Dr. Wall Says

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Stress 101: 5 Steps To Handle Daily Stress


“[…] in order to maximize results it is imperative to create changes that are tailored to one’s unique needs, personality and environment.”

It has been a month since the PrimalCon trip to Tulum, Mexico, and it has taken that long to get this website up and running and ready for a new blog post. As with the 2013 Tahoe experience, one of the highlights of the retreat was being surrounded by so many people who are actively invested in their health and quality of life. As a presenter, I was humbled and impressed at how knowledgeable my peers and the guests were about a variety of topics, from diet, to sustainable farming, physical health to bio- hacking, travel hacking or amazing recipes. My talk centered around habit modification and how our habits (behaviors) have a significance that goes beyond their surface function. I contend that those secondary meanings can make some habits difficult to change. I propose, therefore, that we have a better chance of changing behaviors if we can identify the different layers of meaning and purpose behaviors hold for us.

There was an interesting thread through-out the presentations, that although unplanned, really helped reinforce the overall message that change is personal, and that successful change relies on more than simply having accurate information. Within our respective domains John Durant, Ben Greenfield, Brad Kerns, Darryl Edwards and I all discussed how in order to maximize success it is imperative to create changes that are tailored to one’s unique needs, personality and environment. This might mean knowing and understanding how emotional factors impact behavior, or modifying general habitat to facilitate new behaviors (like creating ideal sleep environments to encourage better sleeping practices), or modifying goals to fit with personal values and drives. I hope to very soon post a summary of the different points of view that were provided by these experts.

As for me, beyond speaking about change as a multifactorial issue, the most common inquiry I got was about stress management. It is always interesting that even among such an educated, inquisitive and knowledgeable group of people, the basics of stress management are still problematic. Clearly, each individual’s unique factors call for specific solutions, but when asked to provide a general tool or guideline for stress management here was my advice:

  1. Check in with yourself, often:
    What this means is several times a day (three to five times) create an opportunity to stop, evaluate your general mood and your overall tension; label your mood, grade your tension. Identify factors, situational or internal, that are triggering negative or unwanted moods and stress. I find that setting alarms on your smart phone works really well initially to remind people to take this step.
  2. Relax/Breathe:
    This simple action can be, if done properly, one of the most useful and effective stress management tools you have in your arsenal. For more information on deep breathing go here and download the Deep Breathing, Anxiety Primer. In short, close your eyes, breathe deeply and evenly in and out of your nose. The breath should feel even and relaxed (none of this forced deep breath in and out that feels like an extended sigh), think sound of the sea as the water ebbs and flows on the beach. The breathing exercise can be as short as 20 seconds (time it!) or as long as you want.As you breathe in and out, focus on the parts of your body that carry the most tension. As you breathe out try to release part of that tension. The muscles in question should start to feel loose and limp, and unwind bit by bit.
  3. Assess:
    Identify what is leading to your stress. What situation, event or thing is creating the tension you are feeling?
  4. Address the problem:
    Come up with one thing you can do immediately to address the issues that are causing stress. More importantly, check your thinking, and try to identify why the afore-mentioned situation is causing tension. The question you want to be asking yourself is: “What is it about X that is making me feel stressed/ tense/ anxious/ worried/ scared/ frustrated?” In addressing the problem you will need to pay close attention to these thoughts and problem solve for them.When stressed our thoughts often shift to support our state of tension. Are you speaking in absolutes (“nothing is working out”), looking at things in an all or nothing fashion (“if it doesn’t get done now it will never get done”) or catastrophizing (“what if…the worst case scenario will happen”)? Try and moderate your thought process and see things as they are rather than as your stressed mind is seeing them.
  5. Plan to go back and fix the problem at a later time:
    And plan a time later in the day to actually address these issues on a deeper and more permanent level (if you put this off, you are just allowing your stress to grow).


I guarantee that anyone who practices this even just twice a day will notice a significant reduction in their stress by day’s end. If you try this, and find that you can’t seem to follow through with it, maybe we need to think about what personal, environmental and situational factors need to be modified to create a lasting positive change in your life too.

Some interesting sites by PrimalCon Tulum attendees not yet mentioned:

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Hi! I'm Dr. Alessandra Wall

I help smart driven women and forward-thinking companies bridge the gap & build real conversations.

Here on the ‘Dr. Wall Says’, I share tools, tips, and insights about speaking up, getting heard and how women can take up space and thrive in the 21st century.



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