April is Stress Awareness Month, and a growing number of individuals are experiencing heightened stress due to the cost-of-living crisis, in addition to typical everyday concerns. Financial worries have reached epidemic levels, leading to a range of issues including sleep problems, breathing difficulties, and obsessive negative thoughts.
Are you susceptible to anxiety?
It’s a known fact that some people worry more than others. Telling someone not to worry is unhelpful and irritating, but worries won’t simply vanish on their own. Since no one else knows how you feel all the time, it’s crucial to take charge of your own well-being.
Understanding that no one else can truly comprehend how we feel at any given moment, it becomes essential to take responsibility for our own mental well-being. To do this, we must first acknowledge our worries and recognise that they are a natural part of the human experience. This self-awareness is the foundation for developing effective coping strategies to reduce anxiety and promote a sense of calm.
The ‘Golden Hours’
Self-development guru Brian Tracy introduced the concept of ‘The Golden Hours’, referring to the last hour before bedtime and the first hour in the morning. These are the most crucial times for nurturing your mind, as the input during these hours influences your thoughts and feelings throughout the day.
Here are some tips to help reprogram your mind more easily:
- At bedtime, wear earbuds and fall asleep listening to a confidence-building program. You’ll notice a more optimistic internal dialogue and a brighter attitude within days.
- Since negative thoughts often emerge first thing in the morning, listen to an upbeat podcast immediately upon waking.
- Record positive affirmations on your phone and listen to them repeatedly as you prepare for the day.
- Stop consuming news, as it is often filled with negativity.
- Cultivate a healthy mental diet by avoiding content that makes you feel inadequate. Instead, listen to comedy podcasts or watch your favourite comedy shows.
- Exercise in the morning, starting with a 7-minute routine that includes raising your arms overhead for at least 10 repetitions. This changes your breathing and emotional state. Do this while listening to your favourite dance track, gradually increasing the duration as you enjoy it more.
- Assess your financial situation to identify areas for reducing expenses and saving money. Cancel unneeded memberships and subscriptions cut back on eating out, and save by preparing your coffee and lunch at home.
- Establish healthy boundaries to protect your time, energy, and well-being. Learn to say “no” to unnecessary commitments, and prioritize activities that align with your values and goals.
- Set realistic expectations and goals for yourself. Striving for perfection can be counterproductive and increase stress levels. Embrace the concept of “good enough” and focus on progress rather than perfection.
- Seek professional help if necessary. If stress and anxiety become overwhelming, consult a mental health professional for guidance and support.
Think about the ‘Circle of Influence’
Consider Stephen Covey’s “Circle of Influence” framework, which focuses on making positive changes in areas under our control. By doing so, we minimize feelings of powerlessness. A simple example is adjusting our clothing when it rains – we can’t stop the rain, but we can stay dry by dressing appropriately. By stepping into the Circle of Influence, we gain a sense of control.
Recognising the small choices available to us in life empowers and provides a greater sense of control in an ever-changing world. By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine, you can alleviate stress and anxiety, and foster a healthier, more optimistic mindset. Embrace the Golden Hours, make deliberate choices to nurture your mental well-being, and take control of your financial situation to minimize stress and maximise your overall quality of life.
Sue Smith is a psychotherapist and a spokesperson for the UK Council for Psychotherapy.