Challenging times demand better attention to self-care

23 January 2020

The recent cluster of fire smoke and hailstorm events have really put a lot of challenges our way both practically and emotionally.

It's hard to think that anyone has not been affected in some way.

We are all likely to be noticing some strain and it's worth noting that for most of us we are probably having a range of normal if difficult reactions to very demanding and unusual events and experiences.

At such times when there is additional pressure and demand on us in a range of ways it makes sense that we pay more attention to our wellbeing, calling on and building our resilience and managing stress.

Here are some ideas about building and maintaining resilience and managing stress courtesy of the EAPassist website https://eapassist.com.au/.  

Resilience

Resilience can be thought of as the ability to bounce back after being stretched, bent or compressed. In human terms this means being able to roll with the punches and recovering well from challenging situations.  

Here are a few things you can do to help build and improve your resilience:

  1. Build your coping resources
    Meditate and/or exercise on a regular basis.
     
  2. Be flexible
    Inflexible thinking can lock you into old unproductive patterns of behaviour.
     
  3. See setbacks as temporary
    Trust that you'll come out OK on the other side of a crisis.
     
  4. Nurture an attitude of gratitude.
    Make a mental list of everything you have to be thankful for before you fall asleep at night.
     
  5. Take action.
    Don't let your problems cripple you to the point of inertia or inaction.


Stress management

Here are some tried and true ways to help manage stress:

Deep breathing can lower your stress levels in a matter of seconds. To do this, place one hand over your belly, and silently count to five while you take a deep breath in lasting the entire count. Hold your breath to another count of five. Then breathe out to a count of five, noticing your hand falling with the out-breath and rising again with the next in-breath.

Meditation is another way to lower stress. Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed, sit or lie down in a comfortable position, and silently repeat a calming word or short phrase until you feel relaxed. Remember, meditating requires patience and practice. When distracting thoughts pop up, just return your attention to the word or phrase you have chosen to say. Practice every day for 15 to 20 minutes. There are many good apps that can help guide you through mediation practice. 

Progressive muscle relaxation is a simple technique for tensing and relaxing muscles one muscle group at a time. You can start at the head and work down to the toes: Take a deep breath in (hold it) and tense all the muscles in your forehead, scalp and face, and clench your jaw, while you count to ten. Now release that tension, as you breathe out and focus on the relaxation that naturally follows. Concentrating on one area at a time, tense and relax your neck and shoulders, your lower back, your belly, your arms and chest, and finally your legs and feet.

Other outlets for reducing stress include yoga, journaling, guided imagery, being in the present moment, (mindfulness) reading a good book, listening to music, getting a massage, taking a hot bath, talking to a friend, laughing and exercise. 

Many people try to ignore their stress symptoms. Do not do this...choose one or more of the above outlets and practice it for 20 minutes every day. 

Ideas for developing better Stress Outlets 

  1. Save for stress
    Think of stressful events like money spent and relaxing events like money saved. Consciously save for unexpectedly stressful periods in your life.
  2. Make big deposits
    Activities that require 20-30 minutes, like exercise, meditation, or yoga, count as big deposits.
  3. Make little deposits.
    Laugh, read, listen to music or imagine yourself in a relaxing place.
  4.  Try them all.
    Try every technique mentioned on this page, at least once. Then choose the ones that work best for you.


Practice mindfulness.

Think about what it is you're doing while you're doing it. For example, when taking a shower, think about how good the water feels running down your back, instead of what you are going to do later.