It was obvious. Pat was under a lot of stress.
“You look nervous and worried.” Her mother cautioned.
In the back of her mind, Pat knew about stress. But she had it under control, at least that is what she told herself. It bothered her that Mom noticed the tension on her face. All the make-up in the world could not hide it.
‘The emotional strain of everyday life was getting to me. I needed a getaway,’ she recalls.
At that time, the situations and pressures of being a single mother and being a teacher were constant stressors that created an imbalance within Pat.
‘It seemed like all I ever did was cope. I hadn’t had fun in years.’
When she looked in the mirror, Pat didn’t like what she saw. Her face seemed very serious and old.
‘I honestly had no idea how to smile.’
All the essential areas of her life were in the negative:
- fun/happy times
Pat’s internal system cried out for balance. Fortunately, she reached out to a life coach who gave her a stress test.
‘She helped me see that most of the circumstances in my life were beyond my control. Well, they were actually within my control, I just had to discover that.’
Feeling like she had no control over her situations contributed to Pat’s stress. Her life coach encouraged her to identify her emotions.
Pat kept a detailed record of her responses to stress. Whenever her emotions were running high, she felt a sense of:
- Being pulled in many directions
- Living life for other people
- Not being true to herself
- Must do everything
- Must be perfect/can’t make a mistake
Pat had to shift her focus to get beyond this. She discovered that the mere presence of stress doesn’t mean something is wrong with her.
With the help of her life coach, Pat found ways to get back control.
Pat was encouraged to journal
As she wrote down her feelings, she noticed her internal chatter was released. It moved the energy from the inside and put it on the outside.
Journaling helped her see how she was reacting to situations. She discovered she wasn’t as powerless as she thought — she can respond differently to stressful events.
Pat changed her eating habits
Pat learned that eating habits also have a substantial impact on mood and stress. Typically, when stressed, Pat headed straight for foods that are high in sugar which provided energy for a very brief period.
Afterward, she would crash. Her mood plummets and stress increases.
‘I coped with stress by reaching for a cupcake and topping it with vanilla ice cream.’
With journaling, Pat could monitor her reactions to stress, record them and test new approaches.
Pat now eats foods that are low in glucose whether she is stressed or not — this allows her to regulate her moods.
‘I feel more empowered. I can control how I respond to stress.’
Pat likes to use visualizations to ease stress when she feels her body tensing up. She drops a dissolvable tablet in a glass of water. As it fizzles and wastes away, she imagines the tightness easing up in her shoulders.
Breathe Deep through the nose
Pat explored nasal breathing. She makes a habit of going to a quiet place. She inhales deep and slow through the nose and exhales out through the mouth.
‘It is calming to my mind and body.’
Organization is essential
Managing life is very difficult when tasks and events are thrown up in the air without structure. Pat now plans out each day. She allows time for work, socializing, exercising and resting.
The key to staying on task while minimizing stress is organization.
‘Organization helps me have a positive mindset and decrease stress and anxiety.’