Written by UKCP psychotherapist, Susan D Smith
Stress impacts people differently. Having a good understanding of how you respond to stress can be a powerful tool in preventing it from building up. Here are three ways in which you can achieve this.
The Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence
This is a tool developed to help you look at things which concern you and help you gain control over how you feel. The Circle of Concern contains all the things we have no control over in life.
It can be stressful if you are trying to change things or people which you have no control over. For example, you might want a family member to appreciate what you do for them. But if they’re not prepared to do so, there’s not much you can do.
You can, however, move into the Circle of Influence, your place of personal power, to consider what you can realistically do about it. You could, for example, decide to stop doing as much for this person, or you can pat yourself on the back for being so supportive of them. Either way, you feel more in control and this in turn helps you to feel less stressed.
To move forward and feel less stressed, concentrate on expanding your Circle of Influence. Here’s an exercise to empower yourself: What are your three main sources of stress? Write them down quickly and come up with three new ways of dealing with them.
The power of writing things down
When your thoughts are all over the place, you may find it hard to relax or concentrate. It’s as if the thought waves of your mind are a choppy sea which needs calming. The best way to do this is to write it all down in list form. This will bring some order into the chaos and settle the mind.
If your feelings are more intense and uncomfortable, then write a letter to the person who’s upsetting you. Once written, get rid of it, burn it, bury it, or bin it. The therapy is in the writing. Don’t take my word for it. Do it and see the results.
Have clear boundaries between work and home-life.
When you get home, change into more comfortable clothing and sit for three minutes to relax your mind and body. Start by following the journey of your breath. Breathe in slowly through your nose and imagine you’re taking that breath up to the top of your head, then the back of your head, your forehead, temples, eyes, nose, cheeks etc. With each breath, imagine taking it to each part of your body. If there’s any part of your body that feels tender, sore or in pain, imagine taking the breath there for a bit longer.
If you feel you won’t have space to do this at home, try it on your journey home. Do it consciously with your eyes open for three minutes. When the mind wanders, simply start again. You might find you’re developing a more present state for longer and longer. This can be your way of letting go of work and reclaiming yourself and your space.
Listen to Sue’s tips from this blog here:
Are you interested in finding out more about the circle of influence and concern? Watch Sue’s video here.
Susan D Smith is a UKCP psychotherapist and yoga teacher who specialises in working with stress.