Creating 'Bouncebackability' from Stress

The missing prescription that helps us to build our brain, be better at problem solving and reduce our risk of dementia... Tell me more!

We often think of stress management as the tools to ‘cope with the situation’, whether it be managing the breathing, reframing thoughts, taking ourselves away from the situation. Whilst these are really valid strategies for dealing with stress as and when it comes along, there is also great value in ‘prevention’.

Stress is part of our lives, so I am not talking about preventing any stress; Stress can be positive and help us grow. So really, I am taking about stopping us being tipped over the edge by stress, ie. not hanging out on the edge!

What might this look like?

Well, if we are clear on our purpose, have supportive relationships around us, look after our physical health, we create ‘resilience’, or I like to think of it as bouncebackability! So, when a busy period comes along at work, or we suffer a bereavement, we are more equipped to be able to cope with the situation – ie. still function, rationally deal with the situation and experience the range of emotions that comes with these things without it then hampering your ability to be able to bounce back to be able to function normally after the event has passed (clearly, this may be a slow process in certain scenarios).

When I have spoken with clients who have struggled with stress, a common feature is the lack of pleasure, joy and/or activities that don’t have ‘purpose’ as such. If I ask the question, what brings you joy and pleasure? There is often a pause and there is some thinking time needed. Sadly, some people I have spoken with are unable to provide an answer to this. In our culture, play in adulthood can often be viewed as selfish, and self-indulgent and a waste of time, which can be a barrier to entry. Like with all of these things, I often hear the analogy of putting the oxygen mask on before helping others, as we all need to be vibrant and energised to be able to give to others.

The ‘need’ for play

Linked article - 10 Benefits of Play ( I really love this article from functional medicine expert, Chris Kresser who talks about the need for play as an essential component of life, especially within the context of stress management – akin to how our body’s need movement and nutrition. Intuitively often, we know play is such a foundational part of a child’s development, as it promotes brain growth to increase their capacity for learning, dealing with novel situations, emotional development, cognitive ‘flexibility’, which helps with problem solving. And as Kresser points out, it is never too late; We see that we have the ability to grow new brain neurons in all ages and this is potentially going to play a key role in stress management and even reducing risk of dementia. Do you need a prescription of play? If so, then continue reading!

  • What are the things that bring you joy?

  • When was the last time you think you did something for its own sake? What was it and how did it make you feel?

  • What activity do you get so lost in, you lose track of time (the caveat being, this is an activity which gives you a positive feeling an energy from doing it – otherwise surfing the internet would qualify!)?

If you are struggling to answer the above and/or identify there is a distinct lack of play and pleasure in your life, you are not alone. It can be difficult to get started with anything that we haven’t done for some time. Hopefully the article will help you to see the rationale and give you ideas as to how you might start to include play.

Where to start.

Ironically, when we are overly stressed, it is difficult to broaden our horizons and think creatively, so if you want to start to incorporate play, the first steps to exploring how this might look for you could be:

Think of activities you have done in the past that have ticked the boxes for play/ brought you real joy.

We think more expansively when we are in a safe environment and experience positive emotions (ie. peace, happiness, calm). For me, this is being outside after a walk or after my morning coffee when I feel full of energy and positivity! Use these times to write down/talk through potential options when you are in this type of setting.

Aim for something doable for you, like 30 minutes per week. Often, we can tick a few boxes a the same time – ie. if we feel we would benefit form more time outdoors, time with the family, it could simply be getting a simple game of frisby out in a local park together at a weekend.

Think of when this could be included in your life – protecting time in your diary on the calendar might seem like it will destroy the spontaneity that often is part of play but as an initial step, it may well be essential to keeping it on the radar, as we are creatures of habit.

I would recommend reading the Kresser article to get a better sense of play and ideas for execution!

Please do share your playtime activities with us, as it helps to give us all ideas as to how we might broaden our horizons.

Catherine Jackson MRSPH

(Health Coach) - Find out more about health coaching

Join Catherine & the Rooted Life team 3rd April for Connection Experience

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