5 ways to change your perception of stress
This is the second post in a series Say Goodbye to Stress. Start with the first post.
Of course you can’t control all of your stressors. There will always be external stressors. However, you can learn to change your perception of these stressors so that you don’t respond the same way. Many of us react without thinking.
1. Take a breath, take a break
When faced with a stressor, take a deep breath or a short break. Deep breathing (while expanding your belly with your inhalation) has an immediate physiological calming response. A break could be simply counting to 10, walking around the block, or excusing yourself to go to the bathroom. Make a decision to let it go for the time being and think about it at a better time. These techniques can save you from automatic reactions that raise your stress levels through the roof.
2. Cultivate empathy
When other people stress you out, think about their point of view. It’s human nature to want positive interactions, and we all have similar needs. The people who are stressing you out are just like you, and they may be under stress themselves.
3. Practice letting go
Another way of saying this is to practice acceptance. You can accept that a stressor is present, and that it’s out of your control. Choose to simply accept it and let go of reacting. Life is short and it’s not worth it. The expression “don’t sweat the small stuff” can be expanded to the big stuff as well. Think of an expression that works for you. It may be something like “I’m going to let this roll off me, and remain steady and calm, no matter what.” Another phrase from the 12 step programs is “Accept the things I cannot change.”
4. Look for the positive
Instead of immediately going to what’s negative in a stressful situation, think about what is positive. Take a step back from the situation, and make it smaller in your mind. Have a sense of the greater concept of the whole world and time, and how this moment is nothing beyond a moment. A greater positive can be that you are glad to be alive on this earth, experiencing life at this moment. Or it could be something specific. For example, if you are stressed that your dentist is running late, you could appreciate that you have teeth and you are able to see a dentist to take care of them.
5. Find the humor.
This is similar to #4, in that taking a step back to laugh at the situation or yourself can really lighten things up. Use expressions like “this is a first world problem,” or “this is the problem of an impatient driver,” or “this is the problem of a person who’s not in control right now.” Often those expressions can make us laugh at ourselves, and humor tends to lighten things up.
In a nutshell:
- Take a break
- Count to ten
- Let go
- Look for the positive
Please contribute in your comments below!
The next post includes specific ways to manage your stress.