So, you’re having a bad day. Everything is going wrong. Kids are being a pain. You’re done. Sound familiar?
Except you secretly know the world isn’t out to get you, the kids are just being kids and almost every problem you’ve faced today is all in your head. Also sound familiar?
This is often the case when there is something bigger at play. Something bothering you on a subconscious level, hovering at the back of your mind like a dark shadow.
The worst thing is, most of the time you might not even be able to figure out what exactly is bothering you.
Perhaps you’ve got money worries. Maybe work is putting pressure on you to do more shifts. Your kid could be going through a growth spurt and keeping you up all night, or maybe it’s something bigger like a family member being unwell, or a home repair that’s going to be costly and require shifting the kids out to stay with a relative for at least a few days.
The thing is, if you’re having one of those godawful day/week/months where you just can’t pick a problem out of the pile, you might be having trouble pinpointing what is worrying you right now.
Or perhaps: which of your potential worries is causing the most stress and needs to be dealt with first.
I might be able to help with that.
Follow these steps and you should be able to identify the one thing bothering you more than anything else.
Don’t worry if you think it shouldn’t be. What matters right now is that this thing is what is causing the root of your stress. It doesn’t matter why, we just need to help you figure it out because once we do, you can work on fixing it and that’s what matters.
Here are the steps, they should only take five minutes:
1.Find a quiet place
Make sure you have a little peace. With the kids this can be hard to do, so maybe a Peppa Pig DVD while you slip into your bedroom would be a good idea! Once you’re somewhere quiet, make sure you’re sitting comfortably with a pen and paper to hand.
2.Take deep breaths
To begin, you will need to spend a minute just breathing. Take huge, slow, deep breaths that push your stomach out, repeat at an even, calm pace. Deep breathing slows your heart rate and calms your whole system down internally, often it can be the key to letting go of stressful feelings when they become overwhelming.
3. Clear your mind
As you are doing your breathing, start to empty your mind. Make sure you keep the calm breathing going once you begin this.
First, try to simply stop thinking as much as possible about the outside world. Focus on something in front of you, like the pad of paper you plan to write on, or close your eyes and focus on the sounds of your own breath.
Either way, let go of everything else. You want to become as completely blank as possible. If it helps, focus on slowing down and filtering out your thoughts little by little. I usually try to empty my mind as much as I can, then when I find I need a little help I focus on something in front of me, or a sensation, as I mentioned above.
A good idea is to start counting in time with your breaths. You can focus solely on timing yourself, in for 4 seconds, hold for 2, out for 4 seconds etc.
Continue to do this for another minute until your mind is as blank as possible. You can pick all your thoughts back up later, I promise.
4.Start writing a list
Pick up your paper and pen. Start writing a list of all the things that might be worrying you, along with the reasons it is bothering you, how long it has been bothering you and what you can probably do to fix it.
Write as many different points as you feel you need to, no matter how trivial they may seem, and make your list of reasons as long as you like, there is no right or wrong way to do this.
5.Let the words keep coming without looking at the page
Identify the points that you were drawn to the most. There should be one or two maybe that you found it easier to write more about or felt more assionately about as you wrote. Grab a blank page, do not think, do not even look at the page if you can help it and continue writing about this point. Try to simply let the words flow as vague thoughts on this topic start to form.
Do this for as many points as you were most drawn to.
Five minutes is up…
(If you find your writing takes you over the five minutes, that’s okay! Take as long as you need. The point of the ‘five minutes’ in this exercise is to show you that it really can be a quick and simple trick to help you figure things out, but you don’t have to restrict yourself if you don’t want to.)
Now, set aside all papers but the final one/s.
Have a read through that last bit of writing again. Chances are you’ve unearthed what is bothering you the most and might be quite shocked to see what it really was. Even if maybe you hadn’t got that far, reading back over it all is just as likely to trigger the realisation as much as the writing itself.
Read it a couple times if you need to, or even repeat the exercise from the beginning. If you do wish to repeat it I only advise that you give yourself a break, preferably a whole day. If you try again too soon you may not get the desired result.
There we have it! A five-minute exercise for digging out the root of your stress. I truly hope it helped you figure some things out and maybe solve some of the problems bothering you.
Remember, everything has a solution, you just need to look at it from a new angle. You’ll get there, don’t worry!