At times, stress and anxiety can be very difficult to tolerate. Sometimes we find ourselves in uncertain situations with no end in sight. These situations create a great deal of stress, anxiety, irritation, frustration, and worry. Over time we might develop low energy and feelings of exhaustion.
Many people turn to alcohol and marijuana, overeating, binge watching television or other unproductive, energy draining activities to manage their emotions.
Since 2003, I have enjoyed using and teaching the three tools below for tolerating stress and anxiety. There is a difference between managing stress and tolerating stress. Managing stress implies we have control over the stress whereas tolerating stress implies minimal control. When we have minimal control, we must accept or endure the stress.
During the course of this pandemic, we must practice tolerating stress not managing stress. In order to tolerate stress, we need to first make a fierce decision to radically accept it. Please read my previous post on radical acceptance for more information.
Below are three tools for tolerating stress or other strong emotions. Read over the list and select the strategies that appeal to you. Make a list of those strategies and post them on your wall or computer. FIrst radically accept the emotion and then try a variety of tools to tolerate it.
Remember, everyone is different and what works for one person might not work for you so keep experimenting until you find the best tools for yourself. Do not give up and keep practicing. You must keep practicing and switching up the tools to be successful!!!
I personally enjoy the following combination of tools to tolerate stress but will switch things up and try something else, if they do not work:
- Distract with emotions: I enjoy practicing music that evokes feelings.
- Self-soothe with hearing: I enjoy listening to music.
- Self-soothe with touch: I enjoy taking hot baths or using my Brookstone Cordless Shiatsu Massaging Seat Topper. If you meet me in counseling, I’ll probably encourage you to take the “epsom salt bath” or get a massage.
- Self-soothe with taste: I enjoy drinking my homemade Macadamia Nut Milk hot chocolate or raw ginger, honey and lemon tea, but GTS Kombucha also works.
- Improve the moment with meaning: I enjoy finding meaning in my stress or problems. This is very effective and I encourage all my clients to do the same.
Please remember what works for me might not work for you. It is important to take time to develop your favorite list of tools.
- Activities (distract yourself by keeping busy doing activities)
- Contributing (distract yourself by getting out of your mind and off yourself by helping someone else)
- Comparisons (distract yourself by considering how things could be worse…)
- Emotions (distract yourself by doing something that makes you feel differently)
- Pushing away (distract yourself by blocking out thoughts and feelings)
- Thoughts (distract yourself with other thoughts or ideas)
- Senses (distract yourself by being aware of your 5 senses)
- Vision: Notice what you see, find soothing things to look at.
- Hearing: Pay attention to what you can hear around you.
- Smell: Be aware of the memories that smell can bring. Notice the scents around you.
- Taste: Carefully savor the flavors that the day brings.
- Touch: Find comfort in touch. You might try a hot bath.
3. IMPROVE THE MOMENT
- Imagery: Imagine everything going well. Imagine coping well. Imagine worries draining out of you like water out of a pipe.
- Meaning: Find or create some purpose, meaning, or value in the stress. Focus on whatever positive aspects of a difficult situation you can find. Repeat them over and over in your mind. Make lemonade out of lemons.
- Prayer: Open your heart to a supreme being, greater wisdom, God, your own wise mind. Ask for strength to bear the stress in this moment.
- Relaxation: Try muscle relaxation by tensing and relaxing each large muscle group, starting with your hands and arms, going to the top of your head, and then working down; listen to a relaxation app; exercise hard; take a hot bath or sit in a hot tub.
- One thing in the moment: Focus your entire attention on just what you are doing right now. Keep yourself in the very moment you are in; put your mind in the present.
- Vacation: Give yourself a brief vacation. Get into bed and pull the covers up over your head for 20 minutes. Take an hour breather from hard work that must be done.
- Encouragement: Cheerlead yourself. Repeat over and over; “I can get through this difficult situation.” “I can tolerate this feelings!” “Feelings are not facts!”
Contact me: If you would like coaching or support on tolerating stress, anxiety or other strong emotions, please contact me through my website to schedule an appointment.