Do you ever describe yourself as being or feeling “stressed out?” If so, you know you are not alone, as it is essentially a buzzword that is thrown around casually today – usually when we feel overwhelmed.
However, the very word “stress” was not originally defined that way at all. The person who first came up with the word – Hans Selye in 1936 – defined it as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.” (1)
Further, stress doesn’t always have to be the bogeyman of our daily life. It can actually be very helpful when it motivates people to accomplish things, or to get “psyched up,” if you will, about an event, project, or goal.
So there’s really no need to “stress out” about having stress in your life. Let’s go over three ways you can de-stress, however it is you define it.
1) Flip your reaction into a positive
A 2012 study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine says that stressors do not cause health issues, but people’s reaction to the stressor. (2)
The takeaway here is that your reaction to what you personally define as stressful circumstances is the key that unlocks the doorway to a positive viewpoint.
Let’s consider certain stressors many of us deal with on a regular basis: running late for an appointment, being stuck in traffic (or both!), getting criticized by someone, and so on.
If you can take a moment to find something to be grateful for in that situation, you’ve just flipped a potentially negative situation into a positive!
- Stuck in traffic? Remind yourself how lucky you are to have a vehicle to get where you are going! Many people do not have that luxury, for a variety of reasons.
- Late for an appointment? Remind yourself that you are not alone – everyone has been late for something, it’s extremely common. So you can be grateful that so many others can and will sympathize with you about this. In a big picture way, it’s okay, and it’s human!
- Have you been criticized? Think about the ways that you can use the information to your benefit and self-improvement.
On a less specific level, if you truly, honestly feel you can’t find a positive in the exact situation – no problem! Go general, and think of the multitude of things in your life that you are grateful for – things that make you smile. Your family, your friends, an upcoming vacation or the happy memory of one – the list is endless really.
The key point is – flip it! Take the supposedly stressful event, and “lean positive” – gently nudge your mind into a calmer and more positive state.
2) Remind yourself that you are in charge
A stressful event or situation has absolutely zero power over you. Zip. Nada. Zilch. You are the one in charge, you are the one with the power. You decide how you feel in any given situation.
The thing is, you really are not at the mercy of life “happening” to you, however you may define that.
Many of you might be familiar with the famous Serenity Prayer, which states:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
You do not even have to believe in God, or a higher power to use this – don’t even call it a prayer – think of it as a way to perceive the world around you.
Let’s break it down:
- Is this something I can change? Great! Now brainstorm ideas of how you CAN change it.
- If something absolutely cannot be changed – how can you accept it? By realizing that acceptance is the fastest and best way to begin learning about what you are dealing with, you can learn skills to manage the situation and because of that, you are taking away its negative power. (3)
3) Eliminate the negative, accentuate the positive
This happy song, from talented singer-songwriter Sam Cooke, is delightful not only because it’s fun to listen to, but because of the value of the message behind the lyrics.
“You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
But don’t mess with mister in between”
There are two practical, easy ways to implement this into your daily life – ones we might not usually consider:
- Turn off the TV or radio show when bad news is blaring, or if you are on the internet, exit the browser with the unhappy story.
- Seek out positive, inspirational news and stories – there are plenty out there to choose from!
This isn’t to say you should pretend there is no negative news, your brain is sharper than that and would argue that point. However, you can take steps to protect yourself by not immersing yourself in the bad news and traumatic world events, and instead, allocate more of your time to seeking out things that increase positive emotional responses, like reading positive news sources. (4)
So as you can see – there is no reason to “stress about stressing out.” Stress is not as complicated as we make – it is simply our body’s way of figuring out how to deal with change, when you get down to it. Use this information to arm yourself with the knowledge that you can use it to your advantage.
Image source: flic.kr