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10 Steps To Stay Stress Free After Lockdown

Going back to work after lockdown will have it’s challenges for sure. Because there’s a tendency in life to cling to the familiar, to feel safe and secure, change can feel threatening. Are there steps we can take  to feel more in control and stress free after lockdown?

Read on for some suggestions on how to make your re-integration as stress free and smooth as possible.

Indeed let’s also remember, that whilst the more extrovert among us may be excited at the prospect of returning to work and re-engaging with an audience, other’s may well
dread the return to work for that very reason! Just the act of interacting with gregarious

Outgoing Personality
Stress-free and ready to go!

colleagues can be draining, anxiety provoking and far from stress-free for those with more introvert tendencies.

Rather than worrying about what might happen,  aim instead, to discover how to ring fence yourself and reduce the risk to your mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Write a personal risk assessment and find stress-free solutions for your particular situation. Have a look at some of my suggestions below

You may wonder, can there be certainty in such uncertain times?

Perhaps a level of acceptance is a better state to aim for than a sense of certainty because we are in a state of flux and futures are uncertain for many of us.

Yet the fact remains, we want to feel in control and there is so much in life that we have no control over,  the sooner we accept this, become flexible and adapt, the less stressful life will be.

Taking Charge of life
Stress-free and back in control

How can we handle the stress of not having control? In this link I explain the Circle of Influence and Circle of Control a tool that facilitates the discovery of personal ways to feel empowered and stress-free.

In fact, something as simple as learning a gentle breathing technique can quell a rising panic allowing you to regain self-control in the middle of a meeting or on the train going to work.

 

Before returning to work make a list of some of the things you are in control of.

Below are some tips about how to stay stress free after lockdown.

1. Consistent Clear Communication

This might be expressing to your line manager/supervisor/boss that you’re struggling with an aspect of the return to work. If you find it difficult to verbalise, write a private and confidential email outlining your concerns.

Likewise where possible, suggest one or two solutions to the problem you’ve identified, such as split working from home/office. Changing hours or asking for clarity on the troubling issue.

This way you take both the problem and the solution to your boss, who may also be struggling with issues.

2. Listen to yourself first

Your body will give you very clear signals of discomfort and distress if you tune-in and listen.

Try this, a minimum of 5 minutes quiet time each day can be enough to pick up on a tightened chest, or a churning stomach. If your body is light and buoyant all is well. Feelings of heaviness, constriction are not good signs, what do you think that’s telling you?

Pay attention to these feelings and aim to explore and address the issue causing these problems, talk them through with a trusted friend, colleague or engage a therapist or coach.

We know that there is a global collective grieving at this time but what we don’t know is who is grieving, or what or whom has been lost. It could be a loved one, a job or an income. Never has there been more of a need for kindness, compassion and understanding.

 

3. Listen and be prepared for emotion

Besides listening,  know that we can’t fix other people’s stuff so don’t even try! What you can do is offer people time and space to listen, really listen and it’s one of the kindest gifts we can give another. Even identical twins suffering the same loss will experience their bereavement differently, so we should never presume to know what someone is feeling or when.

It’s much easier to ask them, “How are you?” and then listen, you may pick up the signal immediately that they do not want to talk about it or maybe if you stay quiet for just that tiny bit longer, they will share something with you.

Again, prepare yourself to be uncomfortably comfortable in the face of emotion. People who you least expect to be emotional may break down and cry in your presence. Be with them, hold the space for them and resist the temptation to hand them tissues, put an arm around them or placate them with platitudes.

Consequently they  are more likely to benefit and recover quickly if you don’t react in this way. That’s empathy and compassion and can help them enormously.

4. Find Your Balance

Aim for balance and work out how you can achieve that? What do you need to do to re-energise? Do you need to stop and give yourself a short break to move around for example? Are you the type of person who needs to eat a little and often to keep your energy high? Are you sipping any water regularly? Is your head feeling hot? Perhaps you need to take the EarPods out of your ears to give them a rest.

Make a list of resources you need to keep with you to help you to feel balanced and in control.

5. Ask yourself good quality questions

“What do I want. What do I need to feel more balanced now?” Listen to your response, that’s your prescription, your wisdom so why not take your own advice!

6. Work Smarter

Because many people will be returning to a backlog of work and since multi-tasking has been debunked,  avoid that! Instead aim to spend longer at the outset and create a clear plan of action.

Besides prioritising tasks with a simple A,B,C,D method  which will quickly provide order, you’ll also have a more realistic view of your workload.  This will give you greater sense of control. You will also be in a better position to manage your expectations and communicate your position to colleagues or staff.

7. Set Realistic Goals

In addition to creating  a schedule of work, aim to set small pragmatic goals. In your planning phase work out roughly how long each task will take, block that time out in your diary/calendar with the time span. This keeps goals realistic,  also schedule in short breaks, to stand up and stretch, have a comfort break or a drink.

As a result of  utilising steps 6 and 7 you offer yourself an opportunity to validate your efforts and recognise your achievements. In this way you’re not waiting around for someone else to pat you on the back. Say ‘Well done”  and reward your good behaviour with a treat. A luxurious bath, a walk with a friend or carving out some time to read a book.

8. It’s OK to say No

Furthermore practice saying a good, clear No try saying it  out loud now! You can be pleasant but firm when you say No. “No, I already have more than I can realistically handle” No I simply do not have the available time. No, it’s not my responsibility, I cannot take that on” Get used to that word in your mouth and throat.

In fact I often have clients’ practice saying No in front of a mirror in as many different tones and volumes as possible. Add to this good body language, such as a firm hand extended away from your chest with a big “No” should you need to communicate your position more clearly, will speak volumes.

9. Connect At Your Own Pace

You’re either itching to get back out with friends and family or feel the need to connect slowly.

First it’s your business is to know what you want and need. Secondly negotiate with yourself to establish what feels right and manageable for you. Thirdly practice out loud explaining to your friends and family how you need to proceed and see how you can arrive at a workable compromise between their expectations and yours.

10. Recognition And Validation

Finally, Be Your Own Cheerleader. Just be kind and loving to yourself. You will get the best from yourself by being supportive and gently encouraging. Watch out for the inner critic, sack your ‘Judge’ and pump up the volume on your balanced assertive adult self!

There is no ‘right’ way to do this only the way that is right for you, so aim to honour and respect your needs and keep your communication honest clear and consistent.

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Stresshacker Podcast #5 Are You Anxious About A Career Change?

the stresshacker podcast episode 5 anxiety about career change
Subscribe to the Stresshacker today!

We’ve reached episode 5 of The Stresshacker Podcast! I’ve been so blown away by the response to my adventures into podcasting. It’s a new experience for me and I’m learning as I go. I’m looking forward to making more and I hope you’ll join me on the ride! If you’ve enjoyed these recent episodes, please do like them on iTunes and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

In this latest episode I address anxieties around career change. I offer some simple exercises to gently guide you toward a new career – and to even find your vocation.

Over the years I’ve seen many clients whose anxiety has been generated by the need to make a career change and yet deep down they feel afraid to leave the security of what they know. For many people the thought of change makes them feel afraid and anxious. But with a little daydreaming, planning and even saving for a while, it is possible to prepare your escape route and move in a different direction of work that will bring you more happiness.

Listen here to Episode Five of the Stresshacker Podcast to find out how!

Thanks so much for all your kind words and feedback. Do get in touch if you have any thoughts on future episodes – or to let me know if you’ve found any of the episodes particularly helpful!

To listen to all previous episodes click here


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50 Ways To Deal With Depression

ways to beat depression

Depression is a monster that can eventually be tamed according to some, whilst for others professional help and medication is necessary.

This is my third blog on depression and I’ll be changing my theme for the next blog, so if there’s anything mind/body related you would like to know more about, let me know and I’ll endeavour to create an interesting blog on it.

I’ve compiled a list of resources and activities that people I have worked with over the years claim have helped lift the state of inertia and depression. Work your way through the list and find the things that resonate most with you and keep using these tactics to chip away and find your beautiful nature within. I can elaborate pretty much on all of the points so if there’s a particular one you’re interested in understanding more about contact me and I’ll write a more in-depth blog.

  1. Join a choir.
  2. Place an advert on gumtree or in a local shop window and start a band… even if you do have to call it the ‘Can’t Sing or Play Band.
  3. Join a drumming circle.
  4. Book some drum lessons.
  5. Take up some kind of percussion such as cymbals, tambourine, bells, gongs or make your own with a jar of beans or tins.
  6. Beat an old tennis racquet on some cushions.
  7. Start with aaah. Progress to oooo and finish with mmmm. If you can’t chant out loud do it silently in your head.
  8. Lay on your back with knees bent and have bare feet. Draw your navel back toward your spine and begin to stamp your feet up and down side to side.
  9. Add your hands by making fists and gently bang the floor.
  10. Lie on your front and draw your navel back toward your spine. Lift your face from the ground and softly turn your head from side to side, whilst banging your fists gently on the ground. Bend your legs as if you could tap your buttocks alternately with your heels. Much like a baby having a temper tantrum. DO NOT DO THIS IF YOU HAVE KNEE PROBLEMS!
  11. Take up Yoga
  12. Join a Pilates class
  13. Go to the coast when it’s cold, wet and empty, walk on the beach and scream as loud as you can.
  14. If you can get to a sandy beach, get a stick and draw a picture in the sand of the person who has hurt you the most and pelt the drawing with stones until the sea comes in and washes them away.
  15. Take up Drawing
  16. Take up Painting.
  17. Draw or paint your depression
  18. Paint or draw the depression with your non-dominant hand, even if it’s just a scribble.
  19. Walk… preferably with someone. If no one is around to walk with you, still decide to walk each day. Set small achievable goals to start with such as just walking to the end of the road, or the local shop and back. Swing your arms when you walk.ways to deal with depression sue smith the stresshacker
  20. Write therapy letters, these are letters addressed to the person/people you have issues with. Know that you will never send the letter so let ‘em have it! Don’t hold back, really speak your truth.
  21. Write a letter to yourself from the future. Imagine a time in the future envisage being free from depression and what advice would that older you give you now?
  22. Write a letter from now to a younger you who needed help and support, tell that younger you all the things you would like to have heard. Offer that you love, wisdom and protection.
  23. Write a letter from a stronger part of you to the ‘depressed’ part of you acknowledging that part’s pain and discomfort, reassure that part that it is loved and cared for. Ask that part what you can do for it to make things easier. Listen carefully and pay attention to the answers.ways to deal with depression sue smith the stresshacker
  24. Write a short stories killing off your bullies torturers or demons make sure you finish the story. THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT
  25. Whatever you feel like, make a long list of the opposites for example

“ I feel like using drugs” becomes “I feel like I want to stay clean

“I feel like giving up” becomes “I feel resilient and determined to fight on”

“ I can’t be bothered” becomes “I am now motivated and energized”

Have some fun and feel empowered by challenging your thoughts and feelings.

  1. Read your positive ‘opposites’ out loud in a strong loud voice with emphasis on the ‘I’
  2. Stamp your feet to a loud musical beat.
  3. Wave your arms up in the air from side to side until you feel physically exhausted.
  4. Close your eyes and imagine you feeling well and happy use every inch of your will power to envisage a confident strong you. Make the picture brighter, stronger, clearer, louder and closer until you start to feel excitement stirring somewhere within.
  5. Be creative and make something. Again, go to Youtube and put in simple arts and crafts and see what comes up that inspires you.
  6. Look up on Google or YouTube how to make paper mache. Now make your depression, no rules, just see what you come up with. You can decide later if you’ve created something rather beautiful from it to be admired and kept or whether it’s something you want destroy or dispose of.
  7. Do some gardening. If you don’t have a garden tend to one small plant, give it everything to nurture it and help it to grow.
  8. Make a list of healthy foods that if you had someone to cook for you, you would like to eat.
  9. Cook something simple and nourishing from your list.
  10. Get your shoes and socks off and get your feet in touch with grass, concrete, the bark of a tree, sand, or earth. Scrunch your feet until they feel really earthed and connected.
  11. Have a zingy cold showers try a mint or ginger shower gel.
  12. Develop a routine, for example aim for 8 hours sleep… there may be a tendency to sleep longer but don’t. Plan to get up and get moving.
  13. Make a pot of tea with the zest of an orange and 3 or 4 basil leaves; it’s always soothing for a sad heart.
  14. Put on a face pack (not just women) and take up the pose as if you’re about to do the Maori Haka Dance… then do the Maori Haka Dance (go to YouTube) to see it. Take a selfie so that you can laugh at yourself sometime later!
  15. If you have a car have a short drive around more deserted side streets and scream at the top of your lungs. Try AAAAHHH really loudly.
  16. Get an old roll of wallpaper. Spread it out and draw a picture of the person you have most issues with. Graffiti it! Write what you’d really like to say to that person all over it.
  17. Always aim to get some early morning sunlight. Even if the sun isn’t bright spend 10 minutes without sunglasses allowing light into your world.
  18. Don’t be on your own. If you can afford a therapist or counselor get one if not go to your GP and ask for a referral to a local organization that can offer you support.
  19. When you feel ready blow up as many balloons as you can. When you’ve finished, have a frenzied balloon bursting session ideally with your fingers.
  20. Ask everyone you know for a list of their funniest YouTube clips, films and books make a commitment to watch/read them over the next year.
  21. Drink lots of water.
  22. Get a set of beads, preferably mala beads ~(there are 108). Every day touch each bead whilst voicing a positive suggestion out loud. Such as “I am NOW healthy and well” “ I am NOW strong and bright” “I am NOW vibrant and happy”. Because the subconscious mind believes whatever it is told and simply stores that information and because the subconscious mind has no concept of past or future, it believes these suggestions when housed in the now! Do this for a week on a daily basis and let us know here at thestresshacker how you feel.
  23. De-clutter your spaces. Look at your belongings in an order as Marie Condo suggests in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Get all your shoes together and decide which you no longer love or need and put them in a bin bag. Next go through your books and do the same. Then your crockery, your jumpers … get on a roll this becomes such a satisfying project. Pass it on. Take your ‘stuff’ to the local charity shop. Even if you think they’re rags, they can use them and remember to gift aid.
  24. Listen to uplifting songs and sing along.
  25. Finally here are some of the books that others have found useful in recovery The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, The Road Less Travelled by Dr M. Scott Peck. You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway by Dr Susan Jeffers.

Please let me know how any of these activities help you. Comment below.

Also please look at our products and courses in The Stresshacker store to help assist you with your journey.

 

 

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Down With Depression

Down With Depression
Depression Sucks

When depression descends it‘s not easy to shake yourself out of it and for some just not possible at all, so if that’s you, you might want to stop reading now.

Many people who experience depression say that as part of it, they feel helpless and hopeless and it’s understandable as it can leave you feeling stuck and impotent. Anyone can be hit by depression at any time in life and it’s important  not to judge.

It’s also important to know that it’s not your fault and doubtless you have done and are doing the best you can. It can be very irritating if not downright annoying to have people tell you to snap out of it and I wonder if one of the reasons is that for some, depression is an inward expression of anger. To have well meaning people lay unhelpful platitudes on you, can triggers more frustration and can make the depression even more intense.

My personal experience of depression and that of working with others is that it invariably strikes people who are highly thoughtful, sensitive and usually kind and caring. They ‘feel’ deeply and can struggle with boundaries, because they are used to picking up on the emotions of other’s but aren’t used to protecting themselves from it. Like a sponge they unconsciously mop up negative energy from those around them.

Developing a supportive inner voice can help. Over time I learned to tell myself that ‘this will pass’  and for me it did and thankfully  I did not remain in a permanent state of depression.  Knowing that it would pass I was able to use this knowledge to help myself. I would sit in the same place each time – in my case my wicker meditation chair and remind myself that nothing stays the same and that it would pass. When you’re in the midst of it however you can be forgiven for thinking it wont!

Funny thing is, even some of my closest friends may be surprised to discover that I’ve wrestled with depression and the reason for this is that I’m not a lover of labels, so I’ve chosen to not say that I have had depression. My concern was that it would become ‘my’ depression and I certainly never wanted it to be mine!

Here are a couple of things that have helped me in the past and others I’ve worked with.

Down With Depression
Call a friend

Sit with a trusted friend or therapist and investigate the last 3 or 4 episodes of depression with a view to identifying what the triggers were. Aim to recall what happened the day or the night before. What did you eat or do, what time did you go to bed, what were you watching, who did you see, what activity were you participating in before the depression started? Aim to unearth the patterns that lead to the depression and make them more conscious.

When we throw light on something that has previously been unconscious i.e. in the dark, it usually has the effect of de-potenising it, taking away some of it’s power.

Don’t do this on your own, because you obviously don’t want to trigger an episode.

Once armed with a knowledge of the patterns or people that seem to trigger the depression  you can start looking at things to put in place to avoid those triggers. For example if you realize that depression can start when you lay in bed thinking about things for too long, or listening to the news, train yourself to get up within 5 minutes of waking up, or make the decision to turn off the news and choose something more positive to listen to.

You can use stick thinking i.e. “If I lay here any longer I know I’ll end up with that sinking feeling in my stomach that leads to me feeling really stuck and miserable” or carrot thinking… “If I get up now I can get on with… or meet up with so-and-so to walk her dog, or to just make a nice cup of coffee and listen to the birds singing”

Commit to becoming vigilant and aim to catch the depression as it starts, imagine you’re a spy and your brief is to watch and wait to ‘catch’ it before it takes hold so that you can interrupt the pattern it takes.

Make a decision to do something different until you notice a change no matter how subtle. Even a tiny shift can make a huge change to the way you feel.

That shift might be an arrangement that you strike up with a trusted friend to call them the minute you feel the depression starting so that they can come over to support and motivate you to do something different. This is of course by prior agreement.

Whilst we know that exercise is a great way to combat depression, it isn’t always easy or possible for everyone to join a gym however one simple step that you could take is this.

Stand with your feet hip width apart and raise your arms up slowly up into the air as you breathe in. Then slowly breathe out through your mouth like you’re blowing air out with a long sigh as you bring your arms back down. Do this at least 10 times – longer if possible. Do it several times a day on a bad day.

You are lifting your heart and lungs with this simple movement, engaging your cardio-vascular and respiratory systems which change your breath, your mental state and of course your physiology. This can be done sitting down too.

Depression isn’t just a state of mind; it can also be a feeling that emerges somewhere in the body or just outside of it.

Depression has been described by some as a heavy weight, a black hole or a dark cloud hovering over them.  Others say it starts as a sinking feeling in their stomach and some say that it’s like having someone or something sitting on them. No wonder then, that people can feel stuck or disempowered.

It can be helpful to externalize the feelings and one way to do this is by drawing or painting your feelings on paper. No rules, you don’t have to have any artistic skills, nobody else will see this – unless you choose to share it.

When you’ve finished drawing,  bin it, burn it or bury it but get rid of it. By doing so you’re making  a powerful symbolic statement – to your unconscious mind-  that you’re taking action to erase it.

Another powerful thing to do is to write, by hand, letters to people who you feel have a part in your depression whether past, present, dead or alive.  I’ve worked with many people with depression who have been bullied in the past and when they’ve done what I suggest here they have been amazed at the results. You really will feel lighter when you do this.

Write to the bullies, tell them exactly what you think of them.  Let the people who have played a part in the way that you feel, know your truth, tell them exactly how you feel. When you’ve finished the letter  bin it, burn it, or bury it but definitely get rid of it permanently, this is the most important step.   I do not advocate sending the letters – this is for you, it’s your therapy.

Your unconscious mind believes whatever is put into it, so it will believe that  you’ve sent the letters, even though you know at a conscious level you haven’t.

This might sound ridiculously simple but it really can take care of unfinished business in the back of the mind. Don’t take my word for it try it yourself to find out that this powerful exercise really does work!

Anything that you can do to empower yourself will be helpful

So the next time you’re feeling brighter write a list of the things that lift you and allow you to feel glad to be in the world. Put that list on the inside of a cupboard or on a mirror where you can see it to remind yourself to take tiny steps toward a better day.

Although I would never say  I’ll never be depressed again, I do feel fortunate to be free of depression these days. I have used all the tools and tips I write about and whilst I appreciate that they may not be for everyone, I sincerely hope they help someone.

Also please look at our products and courses in The Stresshacker store to help assist you with your journey.

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3 Simple Ways To Beat The Blues

January is renown for being the worse month for depression and there are many reasons for it. With the build-up to Christmas and the hype over, the extra lights in these dark months taken down, it feels gloomy and cold. Some people may have got into debt, some are dealing with redundancy, whilst others wrestle with existing mental health conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder or clinical depression.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to detect that you’re spiralling into a downer, that’s great  awareness and hopefully you already have some strategies that can help to pull you out of depression. Because this time of year can be particularly tough, challenge yourself to do something different to change your state.

I’ve put together three ideas to help shift negative energy.

Depression - Beat The Blues by Sue Smith The Stresshacker
Depressed

Music

Calm your mind with classical music, even if it’s not your usual genre (e.g. my usual choice is jazz) take a chance, open your mind and listen to a nice classical piece. Ask a friend for a recommendation or visit Classic FM until you find something that  resonates most with you.

Depression - Beat The Blues by Sue Smith The Stresshacker
Make Music & Change Your State

Apparently baroque is the best music to have playing in the background to help concentrate if you’re studying. So the next time you’re getting ready for work, or doing some mundane chores treat yourself to something calming and different.

On the other hand if you feel really heavy, stuck and lethargic put on something with a strong loud beat, such as We Will Rock You by Queen or the 1812 Overture to help you get moving. Put on your earphones and go for a stomping power walk whilst listening to some heavy rock. Whatever your choice of music make sure it’s one that will positively change your (emotional) state.  Find a song you can sing along out loud to, it’s great for getting your breathing going (we don’t breathe very well when depression kicks in) … think Whitney Houston’s long held notes in I Will Aways Love You. 

Mantra

I downloaded the Gayatri Mantra (Click to view video about it) which I found incredibly peaceful. I noticed that after I’d listened to it for a while it, it continued playing in the background of my mind. It gets rid of some of the negative head mush and I’m left with a peaceful mind for quite a while. Traditionally it should be chanted 108 times. I turn to it now whenever I need to de-clutter my mind and it works a treat. My favourite version is by Deva Premal.

Grounding

In our age of abundant technology many of us feel spaced out and insulated from the earth. Walking around in rubber soled trainers and padded foot wear means we miss some of the finer signals from the earth and this can contribute to feeling even more disconnected and separate.

Depression - Beat The Blues by Sue Smith The Stresshacker
Get Grounded.

Connect to the earth; she’s warm and nurturing! Don’t take my word for it, walk barefoot on some grass and see how long it is before your feet feel the warmth of Gaia. The energy that comes up from the earth through the feet stimulates hundreds of nerves in the legs and brings with it a sense of connection which you may feel as a tingling or pulsing sensation.

When you consider that no matter where we are in the world we are held by gravity to mother earth it seems daft not to spend a little time tuning in to it.

As always, I’m interested in what shakes you out of your depression so share it with me … it could helps someone else.

Also please look at our products and courses in The Stresshacker store to help assist you with your journey.