GUEST BLOG: Leah Larwood - 6 Ways to Reduce Stress in 2021
Leading hypnotherapist Leah Larwood (www.themoonlab.net) lays out some techniques in reducing stress for the New Year
Most would agree that 2020 has offered up its fair share of challenges. Yet among the setbacks perhaps there have been some surprising positives for you this year too? Slowing down and focusing more on health and wellbeing has led to some incredibly beneficial changes for many. Has 2020 given you the chance to focus on the important things? Or have the upheavals left you in a spin?
One thing is for sure, stress can impact our lives, even at the best of times. It’s when we’re in the epicentre of turmoil - juggling work, home life, family, friends and social lives - that’s when it can feel difficult to make the changes that are needed. Now is a good time to take stock of the year gone by and decide how you can manage your life and reduce stress levels for the year head. A chance to recoup, reflect and make some lasting changes.
- Reviewing Your Stress-O Meter
The key to managing stress starts with working out what’s important to you and what you can say no to more. First things first, take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle to make two vertical columns. On one side make a list of all the areas in your life you find the most stressful. Write down as many as you can. If it’s work in general or reasons connected to your home life, try to go a bit deeper and make a list of specific areas you find the most stressful, even the little things like doing top-up shops or domestic chores.
Then on the other side, write a remedy for each of these stressful things in your life e.g. delegate top-up shops to house mate/partner and draw up a cleaning rota or recruit a cleaner once a month. Review the things you can change and start to put them into practise. Look at the things that cause stress that you cannot change and offer up several hypothetical solutions, then ask yourself – is there way I can do one of these.
- Consider Mindfulness
The idea behind mindfulness is that, through closer inspection, you learn to become more aware of your thoughts and once you have that awareness, you can discriminate. Practising mindfulness enables you to let go of unhelpful thoughts, work with unwanted feelings and be with challenging situations. Through practising this, difficult thoughts will gradually subside. It’s believed that a daily meditation practise of 20 - 40 minutes, sustained over 40 days or more is enough for you to see a considerable change in your wellbeing.
Not everything we think is necessarily true. Our minds have a great way of creating ‘stories’ to distract us. Mindfulness is great at allowing us to notice your thoughts as they arise in your mind. It’s really helpful to realise that not everything we think is true or helpful – it makes it easier to let go of certain thoughts.
- Download Before Bed
Consider keeping a journal to keep your thoughts. Not only does this safe space provide you with a place to download your thoughts before bed but it also allows you to monitor key themes in your life that keep emerging. Often with journaling, things that haven’t been in our awareness may start to crop up and we learn new things about ourselves. Once things are in our awareness we are in a better place to do something supportive to overcome the obstacle.
- Gratitude Journaling
In addition to, or instead of journaling, you might like to explore gratitude journaling. Gratitude isn’t just an emotion, it’s an attitude and something we need to do purposefully, an intentional act recognising the positive aspects in our lives, the things that bring us joy. There’s a lot of research to show that having gratitude is beneficial for our psychical and mental wellbeing. It reduces stress and may also play a role in overcoming trauma. By developing an attitude of gratitude can really improve our overall appreciation and satisfaction for life. Write down three things you feel grateful for everyday – if you can do this for 21 days in a row, it’s said to be pattern forming and around the time you start to cultivate more gratitude unprompted.
There are many experts in the field of therapeutic writing who believe that gratitude journaling is a proven way to harness your wellbeing. Writing in a gratitude journal even improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.
- Let the good in
Did you know that humans absorb negative experiences instantly but it takes 12 whole seconds to fully take in a positive experience and for it to be part of our long-term memory? Take a few moments every day to focus on the good. It can be easy to be blind sighted by the negative in our day. But regardless of how much ‘good’ your day contains, make sure you take a moment to appreciate, acknowledge and bask in those good things. A beautiful sunrise, the colour and shape of some pleasing-looking fruit or a smile from a stranger.
- Simple Self-Hypnosis using Affirmations
Positive affirmations are well known to help us shift negative thinking patterns and to overcome patterns we would like to change. They are also proven to lower our stress levels, decrease our anxiety, improve our focus and concentration and improve our confidence.
Here are a few tips on creating affirmations:
- When creating affirmations, it’s important to use the present tense (as if it’s already happening). They are particularly effective when written in the first-person e.g. I feel calm during the busy mornings. Avoid negative language e.g. don’t, no, doesn’t, not…because the subconscious responds far better to positively framed instructions.
- Make your affirmation specific to your situation. If you’re struggling with the amount of sleep you are getting, you might try: “I sleep deeply and wake feeling refreshed”
- Use your own words and language quirks - your subconscious will respond better to your own lingo.
- Motivation and intent play an important part in the success in using affirmations. Try to really cultivate a deep inner belief that it will happen, try and feel it in your body. Like a gut instinct.
- Take your affirmations a step further and create a visualisation of it coming into fruition and bring this scene to mind every time read or say it.
When to Use Affirmations
- You can write them in a journal, write them on your bathroom mirror, on a post-it note, on your hand, make them the background on your phone, say them out loud to yourself or say then out loud.
- I often use the Clementine App for uploading my own personal affirmations. You can use the MAKE MY OWN section.
- The most effective way to use affirmations is when we’re in a hypnotic state. Every one of us enters hypnotic states throughout the course of the day, it’s possible to experience hypnosis during or after yoga or other exercise, during meditation and even when we’re in the shower or driving – when we’re feeling in a relaxed state.
About Leah Larwood
Leah is a hypnotherapist who specialises in dreams, anxiety, stress, self-esteem and confidence. She is also a lucid dream coach and a writing for wellbeing facilitator www.themoonlab.net
Useful Mediation and Relaxation Apps
Insight Timer: www.insighttimer.com
Clementine App: Self-hypnosis / guided meditations: Find via App Store