Six Strategies to Stop Stressing
Do you feel stressed? Most of us answer with a resounding “YES!!!” Stress, anxiety, and worry have exploded into epidemic proportions in our society. A faster paced life, economic woes, more responsibilities, less relaxation time…the list is long and the sources are many. But the biggest cause is…ourselves! We stress out ourselves because of our constant, mostly negative and worry-provoking, inner chatter. The good news is that with a few simple mental and emotional shifts, we can empower our creative minds to help us rather than hurt us. The next time your stresses are hitting the red zone, use these strategies to create calm during chaos and take an instant mental vacation.
Expect Less, Not More!
It isn’t as negative as it may sound. There’s wisdom here. Expectations can explode like an atomic bomb. Think of it this way, a simple mathematical formula (don’t worry, there’s not going to be a math test!). Einstein’s theory of relativity uses a simple formula for a complex issue. My stressitivity formula does the same: S = CE2
Stress (S) equals a conflict (C) in our expectations (E2). The more we expect and demand (of life, a person or situation), the more conflicted and thus stressed we can feel. Rigid expectations lead to future disappointments. Why go there in the first place?
Solution: Be open to many possibilities. Changes in our plans may NOT be the worst possible catastrophe. Roll with the punches. It’s strange, but many times life has a way of steering you into a different direction, one that actually is better for you. So, why worry and stress out? Scientific studies show that 85% of what we worry about never happens. But when bad stuff does happen, studies found 80% of people said they handled those worst case scenarios better than they thought they would. Bottom line…You’ll handle it and life may be steering you into a better way!
Ah, what would it be like to live in “Perfect World” where life is always fair, all people love you, good things happen and bad things do not? Many of us would run, not walk, to such a place. Unfortunately, life is a bed of hot coals filled with imperfect situations. The key is to adopt a different mindset about imperfection. Learn to appreciate it.
Solution: An ancient Japanese philosophy known as Wabi-Sabi views beauty as imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. A Wabi-Sabi mindset honors all things scratched, dented or worn (think valuable ‘antiques’). Based on Buddhist principles, this view suggests there is beauty in imperfection. Chill out and appreciate even the cracks. Indeed, to learn from your mistakes, you gotta go out and make some.
Become a Possibility Thinker
Worry and stress come from a hidden part of our psyche known as the psychological immune system that tries to alert, warn, and protect us from possible dangers. Just as the biological immune system consists of patrolling cells to protect us from infections with lightening-like ferocity so, too, our psychological immune system uses a barrage of rapid-fire thoughts to warn of what ‘could go wrong’. When tuning into all these potentially dire consequences instead of learning to discriminate which ones to heed, we allow ourselves to create an energy-draining habit I call terribilizing. Our auto-pilot thinking constantly screams about the worst in a overzealous way that produces fear and anxiety. It’s like a mental autoimmune illness.
Solution: Instead of envisioning the worst possible catastrophe, focus on alternatives that emphasize positive possibilities. I call this possibilizing. We are automatically wired to terribilize! To overcome that mindset practice challenging negative thoughts. This helps rewire this overzealous and harmful psychological circuit. The nexxt time your mind goes into disaster zone, counter those terribilizing thoughts by flooding your mind with positives that simply emphasize ‘what if I can’ instead of ‘what if I can’t” and instruct your inner emotional manager by saying: “Those thoughts are not helping, give me thoughts that help!” You can also just tell yourself to “SHUT UP!”
Empty your “BAGS”
Much of our mental baggage is loaded with blame, anger, and guilt (a B-A-G of mental junk). These powerful emotions are just old ways for generating more stress. Dump it all out! First, become more aware of your mental commentary that wants to a) judge everything (no, your are NOT Judge Judy…put down that gavel!), or b) become instantly angry (yes, we seem to have “Hulk” tendencies), or c) feel guilty (mea culpa, mea culpa!).
Solution: Gratitude-Communication-Forgiveness. The antidote for blaming and judging is “Gratitude.” Adopting an attitude of gratitude replaces faultfinding negativity. We turn on our more joyful brain chemistry by focusing on the good things in your life. The antidote for anger is learning to better communicate your ‘negative’ emotions by productively. Instead of flying off the handle, take a step back (or wait 10 minutes) and express your angst with “I messages.” Example: “When you said that I was stupid, I felt hurt and angry that someone I care about said such a hurtful thing to me.” Finally, the antidote to guilt is Forgiveness. Instead of falling into the “shoulda-woulda-coulda” trap, empower yourself by being the one in control. Your control your responses by empowering yourself to forgive and go on. Let karma take care of justice. The important point is that forgiveness releases the power of others over you.
Just say “No”
Many of us who feel stressed, simply can’t turn down any request. Instead we suffer through all the while feeling it is our duty to accommodate everyone, but ourselves. All the while we are efficiently taking care of everyone else, we are also seething with stress and resentfulness. When you are overloaded and stressed, others around you pick up that energy. Why go there?
Solution: Learn that it is okay to put yourself first and to establish boundaries. You can simply say “No, sorry!” or even “I’ll think about it.” Or just “No” without offering lengthy apologies. Remember that “NO” is NOT a four-letter word. Use it, it’s okay. Tough luck if someone is annoyed or not. You deserve and need to put yourself first sometimes, too. You can’t do it all (well, YOU probably can do it all, but you’ll be miserable…who needs that!!)
Focus on “Now”
Stress often comes from living in the future! You can tell you’ve become a time traveler if your mental commentary is repetitively looping with “What if’s!” Of course we all need to plan and put our best foot forward, but after doing that we don’t help ourselves by getting on the “What if” conveyor belt. Placing your mind mostly in the future (as you likely already know) robs you of your present moment.
Solution: Focus on the present moment, but plan for the future. Remind yourself of this as often as it takes to make some changes. Learn to check in with yourself and fully appreciate being alive in the moment. You can set an alert on your cell phone to remind yourself to take a big breath, loosen those taut shoulders and just heave a sigh of relief that you are alive and okay. Look up to the sky and enjoy that moment. Go out and hug a tree and enjoy that moment! Soak in a hot bath and enjoy that moment. You’ll handle all you need to. Give yourself a break! You are worth it. Enjoy your moments…they make up your life! It’s up to you….Choose wisely!