Stress Busting Manifesto
Created by Scottish Island Mum 2013
‘Her way of trying to help…’
This manifesto has developed from a problem and attempts to offer some solutions. I am a 49-year-old woman who is blessed to have many wonderful friends. In the past few months I have been forced to dwell on stress and the impact it has on us. Far too many of my friends are struggling with the impact stress is having on them and their health, in particular. This is just my way of trying to help by offering some suggestions to make the impact of stress less of a problem.
By observing and talking to people I truly believe that stress is a problem deeply rooted in my generation and perhaps we would all benefit from a gentle ‘wake up call.’
There is strong medical evidence that confirms that stress can damage our health. In fact stress can release up to 1400 different activities within the body including dumping some pretty toxic chemicals into our blood stream. We can not escape stress but it is how we RESPOND to it that we can have some control over.
One of my writing partners is a mechanic and engineer and so the lovely Kev has shared with me his top 8 tools. Kev tells me he could pretty much do any job with these tools. Let us take his lead and set up our own personal stress busting tool kit.
12V voltmeter and circuit tester –
Kev needs to check what is going on before he can start to fix it. We need to figure out where the stress is coming from before we can begin to control its effect.
Produce a stress trigger map.
I have done mine and sharing it with you as an example only. Click on my prezi. You don’t have to use prezi it is just a fast way to share online. Make a map any way you want but keep it simple. Don’t overload your map.
Which stress triggers are the toughest to deal with? Why?
Add into your map ideas as you work through this manifesto. Everyone has different ways to help deal with stress.
This part of Kev’s toolkit teaches us to loosen things that we are maybe hanging on too tightly to. Kev is quite specific about the sizes he needs and we have to be quite specific about the relaxation techniques we use. When we begin to feel stress settling in our bodies think about trying one of these techniques to release the tension –
• Some gentle stretching perhaps using yoga or Pilates exercises as a guide
• Listen to some favourite tunes on headphones and immerse yourself in the music
• Consider alternative healing practices such as reflexology and acupuncture
• Keep a journal and write your stresses in there and close the book.
• Go for a walk and reconnect with the natural world
• Share a cup of tea with a friend and discuss your stress and possible solutions.
• Find something creative to do that you love because it feeds your soul.
I am thinking Kev is keeping his options quite open here but with a common goal of being able to secure things into place. I am a firm believer in the need to learn to live with stress as it is part of our daily lives. It becomes a problem when we allow it to build in intensity and take control of us. That said, when Kev is tightening his screws we need to be thinking about getting things in perspective. This is absolutely mind over matter. If we have successfully mapped our stress trigger points we are more aware of them and more able to respond in a measured way. Use your mind as a filter to release thoughts that you can’t do anything about. Put your mind to better use by considering solutions to the sources of stress you can have some control over.
The other signal I think we take from this tightening and securing is our diet. We are what we eat and dealing with stress necessitates a healthy diet. Eating a balanced diet is, arguably, one of the most important factors. This should include –
• At least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day
• Lean meat and fish
• Whole grains such as brown rice and buckwheat
• Healthy fats such as sunflower seeds and avocado
Stress busting minerals are very important –
• Zinc – found in lean meat, seafood and yoghurt for example
• Vitamin C – found in fruit and vegetables especially citrus fruits and broccoli
• B-vitamins – found in all whole grains
• Magnesium – found in dark green leafy vegetables and tomatoes for example.
Keeping a tight control of our diet almost means avoiding certain foods when stressed to include –
Caffeine as it destabilizes the body and makes sleep more difficult
Alcohol as it is a depressant and dehydrates the body
Sugar as it is devoid of vitamins and minerals
Take a look at your diet and see where it might be out of balance and make the changes necessary to help fight stress.
Selection of screwdrivers inc flat heads and cross point
Kev likes his screwdrivers as there are lots of screws that need unscrewing. From time to time certain sources of stress overwhelm us and it is difficult to undo the tightness within. I am very familiar with this feeling living with a chronic illness that is pain focused. Sometimes it overwhelms me. I strongly believe there is only one solution for this and that is exercise.
Exercise raises our heart beat and increases blood flow cleansing our mind and our bodies. A sustained exercise routine leads to a fitter and healthier body with normal blood pressure and a strong cardiovascular system. It also helps to strengthen muscles, bones and joints. As we get older exercise is more and more important. It is vital that you find an exercise regime that suits you. We do not all find going to the gym appealing. Regular walking is the most obvious place to start but swimming is also to be recommended. Find something that you enjoy and can be slotted into your life relatively easily and stick at it. Your tight knots within will soon loosen.
Trusty Hammer –
I like that Kev calls his hammer trusty because that fits in so well with our stress busting toolkit. A hammer is more than capable of bashing things and, at times, reshaping them. Kev obviously knows which hammer is capable of achieving this. Sometimes we get very locked into our stress and struggle to see a way out. We need a trusty hammer to bash things about a bit and help us to reshape how we see things. For me that is a trusty friend who we know will take that job seriously. It is not a friend who will tell us what we want to hear but someone who is prepared to say it how it is. Trust is obviously hugely important here as we have to be able to trust the intentions of our friend. We have to believe that their bashing about comes from a good place and an intent to help. If this trust is in place we are more likely to value what they have to say and listen to their perspectives. We are less likely to be offended.
Deep impact sockets set
Kev’s obviously likes his socket sets and a deep impact set is a must have. I believe we have to have a stress busting tool that is capable of deep impact. Something that reaches beyond transitional day to day stresses and deals with more intense, deeper stress that is much harder to bust apart. We do not all suffer from this type of stress but having something in your tool kit just in case might be advisable. There are many deep stress busting strategies out there and you will need to do your own investigations. I offer a few just as examples –
Meditation or mindfulness training
This is becoming more and more popular as a tool for living our lives. With its roots in Buddhism it has now transcended religious and cultural contexts and is becoming something that people do from all walks of life. Meditation trains the mind to live in the moment. It prevents us from dwelling on the past or anticipating the future. We can do nothing about the past and the future will take care of itself. Living in the present is one of the toughest challenges out there but, if successfully achieved, can reap enormous rewards. As a starter for ten I would recommend the Headspace online programme by Andy Puddicomb as he his work has been defined as bringing meditation to the masses just as Jamie Oliver brought cooking to the masses. His 10 day starter programme gives you an idea of whether meditation is something that will benefit you and is completely free.
I experienced NLP on the NHS when I was referred to the pain clinic to find ways of dealing with high levels of pain. I was a complete sceptic but it worked so well for me. Using language as its base it attempts to re-programme our minds in the way we think things through. This is particularly effective with a repetitive source of stress that evokes the same negative reaction from you. An NLP practitioner will help you think about your reaction differently and send your mind down a different and more positive path. If it can work with extremely high levels of pain there must be something in it and is, perhaps, worth a try for some people.
At one time the stigma surrounding counselling was so high that it prevented it being effective. Things have moved on and it is now far more accepted as a useful tool at difficult times in our lives. A divorce, bereavement or any other intensely stressful happening needs careful handling and a good counsellor can not only listen but also work with you to help you identify and test possible solutions. Life is a jigsaw and every so often a piece goes missing and working with a counsellor might just help us find the missing piece. It is worth consideration.
Drilling is a regular part of a mechanic’s working day and making holes to slot things into is its focus. We need a good drill and relevant drill bits on our stress busting tool kit to open up spaces on our lives. Creating space in our mind is easily done but using two complimentary strategies –
Being outside takes our mind and body away from confinement and helps us to connect with the beauty of the natural world. It opens up our thinking and helps us put things into better perspective. Open spaces like beaches or on top of a hill are particularly good for helping us create space and declutter the mind. Open spaces help us to release tension and allow good hormones to enter our blood stream and feed our bodies and minds. When you are struggling with a stressful problem take it outside and see where that takes you.
The complimentary strategy to open spaces involves and open mind. An open mind is a compassionate and forgiving mind that processes stressful happenings with enhanced clarity. Making space for compassion is essential for a well balanced and secure mind and that has physical benefits as well. Some stress comes from other people’s thoughtlessness and we can react in a negative manner to that and that begins a downward and damaging spiral of thoughts. This negative spiral closes up our spaces and damages us. Far better that we think compassionately about the situation with an open and free mind. Anger, resentment and bitterness are hugely damaging emotions and cause our minds and bodies to be bombarded with stressful hormones. This reaction will have physical consequences. There are a lot of good sources on the internet for reading about compassion that will make you reflect on to what degree compassion is part of your thinking. For me, perhaps the best text is a book that takes words from the Dalai Lama called an Open Heart.
Opening up space in the mind through being in open spaces and dealing with stressful situations as compassionately as possible will become one of your most important tools but they both need commitment to ensure they become part of your daily life and thinking processes.
Kev likes to give everything a good clean up as, from time to time, things get a little clogged up with muck. These things happen in life as well as stress clogs up our mind and our bodies so we need to be prepared to clean up as well. For me there is a natural solution to this and that is water. I am quite sure that most of us do not drink enough water through a typical day. We should drink between 2.2 and 3 litres of water a day (9-12 cups) as this is essential for maintaining good health. Water cleanses our organs and cools the brain and both are essential stress busting strategies. A common health impairment caused by stress is headaches and often these occur because we are also dehydrated. Get into a habit of carrying a water bottle with you throughout the day. Taking regular sips will ensure that you maintain effective hydration levels and you will be more able to cope with day to day stresses. I have combined drinking water with NLP and now every time I take a sip of water it triggers a cleansing feeling and I feel at peace with the world.
A huge thank you to Kev for sharing his essential tool kit that has allowed me to put some useful structure to my stress busting manifesto.
Simply put my stress busting tool kit contains
- · A balanced diet
- · Physical exercise
- · An open heart and mind & time spent in open spaces
- · Relaxation techniques
- · Solutions for deep-rooted stresses
- · A trustworthy friend
- · Water
Establishing your own tool kit is only something you can do as we are all individuals and therefore make unique responses. Investing time and energy into establishing a working tool kit so that can ‘tackle any job’, as Kev puts it, is an investment in your health.
This manifesto is only designed to support your own thinking. I do hope I have been of some help.
David is a very special photographer. To see more of his work visit his flickr page.