stress Tip 6 – Mixed Goals – Glyn
Don’t we just love our goals here at Waetugo? One way that goal setting can cause us stress issues however is when we focus on only one area of our life. If all of our goals are based on career development and work gets difficult then our focus is right where we need to take a break from. I don’t mean burying our heads in the sand to real problems that we need to address but I do mean being able to see that our lives are multi faceted and not reliant on one thing, person or situation. Try to have goals in a number of arenas including professional, personal, family and social.
Stress Tip 7 – Identify Resources – Fran
Stress can come from almost anywhere but so can the answers. All to often people are willing to put aside that which can help them with their problems because the answer is ‘too much trouble’. Problems with paying the mortgage? Visit the bank. Boss talking to you like you’re an idiot? Ask for a chat and make notes of the discussion. Kids failing at school? Schedule an hour a day to sit down with them and study. Having read the tips written by my colleagues, this one looks an awful lot like Control and Letting go. And indeed it does utilise that tip but it also needs you to recognise and admit to the uncomfortable and step up to the plate.
Stress Tip 8 – Recognise Stress as The Answer – Fran
Do we see stress as a problem when it is actually part of the answer? Stress is the wake up call, the call to arms, a signal to get moving because a problem is apparent. An article on stress as a superpower can found following this link. If the stress trigger is repeated time and time again you would be wise to see this as a call to a different type of action. Use stress as a teacher.
Stress Tip 9 – Writing it all down
When feeling stressed or overwhelmed I find writing really helpful, especially when my mood is lower. Annoyingly though I have a habit of not doing the things that I know are going to help me, and instead self-sabotage which I believe many other individuals also do. So definitely persevere with writing, even if it feels too much effort. I like to make lists, and break things down into smaller pieces; this makes tasks feel more manageable. When writing about my day, or how I am feeling, this enables me to look back and reflect, and mostly when revisiting the writing you can see the difficulties in a clearer light. Many of my friends who have been in therapy have been encouraged to write, write through the difficult emotions, distract yourself from other negative behaviours that could be used instead, such as; eating too much or too little, misusing substances and self-harm. Feel free to follow this link to a lovely little introduction to journaling specific to weight loss.
Stress Tip 10 – Exercise
Recently I have found that exercise is a brilliant outlet for when feeling stressed, or angry. Exercise is great because it has been proven to improve mental health and physical health.. Recently having dealt with a stressful situation, having my car stolen, I’ve found exercise to be so useful. When feeling really angry I’ve pounded the treadmill, and focused on completing the spin class, and have had a sense of achievement afterwards knowing that I am dealing with the negative emotions in a positive way.
Stress Tip 11 (Bonus) – Pet a pet
Not everyone owns a pet, but I think that pet therapy is another brilliant way to deal with stress. Whether it is going for a walk with a family pet, or visiting a dogs home where you can take dogs out for a short walk. Getting out in the fresh air is helpful, and the focus is taken away from the past and present, and helps you to be in the moment. I have a cat and she is very loving, and sitting and fussing her, and feeling the warmth and softness of her fur, it is relaxing and feels like a kind of mindfulness.
Summary to stress and weight management at Waetugo
Managing stress is an ongoing commitment in our hectic and sometimes frenzied world but hopefully you can see that we can turn our efforts into pleasurable activities and increased achievements successfully turning a stressful moment into a positive.
Do you use any of our tips or do you have any of your own? As usual, please feel free to discuss in the comments section below.