By Brenda J. Thomas Ph.D.
Lately I have been focused on tactics to reduce my level of stress. There are many crazy things going on in the world and each day I am confronted with feelings of exasperation and helplessness. Exasperation because the stressful events are often macro or complex issues that require complex solutions. On other occasions the stress inducers are at a more personal or micro level. I have discovered that the quicker I am able to shift my thinking the faster I am able to move to feelings of empowerment. I am sharing a number of tactics that have helped me make the shift away from stress. Maybe you will find some of them helpful or they may provide a catalyst for you to explore ideas that work for you.
Have lunch with a positive friend. I find that social interactions with my friends help me to reflect on the more positive things in life. This time gives me a chance to enjoy the company of someone that I care about. I always come away from the event with a new thought or a new idea. It isn’t anything necessarily big or earth shattering. It could be as simple as a recommendation for a new book or a new TV program that I should check out. By the way, it doesn’t have to be lunch. The event for you could be a meet up for coffee, go to a movie or attend a lecture. You decide what you enjoy doing and do that.
Meditate. I must admit that I am not the best one to give advise about meditating because it is difficult for me to quiet my thoughts. But I do find peace in sitting down and being quiet. I detach from all my electronic devices and try to connect with the beauty in the world. If the weather is nice I sometimes go to the park and enjoy being outside.
Exercise. We’ve all heard how exercise is good for your health, both physical and mental and it is also a stress fighter. I’m not what you would call a gym rat but I do enjoy the Zumba and Pilate classes that I take. I have experimented with many different types of exercise activities and these classes in addition to walking are my favorites. When I am engaged it takes my mind off my troubles. I am so busy trying to get the steps and positions right that I am only able to concentrate on that. This is fun for me and the added benefit is it is also good for my health
Shift. In other words move from one area or activity to another. When I worked in the corporate environment and found myself stressed I would get up from my desk and take a walk to another building or shift my attention to a different project. It was amazing how something so simple could create such a positive outcome.
De-clutter. When things are simplified and organized it can relieve stress. I recently de-cluttered my house and am amazed at how good it makes me feel. I can actually find things that I am looking for. No more searching through drawers to find the right socks. Stacks of articles that I used for a research project are gone. Expired food in the kitchen cabinets has been thrown out. It took some time to get this accomplished but even the act of working on it was a stress reliever.
The experience of exasperation and helplessness associated with stress can put you in a state of painful paralysis. Use the need for pain relief as a motivator to develop your personal stress coping strategy. Make your own list of behavioral tactics that help shift your thinking away from the stress inducers back to emotional balance.