Ask Uppy

Dear Uppy, I’m still feeling low after a stressful year. How can I manage stress better?

Stressed Woman

Dear Uppy, I had a really difficult year last year. And while things are on the up this year, I’m still feeling a little bit unhappy and overwhelmed. I don’t want to go back into a really bad place, so can you share some tips that will help me to deal with stress and stressful events better?

Ask Uppy - Stress Tips

I know this question is going to resonate with probably most people out there. So stay tuned, because I think you’re going to find this very helpful.

I, of course, have lots and lots of tips, but I’m going to keep it really simple today.

Your brain’s number one priority is…

The first thing I really want you to know is that our brain’s number one priority is always to keep us safe. So everything we think and everything we do is all geared towards our safety. Yes, even eating a whole block of chocolate or drinking that whole bottle of wine is in fact a strategy employed by your brain to keep you safe.

Last year, and indeed this year with the pandemic still going on, we have been feeling consistently unsafe, right? I mean, apart from the fact that our physical safety has been called into question a lot and we have had to protect that, there has just been so much uncertainty.

Interestingly, our brains don’t know the difference between real and perceived, so while there is the physical threat to our health, there’s also the perceived threat – we don’t know what’s going to happen, we don’t know when we’re going to see people again, we don’t know what’s going to happen with our businesses, with our jobs.

So all these perceived things and all these thoughts are still triggering the same response (fight or flight mode) in our brain because it wants to keep us safe. Now when we are constantly in fight or flight mode that’s when we slowly go downhill, essentially, because there’s all these things going on in our bodies – chemicals and hormones being released and physiological processes happening – that aren’t actually being utilised, because we’re not fighting or running away, we’re mostly just stressing, thinking and worrying about things.

What that means is our body and brain starts to function sub-optimally. Resulting in lower energy, digestive issues, bloating, hormonal imbalances, anxiety, depression, being sick more often – there’s lots of things that can go wrong when we’re constantly in fight or flight mode. 

I know there’s a lot of people out there that are feeling low, that aren’t feeling tip top, and this is why – because you’ve been in fight or flight mode for a really long time.

So if you want to manage and overcome that, then you essentially just have to communicate safety to your brain as often as you possibly can. You just have to do things that say, “Hey brain, it’s cool. We’re not in danger. Chill out.” Then you won’t go into fight or flight mode unnecessarily, you’ll stay in what we call rest and digest mode, which is our parasympathetic nervous system, and then your body will calm the hell down and it will operate as it should.

Top stress management tip

So what are some ways you can do that? My favourite way that I want to share with you today is to find or remember what are the things that make you happy and that you’re passionate about.

Now I know you might think, “Laura, this sounds really simple.” News flash, it is really simple, but the key is in consistency. So if you do things that make you happy, that make you calm, that make you content, that make you laugh consistently, that’s constantly saying to your brain, “Hey, we’re cool. There’s no danger present.”

Because if there was danger, you wouldn’t be any of those things. You’d be scared, freaked out and running away. You would need that anxiety so you can push all of those hormones and processes around your body to help you fight or run away.

I’d like you to get a big piece of paper and just brain dump whatever comes up when you ask yourself: “What makes me happy? What am I passionate about?” Fill it up with as many things as you can and then schedule some of those things into your day.

I call them a ctrl-alt-del for your brain because you’re resetting, which then means you can get momentum to go forward.

When you’re communicating safety to your brain and you’re not in fight or flight mode, it means you are in your logical brain rather than your emotional brain, which is where you can indeed remain logical, take proactive action and have perspective on situations. So when a stress or stressful event does come along, you are able to deal with it much more easily because you’re not in this emotional fight, run, freeze mode.                 

So to reiterate, brain dump all the things that make you happy, that make you feel content and that you’re passionate about. Simple is good by the way. So watching puppy videos on YouTube, rocking out to ’90s music, painting, drawing, watching a comedy clip on TV, talking to a friend, going for a walk, breathing, meditating, doing funny puzzles – all these things are appropriate if they make you feel good.

And remember, the key is in consistency. So slow and steady wins the race. Simply do as many of these things as you can throughout your day, and you’ll start to build up a bank of calm because your brain will consistently know that you’re safe. And as I said, you’re able to deal with whatever is thrown your way much more efficiently.

I hope that’s helpful. Let me know. Any other questions that you’ve got, come and ask Uppy. We’ll answer with a video and/or an article. Everything is anonymous. We’re here to help make your lives easier and to brighten them up a little bit.


See you soon,

Laura & Team Uppy x


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