Top Stress Busting Tips: No.1
With six months to go to the release of my new book, ‘Ten Traits of Resilience’, I thought that this would be a good time to revisit some of the practical advice on managing stress levels from my first book.
1. Vary your route to and from work
One morning in September 2006 I was driving to work along the A516. It was a five-mile drive that I had taken day in and day out for three years. On this particular morning I was approaching a roundabout almost exactly half way on my journey when I experienced a severe tightening of my chest. I was struggling to get a clear breath and I felt a surge of panic overcome me. I managed to pull into a layby. And after several minutes I was able to calm myself down and get my breathing under control. The pain in my chest gradually subsided and I made it into work, albeit a little late. A one off, I thought and told no one else about it.
However, a couple of days later, the same thing happened again, at exactly the same roundabout. And again, the next day. It became a semi-regular occurrence. Always at that roundabout, although strangely never on the way home!
Just as certain pieces of music trigger particular feelings and connect us with past experiences, in reality, the roundabout had become a visual trigger for feelings of anxiety and panic about what the working day might bring my way.
Eventually I burned myself out. Returning to work after a long period of absence, I discussed these panic attacks with Chris, the mental health therapist I had been working with. He came up with a simple solution that had completely escaped me. Don’t go on the A516! Together we devised a number of routes to and from work that avoided the visual trigger of ‘that roundabout’. Blindingly obvious, I know, but when we are stressed the obvious often passes us by and we engage in a pattern of ‘same old thinking, same old results.’
Without the visual trigger, the panic attacks were kept at bay and somehow by varying the route, it didn’t seem like getting on the same old rollercoaster every day.
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