Six Ways to Get your Reactions to Stress Under Control
AS APPEARED ON WELCOA’s Blog 5/27/2021
This year more than any other we have learned that we are stressed beyond our limits. Stress was already becoming an issue with 66% of Americans approaching burnout, according to Gallup.1
Then to top things off the Corona Virus came tumbling down upon us to completely turn our world upside down. Company leaders suddenly had to respond as quickly as possible to this new government mandate called sheltering-in-place.
Those who fared the best were the ones who adapted by accepting things out of their control. In terms of controlling our mood, this means learning how to modulate our emotions in order to get our stress under control.
Here are six ways to get your reactions to stress under control.
One of the easiest ways to make immediate changes to your behavior is to remember to S-T-O-P, which stands for
Take a breath
This technique is described in detail in Tool #1 of my new book, Banish Burnout Toolkit. Penned by Jon Kabat-Zin, the father of modern day mindfulness, STOP is a very powerful method for immediate behavior change. Once you identify that you want to change your behavior this approach will help. This is the best way I have found to interrupt negative thoughts and turn your mood around from negative to positive.
#2 Perform a Stress Audit
Another part of Tool #1 from my Banish Burnout Toolkit, the Stress Audit can be exercised every time you catch yourself getting upset over something that happened, such as a disagreement at work or a fight with a friend. For example, a co-worker says something critical to you, and naturally you feel upset. That’s when it’s time for a stress audit, which helps you examine what happened and every facet of your reaction: physical, emotional, verbal, and addictive.
When you write with a pen on paper, the brain gets activated. According to Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us sometimes you don’t realize what will come out until after you start writing.
#3 Combat Stressful Shoulds
Do you ever catch yourself saying, “I should do this,” or “I should do that?” Some typical shoulds include, “I should lose weight,” “I should save more money,” or “I should exercise more.”
A “should” statement indicates an expectation you have of yourself that you are not yet accomplishing. The expectation is that you need to be different in some way, better than you currently are.
Instead of “should” try using a “preference” statement. For example, rather than, “I should get more sleep,” try saying to yourself, “I would prefer it if I could get more sleep. Tonight I am going to go to bed at 10:00, and I am going to begin my bedtime routine at 9:45.” This way you are setting a clear, specific achievable goal.
#4 Get Outside
One of the fastest ways to turn your stressful feelings around is to simply get outside. Now that spring is here and the weather is starting to warm up it is easy to take a walk. Even 10 minutes of outdoor time, be it sitting or walking will change your mood.
Did you know that as soon as the sun hits your skin vitamin D is activated? Known as the Sunshine Vitamin, Vitamin D causes a number of physiological responses in the mind and body. In terms of stress, light improves the communication between various parts of the brain to help you handle emotions. Furthermore, studies have shown that the more time you spend outdoors, the more serotonin you get and the happier you feel.2 And you also get a boost of endorphins, the feel-good hormone. The next time you feel down, just walk outside and breathe for 10 minutes. You will notice a difference.
#5 Get Up And Move
Get Up and Move, the only fitness activity on the list is a simple method for changing your mood. Research backs this up.3
The happiness chemical endorphins are released after aerobic activity. And as I mentioned earlier when you move outside, you get even more good-mood chemicals.
There are so many choices even during the Covid era, such as Zoom-based Zumba or Yoga.
Did you know that all movement counts? Referred to as NEAT or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, examples include: gardening, taking the stairs, and taking the kids to the park.
I can’t stress enough how moving helps to overcome a bad mood.
#6 Fill Your Day with Sparkle to Find Your Happy
Sparkle moments are little moments throughout your day in which you can stop to feel happy about something you have accomplished or to acknowledge a positive action you have taken.
When you take a moment to celebrate the little joyful moments throughout the day, you will be happier. Unless you are afflicted with clinical depression, happiness is a choice.
One important way to find your happy midday is to acknowledge an accomplishment or finishing your power list. The brain really loves completions and rewards you with dopamine, a happiness chemical. Stop and acknowledge these moments and pat yourself on the back.
Any little thing that makes you feel better, like laughing or talking to a good friend, can be a sparkle moment. It only takes a moment to infuse your day with sparkle moments.
These six techniques for combatting stress are simple and easy to infuse into your day. S-T-O-P, Perform a Stress Audit and Combat Shoulds are thought-provoking. Get Outside and Get Up and Move are physical actions. And finally Sparkle Your Day to Find Your Happy inspires you to change your mood by focusing on the little things that make you feel good.
Stress does not always have to weigh you down. While we all are still stuck in this limbo of not knowing when we’ll finally get our vaccines and when or if we’ll be able to get back to business as usual, we don’t have to dwell on the negative. If you catch yourself complaining about your life to whomever will listen, then you might want to consider any one of the above ideas. You are in charge of your mental health. You have the power to change your mind, your thoughts, and your mood. You just have to want it.