Anything can quickly lead us to a crisis point – the car breaking down, being late for work, your credit card bill. A busy life juggling work and home can lead to butterflies in your stomach and a feeling that you can no longer cope.
This means that your fight or flight response has been engaged – an unconscious and involuntary reaction to perceived threat or danger.
In our daily life, our stress response can be triggered so frequently that we spend a lot of time unable to think clearly and remain calm.
Here are some tips on staying happy, confident and calm – all backed with the latest neuroscience research:
1. Practice compassion
It’s worth focussing on compassion as it is really good for your wellbeing. It feels great to show compassion to others – but it’s even more important to show compassion to yourself.
When you show compassion, your body releases chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin, which increases feelings of calmness, safety and trust. They reduce the feelings of anxiety we place on ourselves. So stop beating yourself up – compassion is good for both you, and those around you.
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2. Be adaptive
As humans, we tend not to like change. We find comfort in order, stability and sameness.
Learning to be adaptive can be scary, as we are taken out of our comfort zone, so you can start by taking a few measured risks – like walking a different route home, learning a new language, trying a new exercises class. You will soon start to see change as a positive with less threat.
With less threat comes less stress, so you will begin to feel calmer consistently. Practicing adaptive behaviour has also been linked to a lesser risk of dementia later in life.
3. Buzz or Burden? The Stress Response
We all need some stress in our lives – think of the buzz you experience with positive pressure (healthy stress), or the feeling you get just before a big presentation. However, it’s important to recognise when feelings of stress are unhealthy.
Use mindfulness to bring yourself back to a healthy buzz, when you feel like you are beginning to tip into feelings of burden.
Stress occurs when perceived pressure exceeds your perceived ability to cope – Professor Stephen Palmer.
4. I’m a Perfectionist! That’s good, right?
Perfection is worn as a badge of honour by society – but beware! It can never be reached. Our advice to you is to replace your pursuit of perfection with a quest for the achievement of excellence.
Lives can be ruined through delaying tasks out of fear they won’t be perfect. Try instead to opt for excellence. Be as good as you can be – be your best self. That way, you’ll get more done in much less time. And you’ll feel calmer in the process. There! Perfect. Sorry!
5. Try Mindfulness
Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist meditation practice. It’s now been proven by neuroscientists to be highly effective for calming the mind – in other words, it works! It allows us to be present in the moment and experience life clearly and fully. It trains the mind to keep intrusive, unhelpful thoughts at bay so that we can rationally problem solve. Mindfulness allows us to fully appreciate the present. It’s great to spend time there – it’s all we have!
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Unlock You by Andy Barker and Beth Wood is out now, published by Pearson, priced £12.99.