The Hunger for the Topic
When I settled on B.A.K.E. as the acronym for managing stress, it felt as if it was very serendipitous. I love baking and spending time in my kitchen as it is a place of warmth and doing what I love so I feel that I can lose myself creating delicious things for others to eat whilst restoring my inner calm.
Over the last 18 months we’ve all had to find activities to help us to manage our feelings of overwhelm. There has been a huge amount of uncertainty and in some respects having less places to go and things to do outside of our homes has reduced our comfort zones and left us feeling at ease with the familiar. We all have different tolerance levels to stress, which is a part of our daily life. However, it starts to become a problem when we think we’ve lost control. Having some hobbies or interests that help us to focus on something different and get lost in the moment, whether physical or mental, is very important.
As I talk to some of my clients, it is clear that stress levels are increasing as we come to the end of furlough schemes, return to spending more days in the office and navigate our journeys using public transport, to name just a few. We all know that it is easy, when feeling stressed, to focus on the things over which we have no control rather than those that we do, so I hope you will find the tools and techniques mentioned here useful. I’ve tried to blend mindset and coping mechanisms together to help keep you focused on the elements in your control, however small they may be.
The Ingredients for Success
Beliefs – are those perceived truths that we store as facts in our subconscious mind! We need to continually challenge them because they can impact how we act and behave. What are the stories you tell yourself when you are feeling stressed? Could there be another way of looking at it?
Avoid, alter, adapt, accept – is a model created by the Mayo Clinic to help reduce stress levels whilst increasing our ability to cope with it. We’ll walk through the four quadrants as we look at the methods and give you some hints and tips that I’ve used to get the best out of a variety of situations.
Kind to self – it’s not good giving yourself a hard time at any time, but especially so when you’re feeling stressed. Our critical inner voice can often make us feel ten times worse so it’s important to find ways to quieten the critic and embrace your champion. Being kind to yourself, isn’t being soft. It’s about giving yourself a break, like going for a walk in the fresh air, so that you can return with renewed energy and focus to carry out the task in hand.
Efficacy – is the belief we have in ourselves to make things happen. If we don’t believe we can do something, we won’t put our effort into making it happen. It’s very aligned with the Henry Ford quote, ‘if you think you can or you think you can’t, you probably will’.
The Methods to Blend it Together
Beliefs can be one of our biggest barriers in life and are formed from our thoughts. What we think and believe about ourselves has an impact on our actions, attitudes and behaviours. Think of your beliefs as your own person library of everything you have been and experienced to date. Your memory bank stored in your subconscious mind. As we go through life, we find out the beliefs we hold about ourselves aren’t true. Perhaps it’s someone else’s opinion about us, or how we defined ourselves years earlier. At any stage in our life, we can challenge them and create a different ending.
Here are three techniques we can use to challenge our beliefs:
- Become conscious of your beliefs. Ask yourself what beliefs rise to the surface for you when you’re feeling stressed? What does your inner critic say? Make a list and then systematically work through them and ask them if they’re really true? How could you reposition that belief to be more positive?
- Change your language. That inner critic of yours may use words such as ought to, should or must. When you feel you have to do something it feels like a chore. See how you can reword them in such a way that you will want to do the activity instead. This will give you the energy and motivation to do it.
- Create some affirmations for yourself. A short affirmation provides you with the inspiration and motivation to achieve your goal. And because you write about your future goals in the present tense, it tricks your brain into thinking you are already doing them! Here are some examples:
- I have the tools and techniques to be truly successful
- I accomplish everything I set out to do
- Today I make fun a priority
- I am equipped to handle anything that comes my way today
Of course, a certain amount of stress in our lives keeps us alert and interested. It’s when we feel we’re unable to control it that it becomes a problem.
The 4 As – Avoid, alter, adapt, accept were created as a coping mechanism by the staff at the Mayo Clinic. It has become one of my favourite tools for pressing the reset button as it helps you to decide whether we need to change the situation or change our reaction to achieve the best results.
If we can avoid unnecessary stress, that is our best option. If we can’t, then we need to think about how we can alter it by changing our schedule or talking about. Perhaps we can alter out standards by adapting ourselves to the stressor and if all else fails recognise that s##t does sometimes happen and accept it. I’ve shown the model as the four square quadrant. Try it out and see what you think.
With all of the above in mind it is critical that we are kind to ourselves. Our stressful feelings might just be telling us to slow down or do one thing at a time rather than trying to juggle so many things.
There’s one thing I like to do each day and that is to take time out to listen to one of my favourite podcasts – Elizabeth Day, How to Fail. If you haven’t had chance to listen to any of her episodes do make time as there’s definitely an interview for everyone. It also really links to our subject today as all her guests discuss three failures and their learning from them. It’s a great leveller in making us aware that when things do go wrong, as they inevitably will, we learn so much!
Of course, there are lots of other things you can do to be kind to yourself, such as make time for fun, exercise and relaxation. Connect with others including our fur babies as they are great stress reducers. There is now research that shows our moods and wellbeing is enhanced by spending up to 20 minutes a day with our pets. Maverick, my cat, makes me smile everyday with the antics he gets up to!
And don’t forget your self-talk! It’s vital that you speak to yourself with care and compassion. I love the Lisa M Hayes quote ‘Be careful how you are talking to yourself, because you are listening’. And we all know how easy it is to reinforce the wrong message!
So finally, our last ingredient of efficacy. This is the belief in ourselves that we can achieve what we set out to do. We’ve already mentioned the importance of self-control in managing stress. When we possess high levels of self-efficacy we are able to decrease our feelings of negative stress as we are more likely to view difficulties as challenges rather than threats. If our efficacy is low, we are more likely to avoid challenges, believe we are incapable which leads to us losing confidence and focusing on the failures.
Our efficacy varies with everything we do! We can be amazing at one thing and not so good at another. However, we know through experience that the more we practice, the better we usually become. Perhaps a good way to build upon your own efficacy is to think about what you’ve done well in the past and what transferrable skills you can bring to this new task. You may also want to reflect on where you’ve had challenges in the past and how you’ve overcome them so that you bring those learnings into this situation too.
And once you put them into play, don’t forget to celebrate your successes as this plays a great part in reaffirming that you’re on the right track!!
The Seasoning to Make it Your Own
I’m sure you have many ways in which you’ve learned to combat your stress, particularly over the last 18 months. I know that a lot of people have found it useful to identify the sources of their stress and journal daily how they are feeling, how they’ve acted and what they’ve learned about themselves. I saw this great illustration a few days ago from Dr V. which shows us how we can let the things we worry about become monsters in our heads. So now you know, when in doubt, B.A.K.E.!!