How to Deal w/ Stressful Situations
Wow. The past two weeks have been pretty loaded. So many things were coming up at the same time — exciting things, like late night rehearsals for our upcoming dance performance, and housing a Syrian refugee for a couple of weeks. But it was also difficult, with my brother suffering intensely from cluster headaches, and it was the first time that I was there when he was having an attack… I can’t put into words how much it hurt to see him in such pain, and to feel completely helpless standing there next to him. It was excruciating. Add to that some PMS and lack of sleep… All of that while I was creating a video and putting my first workshop together… Subject: energy and exhaustion. It definitely felt like an intense self-coaching course!
The past week this energy that had been building up was reaching its tipping point, and something happened at work where I finally spoke up about something that had been causing me stress for a long time — and it was about time that I did. I feel so much better now after releasing that energy, and through this experience I feel now how much I’ve grown in this area.
And so I felt drawn today to share with you what I learnt about how to get better at dealing with stressful situations with more ease and self-love. How can you deal with stress when it hits you right in the face?
I personally found it very difficult for a long time to put the things I knew were going to help me into practice: to breathe, to visualize, to meditate. It all sounds great when you learn about it, but the moment you find yourself in that stressful situation, and your heart starts pounding and frustration builds up… Do you find it easy to say to yourself: relax, breathe, have compassion? I certainly did not! So yes, it definitely takes practice, but it’s so rewarding to put in the effort and do the inner work.
I hope these tips and tools may have as big of an impact on your growth and self actualization as much as they did on mine.
Lots of love + good vibes your way,
Why Do I Feel So Stressed?
When you experience stress, your adrenals are stimulated to produce cortisol and adrenaline, hormones that make you hyper alert, stimulate your senses, and draw more blood to your muscles so that in case of emergency, you are able to make quick decisions and to fight — or flight — when it’s necessary. Such an incredible survival mechanism that's helped us survive as a species for thousands of years!
As you can see, stress is totally natural and we wouldn’t have been able to survive without it. However, the stress that we experience in our modern day environment, is not of the sporadic and short-term kind that it used to be.
When you’re repeatedly not able to recuperate after a stressful experience, or when the stress experience is constantly on — like with relationship problems, chronic illness, stress in traffic, or pressure at work for example — this can cause feelings of constant exhaustion, because your adrenal reserves are being depleted every day.
How then can you get better at dealing with stress so that you won’t deplete your adrenal reserves?
I find this to be a very personal thing and I believe it’s most important to find your way to deal with stress: do you enjoy self help books? Or do you like yoga, sports, painting, music? Or maybe meditation or visualization speaks to you? Anything that inspires you and brings you peace of mind.
Many of us find it very hard to deal with stress. If you’re one of them, this article is for you. You will find that once you start integrating these concepts into your life, you'll start making progress with every step you take, and you'll find a way to deal with stress that really works for you.
Below we’ll dive into what you can do when you’re right in the middle of a stressful situation, but we’ll also discuss stress management techniques that will help you calm down after stressful experiences, as well as help you anticipate stress and help you get stronger from the inside out so that you won’t feel as overwhelmed the next time it hits you.
1. WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE STRESSED
Picture this: you work in customer service, and you get a client who is angry because of a problem with a product. The client turns all their frustration on you and even makes things personal. Deep down you know their accusations are not personal, you know you always do your best to do a good job, but today for some reason you feel vulnerable and you just can’t handle it and break down. You’re shaky, your heart is racing and you feel tears coming up. The client’s negative energy was so intense that it just hit you.
What can you do to make yourself feel better soon?
- Always: breathe! Connect with your breath and breathe from the belly. Practicing belly breathing even just for 5 minutes every day will help you get better at it and do it more naturally when you feel stressed too.
- Get in touch with yourself: how are you feeling, where do you feel the stress in your body? Get in touch with that feeling, allow yourself to feel it fully for one moment, then breathe into it — and let it go. (This takes practice!)
- Know that you are not alone, you are doing great, know that you have the best intentions with anything you undertake and everything will be okay again soon: 'This, too, shall pass.'
Something that's really helpful to think about, is that people who are being unkind, are often the ones who are struggling the most. To make up for their own suffering and unresolved trauma, they pull up their defenses as a coping mechanism. It's actually really sad that they aren't able to do the inner work so that they can live a happier life.
When you think of it this way, you'll be able to shift your energy from reaction to compassion:
- Instead of reacting to this person’s negative energy, focus on connecting with your strengths and your own energy field so that you can stand in your power.
- Connect with your breath and see this challenging situation as an opportunity to grow and get better at dealing with these kind of situations.
- Instead of adopting a defensive posture, try to open up your shoulders, widen your feet, ground yourself and adopt an open posture. You can say to yourself: ‘I have compassion with this person, but I will not take on their energy. I will let them ventilate, but I will not let their energy affect me.’ Here it may help to visualize a protective shield around you, or to put your hand on your belly button to protect your energy field. I also find it helps to put your hands together.
2. HOW TO RECOVER FROM STRESS
Ever had a dry mouth or even dry skin after a stressful experience? Stress is extremely dehydrating. After any type of stressful experience, rehydrate with good quality spring water, herbal tea or fresh juice.
Stress uses up a lot of magnesium, so replenishing your magnesium reserves will help you calm down quicker. You can take magnesium orally, use a magnesium spray, or even better: take a magnesium bath.
Energy needs to flow! Energy that is stuck can lead to frustration, anger or other suppressed emotions, which can be very taxing on your organs. So move your body, write down your thoughts, communicate your feelings with someone you trust… Let that energy flow, and let it go.
3. HOW TO PREVENT STRESS
Well, technically… Preventing stress isn't going to happen. We’re all dealing with stress on some level every day. But what you can do, is strengthen your stress muscle from within so that you can get better at dealing with it. How?
- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables: they will provide you with all the nutrients that will strengthen your body and mind from the inside out.
- Be careful with stimulants like coffee, tea, guarana, and cacao. It may feel like these substances give you energy, but in fact they stimulate your adrenals to release their last reserves in one shot, which is why you feel that intense rush of feel-good hormones when you drink coffee or eat chocolate: it’s because all your serotonin/ dopamin reserves are being released in one shot — which of course, will leave you even more depleted, causing physical stress in the body. For an instant energy boost, try fresh fruit (bioavailable glucose bound to water, vitamins & minerals) or green juice (high in chlorophyll = instant energy).
- For building up your energy reserves, try adding more of these to your diet: leafy greens, barley grass juice powder, algae and seaweeds like spirulina, all fruits — especially mangoes and berries, celery, sprouts, rosehips, maca, and aswhagandha.
- Stay hydrated at all times to prevent physical stress which leads to headaches, migraines, mood swings and cravings.
- Make time for yourself every day: take time every day to do something for yourself like taking a hot bath, doing yoga, journaling, going for a walk, drawing or painting, reading a book… Anything that fills you up and brings you joy. If this sounds difficult for you, start with 5 minutes a day that you reserve for yourself completely.
- Start a gratitude journal: every day, write down 3 things that you are grateful for. It sounds simple, but it definitely had the biggest impact on my life. Instead of seeing the things that I still need to do, the things I need to work on, the things where I’m not ‘there’ yet — I pay more attention to the little things I am grateful for already, I celebrate the small wins, I’m grateful for what I have, and I just see life more positively. I see, and grab, more opportunities.
- Be mindful of your environment: what people do you surround yourself with, how good do you feel in your home environment, do you feel connected to your community? But also: what music do you listen to, what information do you take in, what do you say to yourself throughout the day?
Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself // How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One. If you're done with how you always seem to act & react in the same way and you see how it is not actually making your life any better, if you're looking for that one big nudge that will inspire and motivate you to make the change, read this book. It will no doubt blow your mind. Dr. Joe Dispenza makes the bridge between science and spirituality by explaining how you can apply concepts of quantum physics to your own life so you can dream bigger and finally make things happen, beyond what you ever thought was possible.
You Are a Badass // Very witty best-selling book by Jen Sincero, boldly showing that it's about time to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. Like really. The time is now :)
Zen Habits // A super inspiring blog by Leo Babauta, all about personal growth and living a mindful and positive life.