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  • Writer's pictureLinda Milun

Managing Stress & Anxiety

It is important to understand “stress” and its “impact” more, before we actually go into talking about reduction or prevention of stress and anxiety. According to the research of Dr. Andrew Huberman and his team, stress can help us grow in our development! The reason is that certain kind of Stress helps us to rewire our brain: We need particular chemicals (dopamine) to be present at the right time to have an effective rewiring. That is why we need to be placed into discomforting situations, and use them as the push to get us into action, because stress and agitation help us to move forward. These forward steps are rewarded through dopamine. This means, through this all we can actually stimulate our brains to create new connections in our brain, which are necessary for new habits. So, it’s no surprise that many people (coaches, counselors, mentors, etc.) say things like: “you need to leave your comfort zone” or “you don’t experience growth because you are too comfortable with where you are at”…

What they are actually telling you is: Your body NEEDS the stress that occurs when you leave your comfort zone, BECAUSE it will push you to take forward steps (actions) and that will cause your body to release dopamine, AND THAT dopamine will help you to really rewire your brain – because new connections in your brain are implemented - and enable you to install new habits. So, this is it, put into very simple words. By the way, this explains also why deadlines work so well for most people. The stress of having to keep the deadline causes us to work hard for it (because we feel some sense of stress) and that will in the end put us into action, this in turn leads to the release of dopamine and so on.

Our conclusion is: Stress CAN be good!

HOWEVER, it does not mean, that you SHOULD be under stress ALL the time - long-term stress can actually harm you! It leads to anxiety, mental health issues and, causes physical health issues. Hence, this article about how to reduce or prevent stress. We want healthy and balanced life styles. We want to be able to embrace change, growth, and some sort of discomfort in our lives, but we do not want to get swallowed or negatively overwhelmed by stress. Consequently, we need to learn how to manage our stress and how to not slip into anxiety. Moreover, we want to know, if we should happen to get overwhelmed by stress or anxiety - for whatever reason - how to get out of it. So, let us talk about that:

It is very hard to talk yourself out of an emotional state. Once you are in such a state (depression etc.) it is harder to get out again. That is why prevention is so important. JUST trying to change our thoughts through trying to think differently is hardly fruitful – especially if you are already emotionally impacted. Trying to suppress thoughts is futile. Therefore, “If the mind is not where we want it to be, we need to use the body to intervene.”[1] The body has to be seen as a whole. The spinal cord and the eyes are also a part of the brain. That means the brain reaches far down into the body, and is connected to various nerves and such. So, it is no surprise that our body can be used to impact our emotional and mental state! The following tips follow this concept of “using” your own body as the actual tool. Keep in mind: this is not something you use once and you are changed forever, it is recommended to implement them as habits in your life to be able to experience a preventative effect and to fall back on them, when stress starts to cause anxiety or shows unhealthy tendencies. Now, let’s see what we can actually practically do:

1. Vision

“Soft gaze” or also called “panoramic vision/view” helps to reduce the feeling of stress. This is based on the effect on us that if you look into the distance, with your eyes switching to a wide-angle view (panoramic view), it communicates to your body and mind that time is seemingly running slower – so we are tricking our mind to think, we still have lots of time which causes relaxation and decrease of feeling stressed. On the other hand, if you focus your eyes on a specific object which is rather close to you than distant, it makes us feel like time is running faster.

Therefore, if you use “soft gaze” several times throughout the day - every time for 5 to 10 minutes - it can reduce or even prevent stress noticeably.

2. Posture

Your body posture will influence your thinking about yourself. This is something that e.g. actors and people, who are used to speaking and presenting in public experience all the time. There are actually techniques and practices public figures use before a speech to reduce nervousness and to boost their confidence. My experience from acting on stage taught me that how I present myself and carry myself will influence strongly how I will play my role. If you are supposed to be a king, but you walk like a beggar, you will not be able to connect yourself with that role, hence, you won’t be convincing the people around you. So, you might have observed that when you are stressed and have anxiety you tend to let your shoulders be hanging, you don’t hold your head up, you actually keep your arms close to your body or fold them tight in front of your, etc. Now, the key is to keep an upright and confident posture. You will have to consciously choose to have this posture, but if you do it, it will communicate to your mind “I AM capable!”, “I WILL overcome this!” etc. Try it out! Sit or stand upright! Don’t let your head be hanging down! Shoulders back! Smile! You don’t feel it right away? That is normal! Keep doing it. Train it. Make it a habit.

3. Respiration

Since centuries it is known that different breathing techniques and patterns influence our physiological response. It can either calm us down or agitate us. Many wellness, sports and fitness pros use these since long to improve their performance or to be able to enter faster into a state of rest!

Slow breathing techniques, such as the “physiological sigh” calm us down. This is scientifically proven. There are so many tips and recommendation on which breathing technique can activate or calm us down, you just have to pick your favorite.

4. Food & Hydration

It is important to adjust and maintain an appropriate healthy diet. For a well-balanced diet some factors should be taken into consideration to know your nutritional need: health condition, age, gender (yes that matters!), and activity level. If you would like to have a well-thought-through and organized diet, then I suggest the consultation of nutritionists, your GP or even some good fitness coaches have profound knowledge of this matter. However, it is clear that overly processed foods, such as most fast foods, are not a balanced diet. Your diet should cover your need of carbs, proteins, minerals, vitamins, fat, fibre and water! There are many books and courses you can use for deeper studies or understanding of this matter! BUT IF you have a medical condition, please stick to your doctor’s advice and refrain from other sources!

Water is an especially important factor: Did you know that when you suffer anxiety, stress and depression, a lack of water can increase these? Staying hydrated is not just about trying to keep a nice skin or staying awake. It literally impacts your emotional state, which intensives for us the need of water!

This are four “tools” you can use without being “dependent” on someone else. These are so called internal tools. Use them regularly and observe the outcome. One last tip, that is more of an external tool:

Talk - Make sure that you build yourself a network of people whom you can talk to! You need people who lift you up, encourage you and keep you on track if you start focusing too much on what causes your stress and anxiety. Coaching, mentoring and counseling is highly recommended here. I am aware that you might be in a situation where you don’t know whom to talk to – for whatever reason. I would like to encourage you that even if, where you are living, no one to talk to is available there are many options for you out there! Online-coaching and counseling, even therapy, is possible. As you can see, I conduct most of my sessions currently online and it works really great! So, don’t give up, there are options for you to connect and not to be alone! Why is talking so important? It helps us to put ourselves, our life and the causes of our stress into perspective. You will see that through talking with someone you will realize that you can manage and that you have the right support by your side. The impact of powerful conversations is stunning! I was able to witness this in the lives of my clients, friends and family over and over again, how, just someone listening to you and now and then reflecting something back to you, makes everything shift and the mountain in front of them would shrink.

Attention: If you suffer from depression or other mental health challenges, than you need to consult the professional health care workers (doctors & therapists). The tips mentioned here can NOT replace professional help for mental health. These tips can in such cases only be extra support tools!

[1] Andres Huberman at YouTube Lewis Howes channel

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