Does your head feel like a pressure cooker because of your demanding job? Is all the drama in your family sitting on your chest like a boulder and you feel like you can’t breathe? Then you, my friend, are stressed!
Stress can be negative and positive. Its purpose is to help us navigate an unpredictable world and determine which new experiences are good, bad or dangerous. It also primes us to respond to similar situations in the future. Unfortunately, chronic stress has been linked to illnesses such as cancer and diabetes, and traumatic childhood experiences can hinder mental health later in life.
Here are three key ways to manage your stress:
- Distraction. We tend to perseverate on the source of our stress, which perpetuates those negative thoughts and feelings. One way to interrupt this tendency is to keep your mind off your stress. Distracting yourself with things that you find enjoyable like watching movies, reading, playing games or visiting with friends are great ways to get your thoughts off your worries. The important point is to tailor your distraction to what you like so it can divert your attention to other things.
- Engage your senses. We interpret the world through our senses and since stress can affect our whole bodies, we need to create ways to soothe ourselves. Partake in activities that focus on your five senses such as taking a relaxing bath, listening to music, aromatherapy, enjoying the taste of a delicious meal or looking at a beautiful nature scene. Another way to relax is to imagine taking a One Minute Vacation to a place you find relaxing. If the seashore calms you, then create a place in your mind where you envision sitting under a swaying palm tree on a luscious sun-filled beach and you’re being lulled by the lapping waves kissing the shore. Make this place feel real and allow it to become your safe haven from stress.
- Change your perspective. Your thoughts create your reality, so make sure your thoughts about yourself and your stressful situations are affirmative and constructive. Some people catastrophize their worries, which only increases their anxiety. For example, they may say to themselves, “If I fail this test, I won’t pass this class, I will never graduate, I will be unemployed and homeless, and no one will love me!” The best way to avoid this negative thought pattern is to recognize that you are doing it and then figure out a way to stop yourself from doing it. You can do this by challenging the distressing thought by asking yourself, what is the likelihood that all these events will actually occur? Finally, replace the thought with something more rational and positive such as, “I may have some stumbling blocks along the way but it doesn’t mean I won’t achieve success in my life.”
Practicing these three tension-relieving tips can help prevent the savage stress beast from overtaking your life.