Stressed out? You’re not alone.
Many of my patients come to see me because they’re feeling stressed out. Unfortunately, stress is a part of life and you can’t ever completely get rid of it—but you can transform your experience of it and learn to stress less.
The key to managing stress effectively is remembering that in stressful situations you have a choice about what to focus on and how to respond. You can either stress out about the long line for your morning latte, or take a mindful moment and breathe in and out slowly and deeply until it’s your turn to order. It’s your choice.
April is Stress Awareness Month and to help you de-stress, here are four simple ways to cope with stress that will also improve your mood.
Transform your negative experiences into perspective taking moments.
The way you experience a situation can change depending on your perspective. A few days ago I was in a taxi sitting at a traffic light, when all of a sudden there was a loud thump that shook the whole cab. I was startled, and immediately thought someone was angry and looking for a fight. My heart started racing and the stress response kicked in because I thought we were in danger.
Instead of feeling afraid, my driver got angry and started to yell. And then we both saw it – the white cane – and we realized that an elderly blind man trying to cross the street had bumped into the cab.
Both of our attitudes immediately changed. The driver pulled forward so the car wasn’t blocking the man’s path, and I was suddenly more grateful then I can ever remember for my eyesight. When was the last time you even thought about your eyesight?! Talk about perspective changing. A passerby guided the blind man across the street and we both breathed a sigh of relief. In a matter of seconds, I went from stressed out to feeling grateful about a lot of things.
Change the channel – literally.
The 24/7 news cycle can be downright depressing. American politics has reached an all time low, ISIS continues to shock with its deplorable actions, and the Zika virus seems to be on a rapid rise. If this news is stressing you out, it’s time to literally change the channel and seek out positive news.
I’m not advocating putting your head in the sand, but it’s important to remember that you don’t have to inundate yourself with bad news all the time. Recognize the need to take a break and go for a walk with a friend, check out the Good News section on the Huffington Post or meditate. If your view is bad, change the view.
Change the channel – internally.
It’s not just the outside world that might be stressing you out. If the voice inside your head is constantly telling you a negative story, that can be very stressful too. We all have that voice sometimes, and when it generates negative thoughts and starts judging, it creates a lot of internal stress.
So observe your thoughts and decide to change the bad story. Instead of complaining about the insane amount of traffic or the crowded train on your daily commute, sing your favorite song at the top of your lungs while driving or smile at the little kid sitting across from you on the subway. Or instead of ruminating about the annoying person at the office who isn’t pulling his weight, try focusing on yourself (someone you actually do have control over) and remind yourself of the great job you’ve been doing at work. Let go of the stories that aren’t serving you.
If your to-do list is stressing you out, pick something on it that you’ve been putting off that will impact your life positively and do it! Trust me, it feels really good to finish something. Clean out your closet, respond to that email from your friend you haven’t spoken to in ages, or organize your desk. Mastery gives you a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishing something leaves you feeling effective instead of stressed.
Give these tips a try and let me know how they worked for you in the comment section below. And if you found this post helpful please share it with your friends and colleagues who might be stressing out too. Thanks for reading!
Photo credit: Bigstock