A Guide to Stress Management - 4 Methods for Letting go of Stress.
Your heart thumps uncontrollably. You feel like you have lead weights pushing down on your shoulders, and there’s a constant pressure on your forehead that doesn’t seem to go away.
Your mind is also racing. You’re struggling to think clearly. You’re attempting to juggle multiple different concerns all at the same time even though you know, most likely, it’s not even possible.
Deadlines; commitments; impending challenges that you’re clearly not ready for; over excessive workload; angst & worries about the future.
It feels like everything is getting on top of you!
And perhaps it is. Maybe you need to go and lie in a dark room for while.
Is the above description stressing you out?
Because it stressed me out a little just writing it.
With the ever-growing demands of modern life, stress is something that’s becoming more and more prevalent.
Perhaps you have a demanding job.
Or you’re a parent attempting to balance your personal & professional life.
Or you have financial worries.
Or you’re just someone who seems to get stressed out at the littlest things.
Whatever your situation, if you’re feeling excessively stressed then it can be very unpleasant.
It can be intense, counter-productive, and sometimes harmful to our health, so we need to find a way to manage it.
If you’re finding it difficult to manage and deal with stressful situations then I’d like to ensure you that there is hope.
There are a multitude of different methods you can use to not just ‘manage’ stress but to ‘let go of it’ – to enter a state of deep relaxation that can help you deal with the challenges of life in a much more effortless and enjoyable way.
In this guide/post I’m going to be looking at 4 different ways. If you struggle with stress, then by internalising these methods, I’m sure that you’ll find yourself becoming a more relaxed person over time.
Also, if you’d like a technique to help you let go of stress and tension then sign up for the free ‘Stress Busting Audio Process’ that I’ve recorded.
It’s my go-to technique when I’m looking to quickly release tension and manage stress.
Method 1: Let go of the Label...
The first step when managing stress is to let go of the label.
It’s become fashionable to talk about stress as if it’s a ‘thing’ – a physical entity that we acquire.
Nowadays, people regularly say that they ‘have’ stress, or ‘suffer from it’, like it’s some kind of physical disease they’ve succumb too, like the flu or cold.
When we experience stress we often do suffer, and the feelings of it almost always affect our physical body, but that doesn’t mean that stress is a solid entity. You couldn’t take it out of your pocket and put it on a table to inspect it.
‘Stress’ is the label we use to describe a complex way of experiencing the world. It’s abstract, and it’s also wholly subjective. There is no ‘one type’ of stress that fits all.
Sure, you’ll find commonalities across people, but everybody will do stress in their own unique way. They’ll have their own style of ‘stressing’.
And that’s often the big problem.
We tend to over-generalise, and lump everybody who stresses into the one box.
But really ‘stress’ is just a label: a way of talking about an unpleasant feeling we’re experience. Because everyone is unique, and will stress in their now way, it’s not an accurate description of what’s going on for each person.
Now, you may think I’m splitting hairs here, arguing over semantics, but it’s important.
Whenever we turn a complex, subjective experience – like stressing – into an abstract concept or label, we make it static in or minds, and, as a result, it becomes difficult to change.
We start to think about it as something that is fixed, rigid, and inorganic.
But the reality is that stress is a moving picture. It’s a flowing system. It’s an active process that we are involved in, in real time, rather than something we ‘have’.
So the first step to managing stress is to, paradoxically, not think about it as ‘stress’.
Instead, pay attention to precisely what is going on for you.
Let go of the label and turn it back to a personalised process. Only then can you properly understand its structure and then do something about it.
To help you do this, here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- What is it that’s causing me to feel the undesirable feelings you label as stress?
- What am I thinking about that’s leading to stressful feelings? And how am I thinking about them?
- How specifically do I do my form of stress?
- What triggers it, and how is it maintained?
- What do I believe about my situation that’s causing me to feel stressful feelings?
These questions will allow you to explore your stress from different angles and they will also help you view it as a process, something you are actively doing, rather than a mysterious entity that you ‘have’.
By letting go of the label and changing it back to a process it becomes something that is fluid, organic, and hence, changeable.
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Method 2: Learn 'The State Loop'...
The State Loop is a model that I developed to illustrate the process we use to create our emotions.
Most of the time, this process operates automatically, in the background, but we can also deliberately take charge of it, if we wish.
There’s a common belief that our emotions are fixed, or that they are controlled by some mystical force that we have no control over.
In truth, it can sometimes feel like this, and the bulk of our emotions are created outside of our conscious awareness. But, if we understand the process, we can hijack it. We can deliberately create and build our own emotional states.
It’s a bit like breathing. Most of the time we let our subconscious deal with it, but every now and again – for example, if we’re doing a breathing exercise – we can do it deliberately, in order to achieve a specific result.
Our emotions are produced by the deeper realms of our mind, but that doesn’t mean we can’t influence the process, and occasionally take charge of it. Understanding, and practicing The State Loop is one of the easiest and most effective ways to do this.
By mastering The State Loop, you can create deep feelings of relaxation by design – as well as other empowering feelings – which can greatly counteract stressful feelings, and help you deal with the challenges of life in a more effortless way.
It takes practice of course, but once you develop the skill you’ll have it for life.
I teach The State Loop in depth on my 8-hour NLP Personal Transformation Course – along with other transformational models & techniques – but if you’d like to learn the basics, you can watch these two free videos. That will be enough to get you started.
Free Video Lesson 1 – How Emotions Work:
Free Video Lesson 2 – How to Build Empowering Emotions:
Method 3: The Tense & Let Go Technique...
One of my favourite techniques for quickly releasing stress is The Tense and Let go Technique.
Stress almost always manifests itself in the body in the form of physical tension. Perhaps you feel your shoulders tighten, your heart race, your fists clenching up.
When we are stressing we are kicking in our fight or flight response; we are essentially responding to what we perceive to be a threat, so our body responds accordingly.
When we believe that we are under threat, cortisol is pumped into our blood stream in an attempt to mobilise us – to help us respond to the apparent threat. And the result of this, is that our body tightens.
We can also make this worse by trying to psychologically fight the feeling. Attempting to fight, or battle with, tension is almost always the wrong approach. It just creates more tension because you’re now involved in an internal struggle.
So instead, it can be useful to go the opposite way, and to also use a physical approach.
The Tense and let go technique involves taking tension to the extreme, and then physically letting it go.
It’s counter-intuitive but it can be one of the quickest and easiest ways to drain tension and stress from your body.
Also, as you will have learned through The State Loop Videos, the mind and body are linked together in a system – what you do with the mind affects the body, and what you do with the body affects the mind – so when you take the time to physically tense and let go, you are also teaching your mind to do the same.
The tense and let go process is easy to learn. Here’s a quick 5-minute video where I describe the process:
Also, If you’d like to download the Eyes Closed Stress-busting Process then just pop your details in the box below.
In the audio, I take you through the tense and relaxed process so you don’t have to think about the steps.
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Method 4: The 'One-thing-at-a-time' Strategy.
In some of my other posts I talk about a powerful method called ‘single-tasking’.
Single tasking – as you may have guessed – is the opposite end of the spectrum from ‘multi-tasking’. It’s where you focus all of your attention on a single task.
So no texting on mobile phones while you’re at a meeting; no checking emails while you’re having lunch; no posting on social media while you watch a movie with your partner.
Whatever you’re doing, engage with it. Give it the respect of your full attention. Or at least, as much of your attention as you can give it.
When we fragment our attention – split it across multiple different sources – not only does the quality of our work dramatically reduce, but, with each diffusion, we incrementally increase our levels of stress.
By dividing our attention over many different sources we over stimulate our mind and it leads to feelings of stress and a sense of being overwhelmed.
We live in a time where boredom isn’t really an issue any more, but with the ever-present access to infinite quantities of information, over-stimulating most definitely is.
So think about that the next time you’re sending an email at the same time as you’re eating lunch and posting on Instagram.
It might seem like your getting more done by mutli-tasking, but the effects to your state of mind over the period of a day can be greatly detrimental, and can actually lead to being less productive.
So instead, use the ‘One-thing-at-a-time’ strategy. It’s the simplest piece of advice you’ve most likely heard a dozen times from your Granny.
It involves, unsurprisingly, doing one thing at a time. And when you do, give each thing your full attention.
Now I know you may be thinking, “Yeah, sure…that sounds good advice, but there’s no chance I can do this, my life simply won’t allow it!”
I understand this concern.
The world we live in doesn’t exactly encourage us to practice single-tasking.
Most people have lifestyles that involve being bombarded by a multitude of different sources of stimuli, on a daily basis, so does that not mean that multi-tasking is unavoidable?
Well, yes. Up to a certain point.
We do have to multi-task occasionally, but we can reduce it down to a minimum with proper planning.
Because modern society is set up in a way that encourages the fragmenting of attention, we have to force ourselves to do the opposite. By doing so it acts as an important leveller and prevents us from getting stressed through over-stimulation.
One way to do this is to separate ‘planning & organising’ with ‘doing’ by taking time at the end of each day to plan out the next one. This will then leave you free to give each action your full attention without being pre-occupied by the need to plan.
Ask yourself, “What are the most important results I need to get done – or progress – tomorrow?” and “What action must I take to do that?”
Once you’ve created a list, you can then separate your actions into different time slots and allocate quality time to each.
Then, the next day, you can be free to allocate your full attention to each slot before moving on to the next. You’re implementing the ‘One-thing-at-a-time’ strategy.
You can also extend this to a weekly practice.
I like to prepare my week on a Sunday evening, and then tweak the schedule throughout the week depending on how things are progressing.
By doing this, it allows me to focus my full attention on each of the time slots.
Now I know you may still be protesting that, because of the unpredictable nature of your life & work, this still isn’t possible for you.
If this is the case for you then I’d recommend that you read Deep Work: Rules for focused success in a distracted world by Cal Newport.
He covers many more strategies that can help you re-organise your life to minimise multi-tasking. You might not be able to stick to it religiously, but you will be able to make improvements, and this can often be enough to lower the risk of stress through over stimulation.
Another book I’d recommend is Essentialism: The disciplined pursuit of less by Greg Mckeown. It offers practical advice & philosophical ideas that can help you focus your attention on the things that matter rather than spreading yourself too thin.
Whether you read these books or not though, the key thing to take away is from this tip is that a lot of stress occurs when we our mind is over-stimulated. And by giving each activity our full attention we can reduce the demand on our mind.
Plus there can be something calming about becoming absorbed in an activity. Sure, it can be hard work giving something your full attention for a prolonged period of time, but it’s a more nourishing type of work that can leave us feeling a sense of peaceful accomplishment.
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So that’s 4 methods for managing & letting go of stress. It can be difficult to manage stress, and sometimes we can start buying into the belief that unhealthy stress is just a fact of life, but it needn’t be.
Internalise & practice these 4 methods and it’ll go a long way to helping you eliminate unnecessary stress and tension from your life.
All the best,
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Hi! I’m Steven. I’m a professional therapist, coach, trainer & author with over 20 years experience. I teach the latest psychological tools and techniques to help you transform and make a difference.
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