Using Your Mind to Get a Handle on Stress

  • Maintain perspective.  A common problem is thinking that the challenge you’re dealing with is all that is happening in your life. This is a narrowed perspective; now it’s only focused on one thing. The ideal:  maintain perspective, and do the best you can not to hold yourself hostage inside by one set of feelings or thoughts. Because we’re more than our thoughts, body and feelings.
  • Stop yourself from mentally touching the negative.  Work  not to identify with it.  Purposefully move your attention onto something else.
  • Plan ahead. Make a commitment to yourself in advance of a situation that you know will be challenging. Prepare ways to regain control of your emotional state, perhaps by: 1) Leaving the scene. Take a walk outside once or twice around the block. 2) Taking several slow, deep breaths. 3) Listening to a beautiful piece of music.
  • Stop your thoughts. This is a good technique for dealing with stress that comes from your own negative feelings. When you notice negative thoughts, say "stop!" This simple tool is effective, though you may have to insist and repeat the order until you interrupt or stop the negative thoughts.
  • Ask yourself if you have felt “this” way before. The answer will likely be yes. Then there can be a small interval of self-challenge: Was this thinking useful? Is this all of me? Then for several minutes, do a breathing exercise. For a moment or two, simply follow your breath and let it lead you to a new place inside.
  • Smile. Just like breathing, when we smile on purpose–inwardly or outwardly–that changes our emotional state for the better. Smiling works to counter difficult emotion.

Indirectly, with these small steps, you begin using your personal wisdom. Remember that whatever the stressor, it is not the only thing that is happening right now. With a change of scenery, perhaps going outside, you'll likely regain perspective and realize, "I am bigger than this. I don't have to be run by these thoughts." Following or changing your breathing will assist you in changing your emotions. And since we don't think well when caught in strong emotion, as soon as you start calming down, you will be better able to solve the problems that were bothering you in the first place.

The Laughter Tonic