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Use Stress Reduction Goal Setting to lower stress

-   James Stevenson (MSc, IEA) - Positive Psychology Coach

If you’re looking around for things that might help with stress... 

Stress reduction goal setting might be a good fit for you...

Stress! Blimin horrendous crippling stress. Even when it’s mild... stress can be awful. When you’re working through mental health challenges, stress can often be a large part of it.

On the one hand nothing works. By that I mean nothing cures it over night. Some might say it’s mind over matter. What a load of rubbish!

On the other hand, many many things can help. Or can make the stress a little better. And many little things over time... may just make stress less of a problem than it is now.

Thoreau quote

People usually think of goal setting as meaning striving intensely but this is simply not true.

Goal setting is more about a shift in focus in an area of your choosing.

5 stress reduction goals you could try

Have a look at the 5 things below. Do any of these look good to you? Would you be up for trying one of these? If you’re not in the mood right now, you could save to favourites and have a little looksie later...

How about looking through the five ideas/goals, choosing one that sounds the most appealing, and predicting a moment you might like to try it out?  

1. Slow down – Consciously do things slowly 

How about trying to do something slowly for a change? Think of it as an experiment... Walk to the shop, get dressed, do something that you do often. But do it in slow motion... being aware of each step, of each movement, of the things around you... It might feel strange at first but when did not rushing become strange?

If you’re walking... feel each step, your shoe on the ground... if you’re getting dressed, really try and take your time. Tell yourself things like “I have all the time in the world” and "I can go as slow as i want. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks". Explore your own similar thoughts... You may want to hold this paragraph in front of you as you do it to make it easier. 

Be aware of your breathing. Breathe deeply, naturally. Innnnnnn.... Ouuuuuuuuuuuuuuutttttt.... When was the last time you could hear your heart beating? When was the last time you weren’t in a big rush?

Emerson quote

Stress reduction goal setting idea 1: Consciously do 3 things slowly today and write about it in my diary

2. Sight. Smell. Sound

When you find yourself aware that stress is high try this little and super quick activity. Sight. Smell. Sound. The 3 S's.

Stop/slow down for a moment. No fidgeting... Take a deep breathe... Choose something you can see. Stop and really look at it. What do you notice? Some detail? How it moves? Spend as long as you likebut at least 10 seconds connecting to this sight.

Then, what can you smell? Maybe your hands smell of cream or your hair of shampoo? Or there is something around you could go and smell. Smell it in. Let that smell sink into your soul for a moment. Describe it to yourself.

Sounds. Is there a sound you can hear? You probably weren’t even aware of it before you tried to hear it. What is it? How far away is it? What would it sound like if you were right next to it.

Feel yourself reconnecting with the world around you. Have you noticed any difference in your stress levels? Once you've practised this many times it may even be useful in busy annoying situations!

Stress reduction goal setting idea 2: Try and do the “sight. smell. sound” activity 3 times today

3. Grounding

This is a classic one and there are many versions. Sometimes it’s called “7 in 11 out”. I’m not a fan of the counting and I'm sure many are. Find a way you're happy with...

Once again the idea is to stop for a moment. Stay still. It’s amazing how rare it can be to just stay completely still in mind and body for even 20 seconds!

Look at some easy-to-focus-on point with your eyes. Breathe deeply in. You can count if you like to 7 or 5 or like I do just say “short innnnnnnnnn…” in your head.

Then breathe out for longer than you breathed in. I say to myself "long ooooooooooooooooooooooouttttt”. This will ground you (hopefully) and you’ll get better at grounding yourself quickly over time.

Stress reduction goal setting idea 3: Aim to do this once a day for 7 days whenever I feel the need to reduce my stress levels

4. Treat your self

Stress reduction goal setting really can be fun when it's about loving yourself and caring about yourself... Maybe you could watch one of your favourite tv shows? or one you haven’t seen in ages that you loved. Or a movie?

Maybe a coffee with cream and chocolate is your thing? Bath and incense and candles? Maybe saying no to a plan you're dreading and doing something you genuinely love instead?

Is there somewhere with a nice view, somewhere peaceful you love to be?

What it is really depends on you. Treatin yo self! works well when YOU decide, to treat YO self, in a way YOU want! That process can be healing and help a bit with stress.

Stress reduction goal setting idea 4: Give yourself a lovely treat 3 times this week/today/tomorrow/weekend

5. Enter into Nature

There is something very special about nature. All the great philosophers, poets, thinkers knew it. About the pace and balance and feel of natural surroundings.

When you sit in nature and just stop and watch. When you put your phone away. If you allow it, the pace of nature gets under your skin, you find yourself breathing more deeply. It's like you're returning home to the womb. Too deep? Oops sorry ;-)

It’s truly a beautiful experience. Letting your life connect with the environment around you. Even if just for a minute or two. The key is to stop, the “go, go, go!” in you and just be still and soak up the life around you.

Have you ever sat down and watched a tree for a while? The leaves falling every 10 seconds. The dance of the wind and the branches. Sometimes, in this crazy pressurised world just stopping and noticing is a deeply relaxing experience. 

Stress reduction goal setting idea 5: Once this week, spend 10 mins in nature, and just watch and notice with no distractions  

Explore, play around, and find your way to practise stress reduction goal setting 

With all these example goals, you'd be wise to change the how often and the how long to suit you. Complete flexibility. Finding your own "just right".

Be kind to yourself. If you're interested in reducing stress there is no right and wrong answer. The only "right" answer is you finding one that sings for you. One that feels right for you.

For more great ideas for reducing stress check out this article which is about self-care but is full of good ideas

Have you got a way of reducing stress that works well? Leave a comment below...

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