Over the years I have been a victim of stress sometimes and while I still occasionally confront the demon stress-monster, these days I can usually vanquish him with casual and relaxing punch in the face.
Most of my stress comes from my job, something I think is true the world over. It amazes me that we as a society can allow ourselves to wind ourselves up at work to the point where it actually causes physical symptoms. You often feel like you really have been in a fight with a monster.
Something like this happened to me about seventeen years ago and I vowed that I would declare war on the beast that threatens to destabilize my life. These days we spar intermittently with me almost always coming out on top.
I have a few techniques that work for me to deal with stress. Some are obvious, others may seem rather unorthodox. They work for me and usually manage to keep me in control of the demonic beast at both a professional and a personal level. Here they are:
Before you slap a label on me as a crackpot, let me explain. In a previous post, I started out attacking hypnotism as a mystical load of old bollocks for gullible people. That is until I tried it, in the name of research.
What I discovered was that if you lie back in a darkened room and listen to a hypnosis tape for a while, you actually do start to de-stress. I would never pay money to go for hypnotherapy and on a couple of occasions I have tried it to relax with a lot of success. Try it - YouTube is full of them.
I am still sceptical about it – particularly when people start talking about past life regression and nonsense like that. I can’t imagine for a second that I have lived before, let alone suddenly find that under a hypnotic trance that I weirdly have access to these past lives. That is plain ridiculous.
Beer With Friends
Some foreigners may think that the British tradition of sitting in a pub with friends and/or family at the end of a hard work is a bit strange. The truth is that there is no better way of unwinding with good company, good ale and a bellyful of laughs. The stress monster is never invited to such shindigs.
Listen To Chill Out Music
Music is very therapeutic and it is a very important part of my life. There are numerous songs in my collection that are gentle, peaceful and soothing and usually invoke a special memory like lying on a beach in the sun with the waves kissing the beach and Mrs PM next to me as we sip a cold drink.
Here is an example of a stress melter:
Playing With Cats
I have three cats, all of which have different personalities. They are getting on a bit at the moment yet I can entertain myself with each one of them, either gently stroking them, or baiting them with string, toy mice or my own hand (which is risky, particularly with the hellcat who has the capability and the will to induce more stress; having to go to hospital can be quite stressful itself).
Ask Yourself “What’s the worst that can happen?”
I am afraid of public speaking and the first time I had to really face my fear was when I was asked to travel to America to give a course. Beforehand, I spent about a month beating myself up about it to the point where I actually decided that I was going to just refuse to go. However, I am professional and I decided to take the bull by the horns and go for it. I asked myself “What is the worst that can happen?” and I answered my own question. Nothing, even the sack, would matter – I would bounce back even from that. In the end, I was nervous but I completed the course. And since then I have given courses in Russia, Switzerland, China and South Africa. I still hate it it but I don’t allow myself to get stressed about it.
Go for a Long Walk
My days are generally split into two when working. I endure the morning period and then at around 12:30, I pick up my iPod, leave the building and embark upon a walk of just over two miles with my music as a soundtrack. Not only does this get me away from my desk, it also allows me free thinking time where I can drift into my own imagination and even reignite my creativity. And of course, my mind wonders away from the pressure of work for half an hour or so.
Go on Holiday
Whenever work starts to grind me down, I look at my calendar and remind myself of my travel plans. Sadly, I don’t get enough holiday to travel anywhere near as much as I want to, which is frustrating but at the same time makes the trips I take very special. At the moment, I have two holidays to Europe booked and a weekend break next week in Barcelona. The stress is fading just thinking about it.
Play a Video Game
You may think that I am a little too old to indulge in childish pursuits such as playing games on a console. And the truth is that I am. Yet when I decide to pick up the joystick and play a football game or become a nightmarish villain in a surreal city or even fight zombies and monsters in a scary labyrinth, my imagination runs amok and once again I have a victory over worries and tension.
Read and Write
I may not be a good writer, but putting down my thoughts on paper is a fantastic way of winding down. Whenever I put myself at the mercy of my imagination, I usually have fun, even if it’s writing a simple blog post, a plan for one of the many books in my head or just my thoughts. Whether anybody reads my words is totally irrelevant – it’s great to just get them down.
Alternatively, there are few things more enjoyable than immersing yourself in a decent book. Stories are wonderful things and I always imagine myself as the constant companion of the heroes of the story, watching them as they struggle, lose and ultimately triumph (though not always). It’s a great way to forget about your own woes.
Listen to Hard and Heavy Rock Music
This may sound a bit weird, but when I allow myself to totally succumb to stress, which does happen, albeit infrequently these days, I simply blast away the negativity with a good dose of noise. It may seem wrong to unleash loud and heavy music when in a mood like that but for me at least it totally works. At the end of a heavy tune I feel a lot better – something like this:
Spend Time With Family
Letting off steam to Mrs PM and family generally can be therapeutic because ultimately they will listen to you and offer words of encouragement. Of course, simply chilling out with family is equally good. There are few things I like better than spending time with Mrs PM and/or my two lads.
And Finally …
Over to you, dear reader.
How do you cope with stress?
What techniques have you for winding down and beating back the stress demon?