Addressing Stress with Guthrie Therapy
Kevin Guthrie is a Psychotherapist working in his own private practice locally in Newark. Here, he discusses how we can address stress during these challenging times. His journey and experience is partly from his own struggles with mental health but also that of the 100's of clients he has worked with.
Kevin strongly believes in human potential for change, he often uses the analogy:
"You wouldn’t expect an orchid to grow in a darkened cupboard.”
He believes with the correct surroundings and input we all have the potential of leading happier lives.
As I’m writing this, we are still in semi lock down and could be here for quite a few more weeks. Stress has always been challenging, but now more than ever before.
The suggestions below haven’t changed much from what guidance I might always have offered, I have tweaked a little to make appropriate.
1. Be active
Exercise won't make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you're feeling, clearing your thoughts and letting you deal with your problems more calmly. Exercise helps you burn off energy stress and excessive thinking can be fuelled by energy. It goes without saying exercise also has lots and lots of physical benefits.
When you think about exercise think about anything that takes the body past its normal range of movement, anything that challenges the body even in the smallest of ways. Take baby steps and build up. If, as you read this, we are still in semi lock down, exercise will seem to be harder than before. If you go online there will be stacks of videos and tutorials for exercise that don’t need any equipment at all.
This is not the time to give up at the first hurdle, this is the time to face the challenge and grow.
2. Take control
There's a solution to any problem. "If you remain passive, thinking, 'I can't do anything about my problem', your stress will get worse, know that you always have choices, they may not be choices you want, but there is always something you can do. Consider the situation we find ourselves in at the moment, locked down and restricted movement. We can view this is two ways: “I’m locked in” or “I’m safe” when we say “I’m safe” the mind reads that as a good thing, therefore stress drops.
The feeling of loss of control is one of the main causes of stress and lack of wellbeing." The act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it's a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else.
3. Connect with people
A good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way. If we have a good network of people around us, or people we can turn too, the mind again will settle sensing the relative safety and resources it has around.
Friends also help us relax, have a laugh, take our minds away from our own stuff. If we get involved in other people’s stuff, or we are able to help in any way, not only does it help switch focus, but it makes us feel a little better about ourselves.
4. Have some 'me time'
Here in the UK, we work the longest hours in Europe, meaning we often don't spend enough time doing things we really enjoy.
I have an exercise I use in therapy “what’s my oxygen” I ask my clients what do you do that gives you oxygen? What gives you breath? There isn’t a right and wrong way of doing this, it has to be what makes you feel alive, satisfied, content or comfortable. I ask for things that we do: daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. All having equal importance, all having their part to play in our well-being.
My examples might be:
Daily - dog walks or the gym
Weekly - coffee and cake
Monthly - I like a walk on the beach
Yearly - is often a holiday
It is often easy to put ourselves to the bottom of the list of importance, but if you are feeling stressed then chances are you are not caring for yourself or giving yourself enough “oxygen”.
5. Challenge yourself
Setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language or a new sport, helps build confidence. This will help you deal with stress.
By continuing to learn, you become more emotionally resilient as a person.
There has never been a better time for learning new things, some people have more time than ever before. Remove yourself from the ‘managing and surviving bracket’ and put yourself in the more powerful position of learning and growing.
6. Avoid unhealthy habits
Don't rely on alcohol, smoking and caffeine as your ways of coping. Men more than women are likely to do this. We call this avoidance behaviour. Women are better at seeking support from their social circle. In the long term, these crutches won't solve your problems. They'll just create new ones. We are in the perfect time for creating new habits and behaviours and for getting rid of the ones we don’t want any more.
Many of us have been forced into situations we didn’t want, change will and has happened, maybe use this time to make it happen in a way you want.
7. Help other people
Evidence shows that people who help others, through activities such as volunteering or community work, become more resilient.
Helping people who are often in situations worse than yours will help you put your problems into perspective. The more you give, the more resilient and happier you feel. If you are unsure about being out and about at the moment you could look for roles that help others but don’t compromise your safety. We all have different levels of what we consider safe, your level has to be okay with you.
If you don't have time to volunteer, try to do someone a favour every day. Your challenge now is to find something that you can do and from a distance.
8. Work smarter, not harder
Working smarter means prioritising your work, concentrating on the tasks that'll make a real difference. Leave the least important tasks to last. Accept that your in-tray will always be full. Don't expect it to be empty at the end of the day. I try to reward myself with little treats whilst doing tasks I don’t like doing, like writing. Also, know your time limits for each task, I have a 20-minute window before I start getting bored, I therefore write for 20 minutes and then get up and walk around for 2 mins. Three cycles of this. Before I get a longer break. Work out what suits you best for.
9. Try to be positive
Look for the positives in life, and things for which you're grateful. People don't always appreciate what they have. Try to be glass half full instead of glass half empty. Try writing down 3 things that went well, or for which you're grateful, at the end of every day.
When we look for things, we are grateful for, consider things like, hot water, towels, a roof over your head, health.
More than ever before it will be important that we are able to see what we ‘do’ have around us, and more than ever before it might be harder to see what we have around us, this is not a reason not to do it.
10. Accept the things you can't change
Changing a difficult situation isn't always possible. Try to concentrate on the things you do have control over. We have little control over our current situation, yet there are still things we can control, what we eat and drink, how we spend our time, what exercise we do. I’m aware that may sound weak in comparison to what you used to have control over, but things have changed and it’s important that we change our perspective on life as quickly as possible.
If your company is going under and is making redundancies, for example, there's nothing you can do about it. In a situation like that, you need to be focusing on the things that you can control, such as looking for a new job, writing your CV, listing all of your capability’s. Doing this will give you back a sense of control.
I hope this simple guide helps, it is really important always to know that you are in control, not your mind. If we want to feel less stressed, we have to change something. You can do all 10 of the above of just 1, your choice. If you do want to try all of the above, then perhaps introduce one a week, this gives the mind time to adjust to the changes you are making.
If you need any deeper guidance or clarification on the above, Guthrie Therapy delivers 1-1 or via teams of people. Our goal is always to add flow because flow equals growth.
Wishing you a stress-free future.
Radio Newark have also teamed up with Kevin to discuss and inform on all about things mental health and touching on issues close to your heart. They have recently created a series of short podcasts along with a number of other talks with some gust speakers.
You can listen and download the podcasts directly from the Radio Newark website.