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Stress is killing me! – How to survive the stress of the modern world…

Stress is killing me! – How to survive the stress of the modern world…

Stress is a part of everyday life, the pace of everything we have to do is increasing, what is expected of us as human beings is expanding, yet we are still the same people we were yesterday. There is an expectation that we have to cope with an ever increasing level of stress, however we often do not have the tools and techniques to do so.

Recognising Stress

The first and most important thing to do is to recognise the signs of stress, feeling stressed can be accompanied by physical symptoms which can include feeling exhausted with low energy, headaches, upset stomach and chest pains.

However, stress can affect each of us differently, some people have a higher tolerance to certain types of stress, but we all have a point at which we are unable to cope. You need to recognise the point, at which you are beginning to lose control of your stress levels, as this is the stage you need to take action.

Step 1 – Find the breaking point

Only you will know what your stress triggers are. Some people will tell you that they ‘thrive on stress’, however you will find that they have other triggers. Try to become self-aware and recognise the moments when a certain stress is affecting you.

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A good technique to help you is to use a ‘mood graph’

mood-chart

    In my mood chart for today you can see that there were pressure points around the morning meeting and then a review meeting with my manager. It allows me to recognise, over time, what specifically is causing stress. Note this is a very quick scribble, you don’t need to spend ages drawing a special chart, just something that you can read!

    This does not have to be complicated, what you are trying to capture is the points in your day when you became angry, upset or stressed. Be conscientious for a week and track your mood every fifteen or twenty minutes and each time you have a particular stressful moment.

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    If you hit a high or low point make a note as to what caused it,  this will create a chart which illustrates your specific trigger points. In the next step we will look for ways to conquer these.

    Step 2 – Run away!

    Okay, I am not suggesting that you run from your home or office but, that you run away from whatever has triggered your stress. When you recognise what is causing your triggers and you have become stressed you need to stop and escape the moment.

    Stand up and walk away from whatever is happening, if you are driving find a safe place to stop, if you are in the office use the opportunity to step to the toilet or have a coffee break. If you cannot physically step away, take a moment, close your eyes and pause for just a second.

    Where you can, you are looking to create a physical space from your stress trigger and you. It is important to break the cycle when you can, as you become proficient at recognising what will trigger your stress, you can better prepare.

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    Stop! But I cannot run away.

    If you have been in a place where you cannot escape your stress triggers, including being in retail, where you cannot step away. You need to take yourself away mentally. We will discuss meditation techniques later, but in the immediate moment when someone is yelling at you remember. This is not personal, the individual is shouting at the brand or organisation and an outburst of anger is no different to a toddler having a tantrum, stamping their feet and waving their arms. Imagine the stressor as a toddler, let them run their course and behold their foolishness.

    Step 3 – Be mentally prepared

    Just as you would do a workout for your body, you need to do a workout for your mind. You need to develop a mindset which will allow you to be resilient and protect yourself from the effects of stress.

    1. Make time for you daily – first, set aside five minutes a day just for you. This is time away from your stress and only for you. During this five minute window your responsibility is to work for you.
    2. Find your happy place – close your eyes and think back to a place where you were truly happy. It may be the beach, a forest or even your bed, visualise this place. Think of every detail (what does it feel like, what does it smell like, feel the sand beneath your toes. Embrace every sense). While you do so touch your thumbs together. This will take practice, visit your happy place in your mind often, building your feelings of where it is and how it feels. Eventually (and yes, this will take some time and practice) the act of touching your thumbs together will create this feeling in your mind.
    3. Find a musical mantra – find your favourite piece of upbeat music (for me it is ‘Can you feel it?’ – By the Jackson Five). Listen to your mantra music before you enter a stressful environment, feel the upbeat music flow through you and feel upbeat in yourself. Again this will take practice, but with time you will find that this track will make you think of positive times and you can use it when you have a stress trigger point.
    4. Manage your breathing – follow some simple breathing exercises. Close your eyes, breath in through your nose, hold your breath for a count of ten and the slowly breath out through your mouth. Repeat this for a minute. Take your time, concentrate on slowing down your breathing.

    These techniques will build your resilience, allowing you to take a moment to escape when you cannot run away.

    Step 4 – Be physically prepared

    Look for opportunities to exercise, physical exercise reduces your body’s stress hormones including adrenaline and cortisol as it increases your feel good endorphins.

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    You don’t have to go to the gym necessarily, a good brisk walk or some exercises in your home will help you. The action of making time for yourself and moving your body will make you feel better.

    Step 5 – Manage your pressure points

    When you know what causes you to feel stress look for ways to overcome them. ‘Easier said than done!’ You may say, however this is your life and you need to manage what is making you ill. It may require a drastic change such as a new job but sometimes such change is necessary.

    You should find that, when you recognise your stress triggers and have an improved mental and physical resilience, you will be better placed to cope with your stress.

    Step 6 – Get help

    If none of this improves your situation you need to look for help. This is not a failure on your part and there is nothing wrong in seeking professional advice. If you have followed the steps you should find that you have a better idea of your stress and a professional will be better able to help you.

    Above all you are not alone, your friends and family are there to support you, failing this, there are professionals who will help you.

    Good luck!

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

    5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

    Do you forget stuff every now and then? Are you trying to enhance your memory but not sure how?

    All you need is the right memorization techniques to make the most of your memory.

    The human brain is fascinating. More specifically, the vast interconnections within our mind. Mendel Kaelen compares the human brain to a hill covered in snow,

    “Think of the brain as a hill covered in snow, and thoughts as sleds gliding down that hill. As one sled after another goes down the hill a small number of main trails will appear in the snow. And every time a new sled goes down, it will be drawn into preexisting trails, almost like a magnet. In time it becomes more and more difficulty to glide down the hill on any other path or in a different direction.”

    The intent of Kaelen’s discussion is to think of new ways to temporarily flatten the snow. Kaelen remarked,

    “The deeply worn trails disappear, and suddenly the sled can go in other directions, exploring new landscapes and, literally, creating new pathways.”

    The idea here is to temporarily rewire your brain, or as Michael Pollan remarked in How to Change Your Mind,

    “The power to shake the snow globe, disrupting unhealthy patterns of thought and creating a space of flexibility-entropy-in which more salubrious patterns and narratives have an opportunity to coalesce as the snow slowly settles.”

    So, how can we rewire our brain allowing deeply worn connections to disappear and new connections to form? The answer is quite simple. We must change the way we store information in our mind.

      Let’s examine 5 specific memorization techniques that will change the way you think and remember information.

      1. Build a Memory Palace

        What is it?

        The method of loci[1] (aka memory palace) is a method of memory enhancement using visualizations with the use of spatial memory. It uses familiar information about your environment to quickly recall information. It is a method that was discussed by Cicero in an ancient dialogue called De Oratore.

        How to use it?

        Ron White discusses in How to Memorize Fast and Easily: Build a Memory Palace, that it’s essentially a room or building that you have memorized and you use locations in the room to store data. Ron informs us,

        “You memorize locations in a room and then you later go back to those locations to retrieve the data that you want to remember.”

        Example

        An easy 5-step example, in the form of a Wiki, can be found at Artofmemory.com. Let’s examine the the steps:

        • Step 1. Choose a place that you know well. For example, your house or office.
        • Step 2. Plan the route and pick specific locations in your route. For example, your front door, bathroom kitchen, etc.
        • Step 3. Decide what you want to memorize. For example, geography, list of items, answers for a test, etc.
        • Step 4. Place one or two items, with a mental image, and place them in your memory palace. Exaggerate your images. For example, use nudity or crazy images forcing it to stick in your mind.
        • Step 5. Make the image into a mnemonic.

        You can learn more about this technique here: How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

        2. Mnemonic

          What is it?

          A mnemonic is a memory device that aids in retention and/or retrieval of information. Mnemonic systems are techniques consciously used to improve memory by helping us use information already stored in long-term memory to make memorization easier.[2]

          How to use it?

          Mnemonics make use of retrieval cues to encode information in our brain allowing for efficient storage and retrieval of the information. The trick is to learn how to easily create mnemonics. If you find that you struggle with creating your own, try the following website: Mnemonic Generator.

          Example

          I recently came across a video using mnemonics to memorize countries. Memorizing Countries using Mnemonics is a video created as an introduction to a class for using memory techniques to learn the names of countries on maps.

          I actively search for videos that provide enormous educational value, yet receive very little exposure. At the time of this writing, this video has received less than 4k views. Let’s examine the video.

          Goal: Create a mnemonic to memorize the countries in the Caribbean (just the countries you need to learn).

          Step 1. Looking at a map – write out each country (for which five were chosen).

          Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico.

          Step 2. Write the first letter of each country vertically.

          C

          J

          H

          D

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          P

          Step 3. Create a sentence or phrase.

          Cubs

          Just

          Hate

          Doing

          Push-ups

          Cubs just hate doing push-ups. (Cuba Jamaica Haiti Dominican Republic Puerto Rico)

          3. Mnemonic Peg System

            What is it?

            According to Artofmemory.com, a mnemonic peg system is a technique for memorizing lists and it works by memorizing a list of words that are easy to associate with the numbers they represent.[3] These objects are the pegs of the system.

            How to use it?

            The trick is to create a Number Rhyme System with each number having a rhyming mnemonic keyword.

            Example

            Let’s look at an example of a Number Rhyme System:[4]

            0 = hero

            1 = gun

            2 = shoe

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            3 = tree

            4 = door

            5 = hive

            6 = sticks

            7 = heaven

            8 = gate

            9 = line

            Another technique like the Peg system is the Number Shape System.[5] Here you are assigning mnemonic images based on the shape of the number. Watch the following video for an example of this system: Number Shape System for Memorizing Numbers.

            4. Chunking

              What is it?

              Chunking is a way to remember large bits of information by chunking them into smaller pieces of information. We are more likely to then remember the information when we put the small pieces back together to see the entire picture.

              How to use it?

              In the video Chunking – A Learning Technique, we can see that there are several ways to chunk information.

              Example

              Let’s examine a simple example using a nine-digit number.

              Step 1. What is the number you are trying to remember?

              081127882

              Step 2. Cut the number into smaller pieces through chunking.

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              081 – 127 – 882

              Let’s look at one more example from the same video.

              “Piano teachers will first demonstrate an entire song to students. They will then ask their students to practice one measure at a time. Once the part has been learned and the neural connections in the brain have been built, then students go on to the next measure. After all chunks have been played separately, they are combined until the entire piece is connected.”

              5. Transfer of Learning

                What is it?

                Transfer of learning is a way to learn something in one area and apply it in another. Authors of Thinking at Every Desk, Derek and Laura Cabrera inform us about the transfer of learning,

                “If a student has a high transfer skills, she can learn one thing and then teach herself 10, 50, or 100 additional things.”

                How to use it?

                There are two specific ways to use it:

                1. Vertical Transfer (aka Far Transfer). Think of learning something in grade school and applying it another grade or later in life.
                2. Horizontal Transfer (aka Near Transfer). Think of learning a concept in history and applying it in math.

                Example

                I provide a detailed step-by-step example for this technique in this article:

                Learn How to Learn: How to Understand and Connect Difficult Ideas Easily

                The Bottom Line

                The key to using the techniques discussed here is to remember that we must actively think about information.

                We cannot simply drill information into our brain through rote memorization. We must change the way we think about memorization. We must find a way to “shake the snow-globe” in our mind or flatten the snow so that we can create new learning paths.

                Or as Derek and Laura Cabrera point out, we must insert “Thinking” into the equation,

                “Information X Thinking = Knowledge”

                More About Enhancing Memories

                Featured photo credit: Nong Vang via unsplash.com

                Reference

                [1] Remember Everything: Memory Palaces and the Method of Loci
                [2] The Learning Center Exchange: 9 Types of Mnemonics for Better Memory
                [3] Art of Memory: Mnemonic Peg System
                [4] Art of Memory: Number Rhyme System
                [5] Art of Memory: Number Shape System

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