Hello, and welcome to WordFest 2021. My name is Lindsay Miller. And today we’re going to be talking about de-stressing in 10 minutes or less. I’m not just coming to you as a member of the WordPress community and founder of content journey, but I’m also coming to you as a recent graduate with my master’s degree in clinical mental health.
I have not become licensed yet. And so that’s my official disclaimer. I am not a mental health professional. I hope to one day be. Um, but I’m not taking that exam until the spring of 2021. So for now, I’m coming to you. From a place of education as a student and as someone who understands what it feels like to be in our community and work the way that we work and live the way that we do.
Today, we’re going to go over what stress is, how it can impact us and the lives that we live as well as common stressors or triggers of stress, and then offer some simple activities that are in one, five or 10 minutes that you can do to start coping with your stress. So stress is almost like the trash of the world, right?
If we don’t dispose of it properly, then it can build up and it can really wreck havoc in our lives. So that’s where our foundation is, is that we have to do something with it. We can’t just deal with it. We can’t put it to the side. We really can’t forget about it. We have to manage and deal with our stress on a daily occurrence.
So the Americans like logical association did a study in 2020, that said that eight in 10 Americans suffered with an abnormal amount of stress. I would like to tell them that we don’t need the study to tell us that 2020, it was an enormously abnormally stressful year. It was, it wasn’t just work and finances and family, but all of a sudden it became a year where we didn’t know if we were going to have work D what our economic.
Abilities or opportunities dry up. What would happen with our support network? I can talk about myself. All of a sudden, my mom wasn’t able to help us as much with our kids because we needed to keep our distance in order to keep her safe and to keep us safe. Which added a whole nother level of stress to our lives and to her life as well.
So yes, 2020 was tough. 2021 is probably going to have its own things going on with us that are beyond our control. So we really do need these coping skills to help us get through another year that might have some unexpected outcomes. So stress can be positive or negative. It doesn’t always have to be negative.
I think. Probably we think it is where like, Oh, I’m so stressed and it becomes this space and this thing that we need to avoid, but I can also have really positive connotations. For example, when I was getting ready for this presentation, the stress of talking to all of you and presenting something as a student of mental health has been a little stressful.
I want to make sure that I’m presenting the right. Information that it comes from an educated viewpoint and that I don’t have any time typos on my slides, which probably didn’t happen. I guarantee you, there was one in there somewhere, but the stress of that coming with me, I think, and I hope made today’s presentation better than it would have if I wasn’t.
A little bit stressed about it, so it can, it can be good. It can’t, it isn’t something that we can totally avoid. It’s not something that we can eradicate from our lives. It’s something that we’re going to have. But it’s best if we know how to deal with it and how to live with it and how to cope with it, it helps us get out of our comfort zone.
It helps us do things like this at word Fest, and it helps us meet new friends at word camps when we get to have those again. And it helps us do things that we wouldn’t otherwise do. So it can’t be avoided. And we can just learn to how to handle it a little bit better. So this is a quote from Dr. White. I want to honor her and show that a lot of what I’m sharing with all of you today came from a lot of her research.
She is an author. She has some incredible books out there, several of which I own. And many that I referenced. Whenever I created this. So when she says, after all of this research is that anxiety and depression sometimes can be caused by stress in our lives. I want to emphasize the can be, she’s not saying that it always is caused by stress.
Well, what this means is maybe we have anxiety or depression that we are managing and then a stressful event happens. And because we don’t have coping skills, our body kind of goes into this breakdown mode as a part of preservation. So if we know how to handle stress, it might actually help some of our other mental health areas that we may, you know, need a little bit of extra help with.
So here we are going to start today and we are going to identify where your stress is coming from. So that’s our first step. Let’s talk about triggers and maybe you’re going to leave today with knowing what’s happening in your life. That’s causing some stress, what triggers are, how it manifest in some ways to deal with it.
Keep in mind everyone’s different deadlines. For example, don’t bother me. I’m actually really, really good with deadlines. Whereas I have friends that really just. Fall under the devastation of a deadline that is looming over their heads. So we’re all different. And we need to come into that today, knowing that we’re all different.
So we’re gonna start with the quiz. Again, this comes from Dr. White’s work. There is a PDF that we have hopefully somewhere around this presentation. And go ahead. If you haven’t already open it up and start scoring yourself, you’re going to give yourself a one for less stress and 10 for the most stress that you feel in each of these categories.
And then add them up at the end. Just go with your gut instinct and choose something that you think fits right and sits. Right. And we’re only going to take a minute and figure out
My music messed up a little bit. There. I am not going to let it stress me up anyway. So I hope you all , um, got to get through that. If not , um, go through it later and give yourself a score. So let’s look at what these mean. If you are between 95 and 120, you are super , super, super, super stressed, and we need to help you right now.
Um, you may even go ahead and call your mental health professional. And I don’t know right now, you don’t need to listen to the rest of me talking , um, because you need some help. You need an intervention if you will, of stress, reducing activities. So take note of that and to find some resources. If you are between 75 and 95.
Then you need to make sure that you don’t go any higher. Um, you’re allowed to sit through the rest of this presentation and we’re going to go over these activities. I want you to pick several or Google some more because there’s a wealth of stress, relieving activities out there that might suit your.
Interests better if you’re somewhere between 60 and 75, then you know, that’s not too bad. Um, everybody has stressed, we talked about it. We’re not going to get rid of it. And, but go ahead and pick some of these activities, start practicing them and make it a part of your daily life. If you’re under 60, then you’re kind of a coping rock star.
If you will. Um, you might already have ways that you handle stress. Maybe you’re exercising every day or you have taken part in daily gratitudes or something like that. Um, go ahead and Mark a few more down to add to your arsenal in case your stress starts taking up. So now that we have taken your quiz and we’ve gone over those numbers, I want us to dig in just a little bit deeper.
So when we say that work is stressful, for example, Why is work stressful. There are lots and lots and lots of aspects of our work life. So which parts are actually bringing about negative feelings and. Dig a little bit deeper on that. So is it salary, are you not being engaged enough or pushing up or you’re not reaching out of your comfort zone?
Are you reaching out of your comfort zone too much? Um, what is it about work that stresses you out again? Just as an example for me, I found. Last year, that social media specifically Facebook was really a source of stress and anxiety for me. I would constantly check it and it wasn’t just the politics that we were showing in the United States or also the pandemic.
But there were just like, Oh, this stuff that was coming at me all the time when I was doing it to myself. So I now strictly only use Facebook for work. I keep my work pages up and it’s not on my cell phone or on my iPad any longer. And I’m here to tell you it did reduce my stress and made me happier at the end of each day.
And I don’t know that I’ll ever go back to being a daily checker of Facebook. So take in more, figure out what your feelings are. This is a great time to be like the person depicted in this picture and go outdoors and get your journal out. And start writing down your feelings, not right now, but later.
Right. Um, and you know, journaling activities are something that I give to my counseling clients all the time is something that my own therapist has given me to do , um, with specific prompts. And so this is your time to take this for yourself and say, I took this quiz. I’m finding that there are two areas of extra stress in my life.
Where’s that coming from and what is it about it? That’s actually bothering me then just free, free write free think and let it flow, and then analyze it with yourself, a trusted friend or with your mental health professional and dig in and find out what it is about those areas that are causing you.
Extra stress. So here’s where we have to talk, talk about the serious stuff. Cause it’s not just about stress that helps us do a better presentation or stress. That’s causing a little bit of anxiety, but prolonged amounts of stress because it’s releasing chemicals in our bodies can actually have detrimental health.
Effects. So not only can it cause or lead to, or exacerbate, anxiety and depression and hypertension, but obesity, cardiovascular disease, even diabetes. My mother happens to be a naturopathic doctor. So I hear about this all the time, but adrenal fatigue. So our adrenal glands are the ones that release that fight or flight hormone all the time.
And when we’re constantly under stress, our adrenal glands are working all the time and they’re the ones that give us energy. So, if you feel like you’ve just, I slept well last night and I worked today and I’m just spent and I’m all out of energy. And then you do that day after day after day after day, your body and your adrenal glands and your hormones.
Aren’t giving themselves a chance to do the job that they’re supposed to do whenever you really need it. And that is what stress can do to our body. Even if you’re not experiencing symptoms or manifestations on a weekly or monthly or yearly basis, something as simple as back pain or , um, stomach aches. I get stomach aches whenever I get really stressed or I’m having a really difficult conversation or heaven forbid I’m angry.
Um, it always comes out of my stomach. And so now I know to start identifying that as a symptom of stress. To stop myself and use one of my own personal coping skills. So it’s about listening to our body, listening to, and recognizing the triggers around us and what’s happening and then doing something about it.
So we’re going to start , um, connecting dots. What are your physical symptoms? What could they be? Then there is another PDF to help us through that conversation. So pull that up if you haven’t and look through that. No, these are, are, now, these are things that Dr. White has listed in one of her books. There are some extra ones that I’ve added, but these are personalized.
Um, there may be things on there that you. Say this doesn’t apply to me at all like that, but there has to be, there has to be something, there is something there. I know someone, for example, that gets ocular migraines. Every time they’re stressed out, it’s the ones that just go into your eye and make it feel like a kaleidoscope and without the pain, which is kind of a nice migraine to have.
If you get a choice, but every time they’re stressed, they get those ocular migraines. That’s not on my list here. So it’s just as an example to show you, this is your list. This is your list of things that it could , um, could apply to you. And it’s meant to be general, so add or subtract or anything that you want to.
And this is where now we get to start connecting dots. So now we’ve talked about the areas of potential stress we have dug in just a tiny bit on what about those areas of stress are really the triggers. Some physical manifestations that you might be experiencing and I’ll start connecting dots to each other.
Look at both of those lists and those PDFs next to each other. Is there something on that stress list that you can now identify that happens to your physical body? Whenever you experienced those things. So this is where you can take time, you know, after the session or at night or after you are out doing your journaling activity and review these and see if anything seems to make sense to you.
And now finally, we get to do the fun part, which is the actual exercises , um, that you can do again, this is like the dime store tour. If you will. Um, there are so many other coping skills stress-relieving activities that you can find you can make up your own. Um, this is just a starting place. And to show you that there are resources out there and to give you a few ideas, So for our one minute exercises, we have breathing, we have smiling , uh, affirmations and gratitude, and then forming a fist.
So breath is the basis of everything within health and mental health and life. You would be shocked to know how many people I teach to breathe. So one of the first things I learned in my internship at a mental health facility is that we don’t breathe when we exercise. Sometimes we forget to breathe because we’re holding our breath when we’re doing our pushups and you’re supposed to breathe through that as well.
And so that’s one of the foundational aspects of mental health work that I have. Take into his breath work. And so it’s something that you can look up. You can find a mental health professional that leans into breath work. And so this is my one minute exercise. This is something I do all the time when I feel stressed and I call it the six 46.
And so all this means is you take in up breath for six seconds. So count to six. You’re only focusing on the breath and how it feels you hold it inside for four seconds, and then you let it out. For six seconds and you’re counting in your head, you’re focusing on how your breath feels and you can do it anywhere and you can close your eyes.
If you want to, you can be in the line at the grocery store, you can be driving down the road with your eyes open, and you’re just counting to six, four, six. If that’s too easy or you get really good at that, then you can switch to eight, six, eight, and then 10, eight, 10, and you do this for a full minute.
And it actually a scientifically proven to start lowering your heart rate. And if you do it a whole lot, you can even start lowering your blood pressure. So breathing and taking time out for breathing is , um, the best and easiest and it works. So there you go. Breathing is my first tip. Second is smiling.
We all have heard of fake it till you make it. Um, but there’s actually been research on a smile and us smiling and how that makes us feel. I think you could actually take it one step further and smile at yourself in a mirror. And when you do that, you are almost like tricking your brain into thinking that your day is going better than it was.
And so it can really be a great one minute exercise is just to be like, hold on. Stop yourself and smile. Next is affirmations and gratitude. I happen to be married to a person that reads all the time. And several years ago, they came home and said something about , um, the happiness advantage and how feeling gratitude every single day is, will improve your mood and improve your life.
And because you’re focusing on the positive and not the negative. Well, it’s true. When we do that, we. Can minimize the negative things going on in our life. And we prioritize and maximize the positive things in our life. So just taking time to feel gratitude for something, or I have affirmations that I’ve do with people and we’ve just pulled it out of a jar and they take that affirmation with them.
And it’s the affirmation that they recite every morning, whenever they brush their teeth. I’ve seen people. I’ve seen people break down when we’ve talked about affirmations and choosing the right one. It can be as simple as I can do this, or it can be as heavy as I am worthy of this. And sometimes it takes repeating those things, or I am worthy.
Every day from months until you finally believe it. But when you do it, sure can do wonders for your life. Finally is the make a fist. Now I know I’m just in this little bitty circle in the corner of the screen. Um, but the makeup, this exercise is about creating tension in our muscles and releasing it. So you start with your left hand and you make a fist as tight as you can.
You can do it to your sides. We can do it on a zoom call. No one knows what we’re doing. And then you release it, but you spread your fingers out really wide, and then you do it with your other hand, tight , tight, tight fist, spread your fingers really, really wide. And you do both at the same time, spread it really, really wide and do that for a minute.
And there’s something about tightening our muscles and then purposely releasing them like that, that lets us feel the tension and release the tension. And sometimes that can actually affect other muscles that maybe you’re feeling a little bit extra stress. Right. Then. So next, we’re going to move on to our five minute exercises.
You can set timers for your one minute exercises, but I definitely would suggest sending timers for five minute and 10 minute exercises, because the point of this is to give you a little bit of a break and a coping skill. One that. Lift practice just becomes a part of your life when you feel stress, but it’s not meant to be a distraction from other things that you’re actually supposed to be doing, which could cause more stress.
So for five minute exercises, timers are good. So for the first one, it is focused for five minutes. Now the trick to this one is that you really need to choose a mundane task. So something that doesn’t take a whole lot of energy or thinking or preparing. Um, so just focus on hanging up all of the clothes in your closet or color, coordinating your clothes in your closet, which I’m a big fan of.
And you set a timer for five minutes and you just focus on that task. Maybe it’s cleaning the car out and you don’t think about. The stress that caused you to need a five minute break. You just think about cleaning out the car, set your timer and see how you feel afterwards. The second activity is about learning your limits.
So I think this is a great idea to do just everyone foundationally because we do need to know what our limits are and where we stand and how we should be best taking care of ourselves. So for this, you set five minute timer and you think about it. So this is just some ideas and prompts , um, about learning your limits, but how much sleep do you actually need at night?
Do you, how many hours. Or how many hours should she be eating? Um, do you, do you need exercise? Do you need time for meditation reflection or prayer? Um, and if so, write those things down and know your limits, and then if you’re feeling stress, you can go, Oh, that’s right. I didn’t get my workout in this morning or I didn’t get my birdwatching time in, which is something that I need to have in my life in order to relax for just a minute.
And feel centered. So take five minutes and learn your limits and know what you need. The third activity on here is the Instagram moment. So many years ago, Corey would come home and I would have a stressful day. And he was like, are you okay? What are you doing now? And I’m like, Oh, I’m planning a vacation.
I’ve picked out our flights. I have the Airbnb looked at, I know which restaurants we’re going to go to. And he’s like, We may not have had the money or the time to go on a vacation, but I was sitting there plenty to vacation. Then I took this class and I learned that there’s this way to have this quote, unquote, Instagram moment of mentally escaping for a little bit, that can actually relieve our stress.
So I didn’t know. I was. Taking part in a coping skill. Cause it just felt like I was having fun and dreaming for a minute. But in reality, I could have done that. So now I take my Instagram moment and I’ll look up a hashtag. My favorite right now is catamaran because I keep dreaming of having an Academy and in the middle of the Caribbean ocean.
Um, but take this five minutes. Very important to set your timer on this one, because you don’t want to get in night and an Instagram wormhole of things. So set your timer, take your five minute break and dream about going to Greece or wherever it is that your dream may be finally is taking a SAC break.
Okay. Everyone like mentally raise your hand. If you are an emotional eater, I definitely fall into that category. Um, so of course, if I’m feeling stressed, usually I’m going to reach for a snack. It is also important to say that we need to be reaching for healthy things. So nuts and seeds, super easy to keep on our desks at work and reach for them when we need to.
Um, blueberries are brain food and salmon is the mega threes. And so. Feeding our body in the right way. Avocado is also super healthy snack. So take a five minute snack break, but reach for complex carbohydrates and not potato chips. And you might see if it helps you to improve your mood just a little bit.
So finally our 10 minute exercises. So everybody knows that we need to exercise and we need to move our body. But I am here to tell you , um, that you don’t actually have to like go to the gym and get your heart rate up. Super, super, super high all though. That’s also great. We can start in small places, 10 minutes going for a simple walk going outside of your apartment building and going up and down the stairs.
A few times I’m sitting in our chairs and doing squats or dips or a few yoga poses and stretching just moving your body will help you alleviate some of those stresses that you may be feeling at that time. That’s a great 10 minute break. You can also have what we call a calming cup. So grandmothers all over the world have known this for years when we’ve gotten up and they’ve made us a warm glass of milk to help us go back to sleep or , um, a hot toddy whenever we have a cold , um, So these are great things to incorporate into your life.
There’s something about the ritual of making tea and watching it steep. And it’s just important to what you’re putting in it. So try to stay away from stimulants like alcohol or even caffeine and choose something soothing. Lavender mint came a mill , um, and sit there and enjoy a warm cup of whatever beverage of your choice.
Next is repetition. So we can ask my friends, Rebecca or Ani who have strong knitting habits, if it’s a stress reducer for them. So there’s something about this repetitive movement of an activity. Whether it be something as skilled as knitting or a musical instrument, or I want to take that back or something that’s skilled is irony.
I’m just sitting there and, and doing those movements and focusing on your task that has been shown by researchers to reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and overall levels of the hormones. That get released during stressful times. So if you don’t have an activity that’s repetitive to you, you can find one, you can learn one, if you don’t want to coloring also fits the bill.
So we’ve seen the coloring books all over the place , um, where people are , um, coloring mandolas or animals or architecture, and it’s repetitive and you don’t have to learn anything new , uh, all of us , um, Can color, even if we scribble, even if it’s there, we’re putting something on and we’re focusing on our activity at hand and doing something repetitive.
So here’s the resources I like now that we’ve gone over our one, three and 10 minute activities , um, the UCLA guided meditations are absolutely fantastic. You there’s an app now. Um, they used almond, develop them through research and studies and trial and error. To find out the cadence of a voice, the tone, what to say.
And I was not a big meditator or mindfulness person before UCLA introduced me to their guides, but they are really fabulous and I haven’t found anything. Um, that’s been better. Headspace for remote workers is another great app. That’s easy to access. You have a huge community at big orange heart. And you know, here they are putting together a word fast.
So if you’re not in the Slack channel and surrounding yourself with like-minded people, that’s a great first step. Although maybe the first step is being here in the session with all of us today around the world. And the great second step is to go ahead and join the community in Slack. And then finally, if you don’t have a mental health counselor, You get one , um, find one that suits your needs and is going to offer you what you want and need in your life.
This is Dr. Washes. Um, researched came out in 2011, and I’m going to leave you with this before I say goodbye, which is these are his eight ways to wellbeing or his life changes his eight life changes. And he says, if you can incorporate even three or four of these into your life, then it will help you reduce stress and increase happiness.
I do like to send the caveat of spirituality doesn’t necessarily that you need to believe in any formal religion or a higher power, but just knowing that we are part of a bigger organization in a bigger world and a bigger community, also falls into that category. Thank you all for joining me today.
Again, my name is Lindsay Miller, founder of content journey, journey, and future mental health professional. You can find me in all of these places. Email me, let me know what you thought about. Today’s talk or send me out a tweet on Twitter. The hashtag enjoy the rest of word Fest.