Guess what? The world is always going to be “crazy stressful.” It’s not the “stress” that’s an issue; it’s what we think about it, what we tell ourselves about it, and what we do with it that creates a problem – or doesn’t. “Stressors” are simply things that force us to take action. (Cleveland Clinic) Being hungry, having to use the bathroom, being thirsty, or being sleepy all cause us “stress.” It’s the dis-stress of life that makes us sick.
Here are real techniques you can use right now to diffuse the distress that we experience every day:
Develop an Attitude of Gratitude
Get up and look out your window. What do you see? Grass, trees, birds? Look at them closely. Nature is amazing! Find awe, wonder, and amazement for the beauty and complexity of nature. Be grateful for it! We couldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the miracle of the natural world.
Now look around you. What do you see? I’m looking at my reading glasses, computer, and some post-its, as well as my files. How were these things made? Someone had to engineer and manufacture them. What do they do? How do they make your life easier? They’re miracles, too! Be grateful for what they do for you!
Find wonder, amazement, awe, and gratitude for the small, everyday things in your life. Did you wake up today? Is there water coming out of your tap? Did you get to work safely? How does your lunch taste? Do you just love the tie, dress, or shoes you’re wearing?
There’s a reason to do this. I call it “The New Car Factor.”
When we get a new car, suddenly we notice all the others like it on the road. Those cars didn’t just magically appear; the model is now familiar to us. In the same way, the more things we notice in our day for which to find gratitude, the more we’ll see. We begin to notice small, miraculous events that we never noticed before. This is because we’re becoming familiar with gratitude, awe, wonder, and amazement.
By doing so, we’ve also opened ourselves up to more positive relationships with others: Those who feel peaceful and grateful will find those same traits in us familiar, and be attracted to us. Win-Win!
There is always something to be grateful for, even if it’s only that you had the strength to survive the day.
Find Positivity and Be Solution Oriented
There are many different ways of looking at things – so pay attention to the way you speak to yourself. What does your self-talk sound like? Do you berate yourself when you make a mistake? Are you saying things like, “This stinks. I really don’t like this,” or, “Things never work out for me”?
Turn those negative comments around as soon as you notice them. Change “I’m not good at this” or, “I can’t do this” to, “I’m learning how to do this” or, “I’m getting better at this each time I try.” Do the same for negative thoughts you have about situations, too. Change “This stinks” to, “I can tolerate this for a while. I’ve been through worse.” “Things never work out for me” can change to, “If I keep trying and adapting, I can change how things work out.”
You’re thinking, “Oh, she’s one of those people. Being ‘positive’ all the time isn’t a very realistic way to manage life.” Of course we have to be pragmatic and reasonable when we encounter challenges. But think about this: What would you say to a friend who was discouraged? How would you handle it if a loved one needed help – what would you do and say? Treat yourself with the same kindness, love, and encouragement that you’d give to someone you care about.
Think about The New Car Factor. What kind of people and experiences do you want to attract and notice in your life journey? The more we look for solutions, positivity, and encouragement, the more of these we’ll experience. They will be familiar.
Remember kindness. Being kind to others doesn’t cost us a dime. Think about the last time you did something nice for someone else. How did you feel? Did you hold a door open for someone else? Did you smile at a stranger? Did you help someone who dropped something? It felt good, didn’t it? How do you think it made the other person feel? It makes logical sense to be kind – we feel good. They feel good. It’s free. It reduces the stress we feel. Don’t we need more of that in the world?
Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel at the end of the day?” I can remember times when it felt really great to yell and scream, rant and rave, and bitch about things that upset or annoyed me – in that moment. By the end of the day, though, I felt guilty about subjecting others to my rants. I didn’t feel any better emotionally by being unpleasant. I just generated more unpleasantness. It feels so much better to be proud of how we handled ourselves during challenges. So how do you want to feel at the end of the day?
There are many things we can do to minimize the stress in our lives – like brushing up on communication skills, learning to manage conflict, and developing better systems to manage our time. We can also learn some “bottom up” techniques to keep us calm, like meditation, deep breathing, and exercising. These are all great ideas, but the best way to manage the dis-stress of life with lasting results is to change our attitude.
2] Cleveland Clinic. “Stress - What is Stress?” Cleveland Clinic Health Library, 2015, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress#. Accessed 29 9 2020.