The Inner Critic~Increases Stress!

The inner critic is always watching and always wants to be sure you know what you "can't" do.

The inner critic increases your stress. The inner critic is that piece of you that is watching everything you do, say, and think and passing judgement. Another way to describe this is ‘self-talk.’ We all have one, but sometimes the critic runs rampant and our stress levels rise. You can quell the power of the inner critic and help to decrease your stress levels, but you have to take some consistent steps to do this.

Who is the Inner critic?

Simply put the inner critic is you. More specifically the inner critic is your thoughts about you. In their book Self Esteem Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning refer to the “pathological critic” and while the critic can indeed be pathological, we need not allow the critic to call the shots. Allowing the inner critic to call the shots increases stress. We can all learn to recognize when we are being hounded by the critic and then learn to put the critic in its place.

Recognizing the Inner Critic.

The inner critic tends to show up any time there is a shift in mood. It also likes to judge your decisions. It may be the smallest of decisions such as whether to start a new exercise program. But it could also be a big life decision. Big or small the inner critic does not discriminate. The inner critic likes to create inner chaos.

A few weeks ago in the post Stress and Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors we discussed how inaccurate thinking can increase the stress. This is the place the inner critic hides. The critic may make it difficult to identify when thoughts are not accurate.

You may start to notice that the critic shows up in the same types of scenarios. It can be somewhat predictable which is helpful because once you start to notice you can begin to plan strategies to disrupt the critic.

How To Tame The Critic

So how do we tame the critic? Easy, start to talk back. Once you are aware that the citric is influencing your decisions you can begin to take back your power. Becoming aware of when the critic is most likely to show up is key. For example I used to have a lot of difficulty speaking up in groups. My inner critic was very good at telling me “no one cares what you have to say.” And for a long time, I fell for it. But then I started to pay closer attention and found that others actually wanted me to speak up. Over time I was able to consistently challenge the critic (i.e. challenge the distorted thought “no one cares what you have to say”) and I began to become more at ease with speaking in groups. It didn’t happen over night, but it did happen.

It can help to ask yourself a few questions:

  • If my best friend had this thought would I tell them the same?
  • What evidence do I have that this is accurate?
  • If I look back on this in a few years how will it look?
  • How has this type of thought helped or hurt me in the past?

Often just answering questions like these starts to loosen the critic’s grip. The critic does not like to be questioned.

Once you begin to challenge the critic you may find your stress levels begin to go down.

What part of this post was most helpful?

Leave a comment.

Thanks for dropping by! Have a great day. ~ Lynda

Learn Something New And Reduce Stress!

Learn something new!  This is my something, piano has been challenging for me to say the least.

A great way to reduce negative stress is to learn something new. It’s not just great for stress reduction, it’s also good for your brain!

According to the folks over at Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School learning a new and challenging skill causes your brain to grow which increases your cognitive reserve. Who couldn’t use a little extra ability to think and remember. Sign me up.

Choose a new skill to learn.

To get the benefits you have to choose something that you know relatively little or nothing about. It has to be a new to you skill. For example when I was in my late 30’s I chose to take up the piano during an emotionally challenging part of my life. Learning the new skill helped me in ways I am just beginning to recognize (but more about that later).

Choose something that you may have always wanted to know more about. It can be anything, but I would say making it as different from your daily grind as you can has an added benefit of adding variety to your life.

Choose anything that speaks to you, for me it was piano, but for you it may be learning Japanese or how to brew wine at home or anything else of interest to you.

Feel the burn

The next criteria is that it should be challenging. It has to have some elements that you may struggle with learning. This is what makes your brain grow. The brain won’t grow/change if you don’t give it a challenge.

In my piano learning I have struggled many a day with learning a new piece. My teacher is also sufficiently challenging me with something called music theory. He tells me it will make me better so I stick with it, but oh my goodness it is a struggle for me to learn the language of music theory.

Repeat

To get good at anything we need to practice it. Another way to say this is repetition. The brain seems to love repetition. This is probably why children do things over and over as their brains are rapidly growing and building skills.

Also repetition creates an environment for growth that provides the perfect kind of stress to make your brain bloom. This happens with muscles as well. Think of a time when you couldn’t complete a physical challenge, but after sticking with it you were able to build muscle and power through.

How does any of this decrease stress?

Good question. Review that in the first paragraph I referred to negative stress. I conceptualize negative stress as the kind of stress that makes us grumpy and sometimes dysphoric. It’s a kind of stress that tears you down. Recall that in the post 5 Minute Stress Management we broke stress out into different categories of distress and eustress.

When we learn something new we are engage the benefits of eustress. This is the kind of stress that leaves us feeling accomplished or fulfilled. Cognitively we find this type of stress appealing which in turn tends to lead to positive emotions. Also doing something different that is off the beaten path of your life creates a great distraction from things that may stress you out.

What will your new be?

Drop a comment in the comment section.

Thank you for dropping by –Lynda

Political Stress–What You Can Do To Decrease It.

Political tensions in Scotland were high in 2014 as voters decide to remain part of England rather than to leave.
2014 Scotland votes to remain a part of England

Political stress is becoming more common. In my practice I am hearing about the stress of the political climate with increasing frequency.

Whatever side of the aisle you land on (I am not here to debate politics) you may be feeling stressed.

This often occurs around the time of a big election when tensions are already high, but in the last 10 years or so it seems that the tension has been lasting longer. This is a global phenomenon. We are all touched by politics in some way.

If you are stressed about politics you are not alone. But what can we do about it on an individual level? The focus of this blog is to discuss stress and what we can do about it personally.

While none of us can directly change the political climate we can–and I argue should– manage our part in that climate. This is the part that is changeable on an individual level. Remember back in early posts we talked about looking at what we can control and what we can’t and developing strategies accordingly. Review those here and here.

Addressing Your Part in Politics

  • Know your issue(s)
  • Get involved at your comfort level
  • Act locally
  • Be kind
  • Get distance

Know the political issues you are passionate about.

Break down the issues and decide which are most important to you. There are a lot of issues in any cycle and it would be impossible for anyone to be well informed on ALL of them. Choose 1 or 2 that you feel most passionate about and focus on those. These are the issues that you will be best informed on. Everything else can be relegated to the back burner. In doing this you can be somewhat informed on those issues, while your primary issues are the ones that you’ll be most informed on.

Get involved at a level that feels right to you.

Get involved at your personal comfort level. Not everyone is built to make phone calls or knock on doors. If you feel most comfortable just being informed so you can talk with your friends and family about the issues you are most passionate about then that’s good enough. That said if you’ve always wanted to go door to door then find a way to do that.

Make local politics your point of entry and action.

Act locally. While national politics is often more accessible in terms of what we see and hear on the news or in our news feed, local politics is truly accessible to the individual.

Being involved at this level often provides a feeling of being really involved and then seeing how the issues play out. Also these are typically the politics that most affect us on a personal level, so getting involved here makes it more likely that you will have an effect that you can see/feel.

Be Kind

Be kind. Having political discussions is difficult if we don’t agree. Most of these conversations will likely occur with family members or work colleagues. While these conversations can be emotionally engaging they can also be minefields of disaster. If you devolve into saying things you can’t take back you will create more pain for yourself and your relationship. I would argue this also creates suffering for all involved. While you can’t control the others in the conversation, you can control your part. If things take a nasty turn, step back and even leave the situation if needed.

Take a break from the political fray.

If you are feeling so stressed that you don’t want to hear one more thing about politics take a break.

In my practice I often suggest a “news fast.” This is either completely tuning out of the news or radically changing your consumption.

I hear of many homes where the television is on to various news channels “all day.” Given that most news channels are cycling the same news over and over through the day that becomes a lot of repetition which can feel overwhelming.

I suggest turning off the television and consuming news through printed material. You may want to take a complete break and that’s good too. Every year I see more and more people taking a break from social media for a period of time. I think this is great because they are using their personal control over an issue that is feeling stressful to them.

In conclusion, if you are feeling stressed about politics you are not alone and better yet there is something you can do about it.

Which of the strategies above are you planning to implement to address political stress?

Leave your answer in the comment section.

Technology and Stress–What Are You Missing?

Most of us have ready access to technology through computers and smart phones. This means that we are virtually never without access to information. We are also likely never far from our family or work. While this can be comforting to a point the constant availability can also be stressful. In this way technology increases our stress levels.

While this has enabled us to be more flexible with our time it can also increase stress if we aren’t able to set good boundaries around our use of these devices.

What’s the issue?

For many smartphone use has increased to the point that we are using them even in the midst of other activities. We’ve all seen it; folks who’ve made an effort to get together all sitting around looking at their phones. In many instances people still say they are “lonely” or feel “alone” much of the time.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my smartphone as much as the next guy, but it can get in the way of relating sometimes. We have all had those moments when our partner gets home and we are deep into that audiobook or scrolling through social media. You find it hard to set it aside and lose that precious time with a loved one. Even though that’s what we were told that technology would do for us–free us up to do fun things with each other–and yet time and again we opt for tech over real world connection.

What will it take for us to use our devices when it is helpful and set them aside when we want to connect with others?

What to do?

I have a few ideas on this and the first and foremost we have to rejuvenate our capacity to sometimes be uncomfortable. We have to build a tolerance for boredom.

That’s right. We have to be willing to be bored to enter into a creativity zone, a connection with other people zone, a zone of having our own uninterrupted thinking. As a culture we’ve gotten away from that and I think it does us all a disservice.

After reading Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zamorodi as well as Atomic Habits by James Clear I am even more convinced. (Disclaimer, I am not receiving any compensation from either of the authors I just really enjoyed their books and provide links for your convenience.) Both authors discuss the role of boredom in how we get hooked into habits. And to be sure we are quick to fill any empty space in our days as if we fear what we may find.

We also have to be willing to set limits on our use of technology. That can be a little more difficult if your work revolves around use of technology, but even then we can set some limits on what we are willing to allow. In limiting our reliance on technology we may also decrease our stress.

Try this:

The next time you find yourself with some alone time.

  • Try not being “connected” to your device.
  • Set a timer for 5 minutes.
  • Turn off that audiobook and don’t reach for the radio or television.
  • Silence your phone.
  • Just be alone with your thoughts.
  • Look at what thoughts come up.
  • Do they have a theme?
  • When the 5 minutes are up take another 5 to write down what you noticed.

If you find you are having difficult thoughts try looking at a previous post on thoughts, feelings and behaviors here.

You can also take 5 minutes and do the exercise in the post 5 minute stress management here.

What happened with your stress levels when you spent some time disconnected from technology?

Thank you for dropping by The Stress Nest. Please leave suggestions in the comment section.

Stress And Your Body–The brain-body connection.

Outline of a human body. How does your stress affect your body?
Stress affects your body

We tend to think of stress as a mental health phenomenon, but stress affects both our brain and and our body. In fact chronic stress can affect most systems in the body.

Stress often begins in our brain. While stress can also occur when we have an unusual assault to our body, for the purpose of this article we will be talking about how the brain modulates stress and affects your overall health.

The role of the brain in our stress response.

When stress occurs, let’s say a chronic worry about a situation in your life, it can upset the balance in your brain and body. The central nervous system (CNS) maintains the “fight or flight” response which can protect us from threats. When a threat occurs it starts the ball rolling by sending distress messages to the adrenal glands which then pump out adrenaline and cortisol to the body which tell us to fight or flee.

This is great if we meet up with a tiger or are trying to escape a burning building giving us the power and resolve we need to deal with that situation. But for the most part we are not presented with these types of threats. More commonly we are faced with stress related to traffic, the washing machine breaking down, or relationship strain.

The body responds the same regardless the stressor.

The body doesn’t discriminate between the types of threats and jumps to action in the same way whether it is a tiger attack or a washing machine break down. These hormones (adrenaline and cortisone) impact all parts of the body causing all kinds of symptoms such as insomnia, upset stomach, increased blood pressure, constipation, diarrhea, loss of sex drive, impotence to name a few. Healthline has a great article you can read more about each body system here.

These symptoms left unattended can snowball creating a lot more stress for you. Take a moment to consider what tends to happen for you.

So what can we do?

The first step is to notice what is happening. Most of us aren’t dealing with a lot of life and death stressors. Much of the time we stress ourselves out because of the story we tell ourselves about what is happening. And often we are inaccurate in our assessments.

Assess the situation

Taking time to stop, look, and assess what is going on in your life. And notice what symptoms are occurring for you. Are you a person with chronic headaches? Do you get diarrhea or constipation when you have a big event coming up? The symptoms will be different for each of us, but we can approach them similarly.

It’s often helpful to ask yourself: What am I stressed about?

Once you have the answer you can ask yourself progressive questions about that. Such as:

  • Why does this stress me?
  • What do I imagine will happen if this stressful thing continues?
  • What part of it is within my control?
  • What one piece if changed would alleviate some of the stress?
  • What can I do right now that can help me feel better?

It can be revealing how much we can worry over things we have little to now control over OR which take up so little of our life story that if we choose to move on from would have much less impact on our lives. You can probably pick out which of those things are true for you. Keeping in mind that for each of us these will be different.

Example of how to move through the process.

Here’s an example from my own life.

I take piano lessons and as such I have a lesson once a week. For my last lesson I was running late. I had lost track of time and left my home much later than usual. My initial thought was “oh crap this is bad” and I started to feel tense in my muscles and was likely driving a little too fast. At the first stop light I was like “great, now I am going to be really late.” And the muscles tensed more.

Using the above questions I worked through the stress.

  • I was stressed because “if I am late the teacher will be angry.”
  • That part is outside my control.
  • I also asked “has the teacher ever been angry with you?”
    • “no” “so why are you stressing?”
  • Realizing that the teacher has never been angry you is helpful.
  • One thing you can do now is take a deep breath and focus on your driving.

And guess what? My muscles relaxed. I was able to focus on driving to the lesson. And on top of all that–I was actually on time, exactly on time. So all that initial distress was for nothing.

So what about stress and the body?

When you start becoming more observant you will be able to address the issues that stress you out. That in turn will start to have a positive effect on your symptoms. In the example above my muscles relaxed when I started to drill down on the stressor of running late. While it will be different for everyone how long it takes to resolve your symptoms many may start to recede almost immediately. Review the posts on sleep and eating if these are in your symptom profile.

How likely are you to use this strategy the next time you notice stress affecting your body?

Leave your answer in the comments. And if you try it swing back and let us know your outcome.

Thank you for dropping by The Stress Nest. Please leave suggestions in the comment section.

Note: This site is not intended as a replacement for formal mental health treatment. If you believe you have issues more than what this site can address please contact a local mental health professional.

Over Scheduling Increases Stress.

Endless line of stacked rocks representing stress and overs scheduling.
Sometimes it seems as if our tasks will never end

We are often our own worst enemy when it comes to stress. In an effort to “cram it all in” we end up missing out on the joy of our lives. Over scheduling ourselves can increase our stress significantly. It’s also a tough habit to kick. But reining in the tendency to fall into the over scheduling habit will yield huge benefits down the road.

Over scheduling ourselves is more than just a thing people say, it shows up in our behavior as well. When you overdo you rob yourself of precious sleep, leisure time, and time to devote to optimal self care. Which increases the stress you feel. Striving to get just one more (insert your favorite widget or task here) done ends up being a cycle that seems like it will never end. Choosing to stress ourselves can have huge impacts on our ability to stay present and engaged in our lives. Life is too short to wade through it only half present.

Manoush Zomorodi devoted an entire book–Bored and Brilliant: How spacing out can unlock your most productive and creative self-– to dealing with a kind of over scheduling that takes the form of the addiction to devices and the internet sweeping our society. She shows how our tendency to “never be bored” or have a second unfilled is actually hurting us in ways we are only starting to recognize. You can find her book here. (I give this link only as a help to you, I am not receiving any monies from Amazon or Manoush.)

What can we do?

How do we step away, say no to things we may really want in order to have a more peaceful life? One step at a time. The habits you have today are not going to be changed overnight, but to be sure they can be changed.

Become more aware.

The first step in this process is to become more aware of what you are doing. I like diagrams. I think they are very illuminating. Sit down and write a list of all the things you’d like get done on the average day. Make it an exhaustive list.

Now sit down and consider the following

  • How many hours a day must you work?
  • How many hours of sleep do you need a day?
  • Do you have other people depending on you?
  • Do you have others who take care of repetitive life tasks for you?

If you are like me you have to work and likely those shifts are at least 8 hours. Ideally most adult people require about 8 house to be at their best. Yes, I know many people are not sleeping that amount. That’s likely why many people are in sleep debt, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Unless you live on Venus you have a 24 hour day. Given the information above that gives you just 8 hours to do all the life stuff apart from work and sleep. Grab your list. what is the likelihood that you will be able to get it all completed? You’re going to have to make some choices.

Pleasing versus planning

Take a look at your list. How many of the things on the list are things you might not really want to do, but are doing just to please someone else? I’m not saying that pleasing others is a bad thing, but if you are burning the candle at both ends to make other people happy you may find you are increasing your stress. Since we are talking about reducing stress looking at your habits is a great starting place. If you are a people pleaser it is often easy to say “yes” to requests before thinking about what that “yes” means to your schedule. I know this has been true for me.

So what now?

Once you are aware of it, you can begin to change it. That said if you start saying no to everything others want you to do you may find you are not only stressed, but lonely as well. Change is imperative and can be accomplished more easily than we sometimes believe.

Look

Look at your list and jot down how long each one of those items takes for you to do. You might be surprised that you are trying to pack a lot into your day and this could be increasing your stress.

  • Take a good hard look at those items
    • What are they?
    • Who do they benefit?
    • How likely are you to get them done today?
  • Determine for yourself which are the non-negotiable things on the list.
    • Things that if you don’t do them you will sacrifice a big chunk of your happiness.
    • Taking care of your kids.
    • Spending quality time with your partner.

Ask Yourself

Ask yourself the following questions about each item.

  • How much does getting this done affect my life?
  • Will someone else be harmed if I don’t do this?
  • What sacrifice do I need to make to do this?
  • Is sacrificing something to get this done worth it in the scope of my life?
  • Do I need help?

Put it on the Clock

Empty clock face to plot your activities. To determine the amount of stress you may be under.
Plot all the activities you have for the day.


When you start to put in all the activities you have on your list PLUS work and sleep hours, you may start to see a problem. It may be at this point that you will being to loosen your grip on all you want to cram in. You may even start to consider asking for help.

Round pie graph. Plotting activities to show how much time in the day. Helps to determine stress levels.

That one 33% wedge of the pie is often much too small to cram all the things we want to get accomplished done. At this point we are tempted to start doubling up on activities and not really being present for either.

STOP, Look, and chose a different approach. Start scheduling yourself more realistically and dare to be truly present in your activities. I think you’ll find you are much less stressed and much happier to boot.

You can review 5 Minute Stress Management here.

What strategies work best for you?

Relationships and Stress: It’s about you.

Tree with swollen trunk. Sometimes we feel out of sorts when our relationships are out of sync.
When relationships having you feeling yucky.

Relationships come in many forms, work relationships, friendships, and romantic relationships to name a few. When one of these is out of balance we can feel our stress increase.

Knowing your specific needs within relationships will help to guide you in keeping all of your relationships healthy.

First it’s a good idea to determine who, what, why, and where. Well not exactly in that order. Start by considering WHAT you want from various relationships. Then consider WHO you want to provide those aspects. Keeping in mind that no one person can fulfill all your relationship needs. Look also at WHY those aspects are important to you. And WHERE does this relationship most impact you (home, work, social?).

Start with an exercise

In this exercise you map out the various relationships in your life to determine the number and closeness of the various relationships in your life.

Start by taking a blank piece of paper and draw 4 concentric circles like this:

circle exercise

In the middle circle you put yourself. Then consider all the relationships in your life and start to place them in the circles based on how close they are to you and how much trust you have in them.

Types of Relationships

  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Aunts, Uncles, Cousins
  • Co-workers
  • Friendships
  • Pets
  • People you see routinely, but don’t necessarily do things with.
  • Lover, partner, husband, wife

Just doing the exercise may help you to consider who you find most trustworthy and who you find difficult to trust. Also consider the last time you had a conflict with each of the individuals on your map.

When relationships are out of sync what can you do?

Remember the only parts within your control are your parts.

When you begin to identify that one of your relationships is out of sync. Sit down and start to look at what the issues seem to be coming up most often between you and that person. Look at the earlier post 5 minute stress management to determine what is within your control and what belongs to others. Once you figure out what is coming from your side of the relationship you can start to make changes.

By looking at your overall stress management you will begin to see some recurring themes in your thoughts. Check those thoughts and correct any that are distorted. By correcting those distortions you may be able to alleviate a lot of the stress you feel, by simply thinking more clearly.

If difficulties remain after you have completed this step then it may be time to talk to the other person. By talking to the other person about what is stressing you and why you may find information on the issue you haven’t considered which can help your stress levels decrease. Review the earlier post thoughts, feelings, and behaviors here.

Give it a try and let me know how it worked for you!

Thank you for dropping by The Stress Nest. Please leave suggestions in the comment section.

Stress and Thoughts, Feelings & Behaviors.

How are thoughts, feelings, and behaviors connected? According to the Beck Institute something called The Cognitive Triad consists of our thoughts of self, our thoughts of the world around us, and our beliefs about the future. (Check out a good definition by AlleyDog.) While Beck was originally focused on depression the concept transfers to all areas of life. The type of thoughts we have related to each of these areas can modulate our feelings and drive our behavior. Because inaccurate thinking can lead to increased stress levels, it’s a good idea to take a look at your thinking from time to time. Often when we are feeling stressed there is something out of balance.

While all thoughts and behavior are not problematic, if we get caught up in negative self talk about ourselves and the world around us our stress levels can rise often causing low mood states. Which leads to more stress.

Getting good at identifying where our thinking is inaccurate can actually decrease the amount of stress we feel. Because thoughts and behaviors influence one another, looking at behaviors can help us identify problems that can increase our stress.

Consider your behavior the last time you felt a high amount of stress.

  • Did you ignore the issues adding to your stress?
    • OR
  • Did you tackle the problems directly?
Each of those choices leads to a decidedly different outcome.

Identifying the types of behaviors you tend to engage in can help you to better manage your stress because it gives you a target for change.

Similarly we can look at our thinking.

How accurate are your thoughts during stressful times? Getting caught up in cycles of thinking that are unhelpful and inaccurate tend to increase stress levels.

Some of the common distorted thinking patterns are:

  • Minimization: downplaying positive events
  • Overgeneralization: Making a sweeping conclusion based on a single piece of evidence.
  • Personalization: Attributing negative thoughts or situations solely to oneself.
  • Magnification: Exaggerating the significance of a single undesirable event.
  • Selective abstraction: drawing conclusions based on just one of many elements of a situation.
  • Arbitrary inference: drawing conclusions from insufficient or no evidence.

Learning to challenge these types of distorted thinking patterns can help to decrease your stress.

A few questions that can help you challenge your thoughts and create more accurate thinking are:

  • If my best friend or family member had this thought what would I tell them?
  • Do I think about this differently when I am not stressed?
  • Would this thought stand up in a court of law?
  • Is there any evidence that shows this thought is not true?
  • How is this line of thinking helping me?

What about feelings?

Feelings change when we change our thoughts and behaviors. Consider that feelings are neither right nor wrong, good or bad, it’s the behavior that tend to cause the problems. Start tuning into your feelings and see what they can tell you about what is going on inside yourself. Correcting distorted thoughts can help you feel more and stress less.

Give it a try and see what you think!

Check out the information in the first couple of posts: 5 minute stress management and effective stress management makes you a better you.

Note: This site is not intended as a replacement for formal mental health treatment. If you believe you have issues more than what this site can address please contact a local mental health professional.

Thanks for dropping by and have a great day–Lynda

Managing work stress more effectively.

Managing work stress can seem more difficult because the stakes are high. Most of us will have to work at some point in our lives. Applying some simple concepts can go a long way to helping you decrease your work stress.

Work stress can feel like we are on a carousel that just keeps going as we feel more and more stressed. We just want to get off and relax.

Work is something that most of us have to do to live our lives as comfortably as we can. For many work can take on a life of its own creating a high level of stress which can drain you of energy. If you are feeling stressed at work you are not alone. According to The American Institute for Stress about 65% of workers experience stress in the workplace.

Taking hold of work stress is different for everyone depending on the type of job. Those with jobs that offer the most autonomy tend to have less stress overall. Because when work stresses rise those with higher levels of autonomy have the ability make decisions to offset stresses.

When you start to feel overwhelmed with anxiety due to work stress sit down and ask yourself a few questions:
  • Am I sleeping well?
  • When was the last time I exercised?
  • Do I eat well and regularly?

If these areas are not well managed visit previous posts for sleep, exercise, and eating.

Once those areas have been addressed move on to the following questions:

  • Are you over functioning on the job?
  • Can you better balance to chores of the job with the less stressful aspects?
  • Is it feasible for you to decrease your number of work hours?
  • Is this job the right one for you?
  • Can you better set limits on the number of hours you work?

Work/Life Balance

Often we get into a rut and just make assumptions about how our work must go. Asking the above questions can help you start to pinpoint which aspects of work are most stressful for you.

Functioning within the demands of the job to better manage work stress.

Ask yourself am I stressed because I am giving more than the job demands? If the answer is yes, is this something that you can cut back on? We often train others to believe that we are ready to give a 110% all the time. That’s okay if you’re happy with it, but if the result is just higher stress levels, you may want to consider pulling back a bit.

Finding better balance to decrease stress.

Most jobs are a mix of things we enjoy and parts that are drudgery. Are you focusing all your energies on the chore aspects of the job and not getting around to the more joyful aspects? If so you may want to look at how you can organize your job to have a better balance between the two.

Can you decrease hours?

Many times we assume that we must work full time. If you continue at a job for a number of years you may be able to cut back on your hours. This option isn’t for everyone. If you are able to decrease your work hours, you may find that your stress levels also go down.

Limiting your time to decrease work stress.

While we are talking about hours. Ask yourself if you are one of the people who can work for long hours and not realize how much time you are putting in. If so you be subjected to stress from family and friends who wonder why they aren’t getting more of your time. If this is you start looking at how you can limit your time, still getting all your work completed, but also being able to spend quality time with friends and family or just doing leisure activities at home.

Optimizing paid time off

Since we opened the door to discussion of time away from work, another good question to ask is, Am I optimizing my vacation time (or Paid time off)? If you work a job in which you get paid time off for vacation then optimizing that feature of your job can also reduce your stress.

When I started my career in nursing I made the decision that once I had accumulated a set number of vacation hours that I would begin taking time away from work. I didn’t have to go anywhere special, but this self imposed rule meant I must take time off work. After accumulating vacation time I thought was sufficient (which took about a year) I started taking at least 1 week away from work every 3-4 months. That was 22 years ago and I still maintain that regimen and find that it helps me manage my stress fairly well.

If your job doesn’t have paid time off, you may consider starting a vacation bank account in which you save money to pay bills when you want to be away from work. This also works out well if you have a sudden illness that takes you off the job for an extended period.

Right Job?

And lastly ask if the job you are doing is the right one for you. If not how can you start to make a shift so that you are moving into a job that better fits you? This may take time and require you to investigate other options and maybe even try some things out prior to quitting your current job. Finding a job that is a good fit for you can decrease your stress significantly.

Once you have a better idea of which aspects of your work you find stressful you will then be able to use the 5 step method to determining how to change things to bring your stress under control. You can revisit the 5 step method in Stress-101 here.

Try it out and let me know how it works for you.

Have a great day–Lynda

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Note: This site is not intended as a replacement for formal mental health treatment. If you believe you have issues more than what this site can address please contact a local mental health professional.

Stress management and exercise. A dynamic duo!

Stress management and exercise go well together. You may be saying, “but Lynda I am already stressed out how the heck can I fit more like exercise into my day?”

My response…

Stress management is not about simply ‘fitting it all in’, but rather fitting the right things, in the right amounts into each day. –Lynda

If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” 

Hippocrates

Before starting any exercise regimen please consult your healthcare provider.

How do stress management and exercise go together? According to the folks over at Harvard health exercise reduces the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline while also increasing beneficial chemicals in the brain called endorphins. Endorphins help you to feel less pain and increase your mood. Check out the full article here.

So what is the right amount of exercise? Well it will be different for everyone based on ability as well as current level of activity, but essentially for good health we are talking about 20 minutes each day as a minimum.

In fact the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate activity OR 75 minutes per week of intense activity OR a blend of the two. They have great examples of what constitutes each over at their site. Check it out here.

If you are not currently meeting this guideline set by the American Heart Association don’t despair. You can start exercising for less time at lower intensity and gradually increase your efforts over time.

The key is to stick with it.

I usually recommend choosing a start date and then assessing where you are physically. AHA defines moderate exercise as 2.5 mile an hour walking pace (24 minutes per mile) or biking less than 10 miles per hour (about a mile every 6.5 minutes).

Carve out a 30 minute period of time and find a treadmill (or a sidewalk) or bicycle (stationary or regular) and take a stroll or a ride. Then…
  • Start a stop watch (or just note the time) and begin walking or peddling.
  • Tune into your breathing.
    • When you notice your breathing increase in effort, but you can still comfortably talk, that’s moderate exercise.
    • If you start to huff and puff and can no longer speak a sentence that is vigorous exercise and you’ll want to slow it down a bit.
  • Once you’ve reached your limit write town how long you were at it.

Be honest with yourself and remember self judgement is your foe. The purpose of this is to assess where you are not give yourself a lot of grief over not being further along. It’s hard to get anywhere when someone is standing in your way telling you that you’re a failure. Most of the time that voice is our own slowing us down and increasing our stress.

Once you have the information on your current ability you can start to increase up to the recommendation over time.
  • Let’s say that you can comfortably walk at a moderate pace for about 10 minutes.
  • Do it daily until it’s a habit and it begins to feel easy. This should happen in about a week.
  • Then start increasing the time by about 10 percent of the total each week.
  • By week 8 you should be able to comfortably do the exercise for about 20 minutes.

Start to notice the effects of regular exercise on your overall stress levels. Are you…

  • Sleeping better?
  • Has your appetite come under better control?
  • Are you less easily irritated?

Most will notice a decrease in the amount of stress they feel day to day over time. But to notice it, you need to tune in and listen to what your mind and body are telling you.

Let me know what you discover.

Have a great day–Lynda

Thank you for dropping by The Stress Nest. Please leave suggestions in the comment section.