Life has always been full of expectations, difficulties, and disappointments; however, the challenges of the last 12 months have been an unprecedented source of stress for nearly everyone. Now more than ever, stress management is an essential skill for creating and maintaining a well-ordered life. Since we can’t always predict the stressors that will present themselves from day to day we need to be aware of the activities that we can regularly participate in that increase our stress resilience.
The P.L.E.A.S.E. skills are a well-known staple of emotional regulation from DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) for individuals working towards “creating a life worth living.” The daily stress we experience may not necessarily be under our direct control. This can include work deadlines, packed schedules, family conflict, concerns about health and safety, and more. On the other hand, The PLEASE skills are tools we can choose to execute with direct effort. The PLEASE skills will help us with stress management, or dealing with the stress that we cannot do anything about directly. So, by taking the PLEASE skills and making a few adaptations for stress management, we have an easy-to-remember stress resiliency tool.
The checklist reads like this:
P – Physical health
L – Lather and laundry
E – Eat well
A – Accept reality
S – Sleep enough
E – Exercise regularly
1) PLEASE take care of your Physical Health
We start by acknowledging that our physical bodies and our emotional vulnerabilities are always intertwined. Emotions are a full-body response to the things that are happening around us and/or inside of us. The keyword here is full-body. If our bodies are healthy and well cared for we have a greater capacity for effectively managing stress; however, if we have an illness or injury we will be more emotionally vulnerable. The pain or discomfort that we experience drains our ability to respond to life the way we would like to. Most of us are aware that high levels of stress can be really hard on our bodies. According to the Mayo Clinic, “stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.” There’s important reciprocity here; the higher our stress levels the more likely we are to be sick or injured, and if we are sick or injured we are more likely to stay stressed. Stress saps our immune systems and diminishes our energy levels, leaving us with scraps left over at the end of the day for the people who mean the most to us. The problem is that as high functioning stress addicts (it takes one to know one) our tendency is often to minimize or ignore health concerns until our bodies stage an all-out revolt. So what is the key to stress management? PLEASE take care of your physical health. See a doctor, take a rest day, get a physical, have some blood work done. Simply, “sucking it up” is not necessarily resilience. True resilience may in fact mean admitting that we don’t feel good and reaching out for help.
2) PLEASE remember to Lather and Laundry
“Lather and Laundry” is a pretty simple and straightforward mnemonic and yet incredibly underrated. Simply getting up and showering, putting on clean clothes, and tending to your living space can make a huge difference in the way that we manage stress. A clean, well-ordered environment can be a huge source of peace and calm. We will often get twice as much relaxation from a space that is tidy and reasonably organized rather than if we simply crash at the end of the day in a room that looks like a small tornado recently blew through. Over the years, I have found that the amount of time it takes to clean up is always way more daunting in my mind than it is in reality. 8 to 10 minutes to do the dishes after dinner, 2 or 3 minutes to switch the laundry, 1 minute to put those shoes away, 30 seconds to hang that coat up; but in my head, I’m sure it will take all night and every last ounce of my energy. Don’t be fooled, 13 minutes and 30 seconds later everything feels so much better. It’s not hard but it does take effort. We must choose to support ourselves in this way in order to reduce the stresses in our lives that we can actually control. If there is someone else in the house that always ends up doing all the cleaning, start pulling your own weight. Working together and sharing the load always reduces stress.
Over the last 12 months, I have heard more people tell me that they shower only once or twice a week. Whether we realize it or not, our hygiene is a huge source of self-esteem. One of the quickest ways to reduce our stress is to recommit to looking and smelling our best every day. Shower and get ready for the day, every day. You will have more self-respect and find you are far more stress-resilient. So here is another key to stress management: PLEASE clean yourself and clean your space (lather and laundry). Find that when we feel good about our outer world, we feel better in our inner world.
Next month we will look at E and A; Eating well and Accepting reality. Until then, read our other blogs, and PLEASE give yourself a chance to manage your stress better by taking a good look at your Physical health and how often you Lather and Laundry. It’s often better to focus on one or two smaller, more manageable changes at a time instead of trying to completely renovate our whole life in one fell swoop. Those grand gestures can often lead to more stress and frustration with ourselves than we had before we even started.