Have you heard about or even tried stress management techniques that have well-researched and provem benefits, but feel that they’re just not for you? That’s a surprisingly common experience that leads many people to either give up on stress management techniques, or not even try them. For example, someone who is not flexible or physically fit may feel that they’re not “in shape” enough to do yoga, and may end up avoiding a stress management technique that could change their lives.
People who find it difficult to sit sill for long periods may be turned off by the very thought of meditation, or perfectionists who have tried it may worry that they’re “doing it wrong” and give up on an activity that builds resilience to stress and can literally be life-changing. Even with a track record of research-proven benefits, not all stress relief activities appeal to everyone, but sometimes the issues we have with these techniques can be easily fixed with an adjustment in practice or perspective.
I almost titled this article “Stress Management: A Guid For Skeptics” because some of the most effective techniques may seem off-putting at first. If this is true for you, this article may be quite helpful in finding a way to make them work for you. The following can help you to take a closer look, make a fresh start, and possibly find a stress management technique that will really work for you in ways you hadn’t imagined.
When attempting to manage stress, it really helps to create a stress management plan. See what works best for you.
Affirmations: Make Them Believable
Positive affirmations are one of the most misunderstood stress relievers, in my opinion. And I get it; I was a skeptic at first, too. (And for good reason, but I’m getting to that.) The idea of merely repeating what you would like to be true until itis true seems a little delusional to many people, and not something they want to try (or at least not in front of people).
Don’t let this turn you off to the whole concept, however.
Research shows that there is some truth to these reservations, but that taking this truth into account can actually make affirmations more effective. It turns out that if you create affirmations that you really don’t believe, (such as “I am a very successful, confident businesswoman” when you have never worked in business, completely lack any shred of confidence, or are not, in fact, a woman), your conscious mind interferes with the effectiveness of the affirmation and the whole exercise does not work as it is intended to work. (Read more about this phenomenon.) The trick is to create affirmations that you actually believe, that may not reflect what you are trying to work away from, but that reflect what you canrealistically work toward in the near future. This means affirmations like, “I will be focused and at peace today” rather than, “I am a beacon of relaxation and feel calm at all times,” or “I am meeting my best potential today” rather than “I am the most successful person in the world.” You get the idea.
What constitutes an effective affirmation may differ slightly from person to person, depending on your goals, outlook, personality, and other factors.
However, the use of affirmations can be surprisingly effective for stress management, so do not give up on this stress relief technique before giving it a real chance. These guidelines on using positive affirmations can help you to make the most of this technique.
Yoga: You Don’t Have To Be An Acrobat!
Yoga has been shown to be one of the more effective ways you can manage stress and enhance your health at the same time. So why aren’t we all running around in spandex and downward-dogging our way to inner peace? Some of this is due to a reluctance to buy yoga videos of books, or join a yoga-friendly gym. (This is not entirely necessary, as there are free yoga videos on the internet, but some people may not know this. Now you know!) One of the more common reasons that people avoid yoga is that they may believe it is necessary to be able to twist into pretzel-like positions or be fit enough to wear yoga clothes comfortably to the store. The misconception that yoga is only for “fit” people scares away many of the people who would benefit the most from yoga.
If you find yourself shying away from yoga because you think it is only for people who look like they put out workout videos, think again. If you can breathe and stretch ever so slightly, you can do yoga. You may not be able to do all of the positions that a yoga master could do, or get into them with the same form that an instructor might take, but you can receive physical and emotional benefits from the practice, and it will become easier with practice.
If you’re interested in trying this out (which is especially easy in the privacy of your own home), here are some easy yoga poses to try from About.com Yoga. If you crave something more challenging, explore the site, or find a yoga class in your community.
Meditation: It’s Easier Than You Think
By now, virtually everyone has heard of at least some research on meditation that demonstrates what an effective stress reliever it can be. Meditation is a powerhouse of a stress management tool because it attacks stress from a few different angles: it helps you to physically relax (which can reverse your stress response), it enables you to detach from stress-inducing thought patterns, and it can even help you to become more resilient to stress over time! As if that’s not enough, a quick meditation session can be effective in helping you to feel less stressed; hour-long sessions are not required.
So why doesn’t everyone engage in a daily meditation session? We tend to get in our own way. Many people believe that meditation needs to be practiced for a long time to be effective. (While meditation is more effective if practiced daily, and for at least 20 minutes per time, 5-minute meditations have been shown to be effective for relieving stress.) Others find that once they sit quietly, their stressful thoughts flood in and they find it difficult to continue. (This is somewhat common and can be expected and accepted as part of the process, though this article may be helpful for people who find this uncomfortable.) Some people even think of meditation as something to be practiced only by those who believe in eastern spiritual practices or follow “new age” philosophies, though this is patently untrue.
Meditation can be effective for virtually everyone, and it’s easy to get started. The good news is that there are many different types of meditation, so there are several forms that can appeal to everyone. This article on meditation techniques can help you to get started. Beginners often find the chocolate meditation, the walking meditation, the music meditation or meditation for perfectionists to be easy starting points.