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No. 1 Way to Reduce Stress: Keep It in Perspective

It's amazing how many different ways there are to keep your stress in perspective and yet how few people actually attempt do to this. We tend to do exactly the opposite, thus creating mountain out of mole hills and tempest in teapots.
11/04/2015 11:52am ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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In order to keep your stress in perspective, try ranking your problems on a scale of 1-100. 1 is a broken shoelace and 100 is a nuclear holocaust. On that scale, most of our everyday stressors don't rank very high. Another method for keeping things in perspective is imagining that your hand represents a particular problem with which you are grappling. You can actually try this right now.

Flatten out your hand and hold it at arm's length. Picture that your hand is your problem and you can see it in perspective. Now slowly bring your hand right up to your nose. When you do this, about all you can see is your hand, which of course, represents your problem. We spend much of our lives with our noses totally buried in our problems. But when you extend your arm back out, all of a sudden your problem doesn't seem so big any more. Even though the size of your problem doesn't change, you now see it in perspective -- at arm's length -- and it doesn't seem overwhelming any longer.

When dealing with stress, it always helps to ask yourself: How likely am I to remember this stressful situation a week from now, or a few days from now, or even a few hours from now? If the answer is not likely, then you know it's a minor problem and you could cognitively decide to let the problem go - -right this minute.

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Humor also really helps keep things in perspective. Humorist and stress expert Loretta LaRoche explains, "Stress is funny!" She likes to poke fun at herself whenever she feels stress. "How serious is this?" She always asks herself in a delightfully lighthearted manner: "A wet towel left on the bed is NOT the same as a mugging!"

When we can laugh about our stress it takes the sting out of it. Humor author Leigh Anne Jasheway writes about something she calls the misery index. She defines this as the amount of time it takes to turn a stressful event or encounter with someone into a funny anecdote. If you can have something stressful happen to you in the morning on the way to work and be laughing about it by lunch time, that's a pretty short misery index. You can actually monitor and track the average amount of time it takes for you to turn an event like this around. Whether it is four days or four hours, see if you can try to find a way to laugh about a stressful incident and cut your misery index in half. It's a great goal to shoot for and will automatically help you begin to keep your stress in perspective.

When stressful problems come up at the end of the day, here's another way to keep your stress in perspective:

Promise yourself that you will tackle the problem first thing the next morning. But, here's the most important part -- don't think about hat problem one bit while you are away from it. Your perspective comes from TRUSTING that you will readily solve the problem the NEXT day. Overnight, your unconscious mind goes to work on solving it -- especially when you're not consciously thinking about it.

You'll be surprised at all the solutions you come up with when you tackle the problem the next morning when you're fresh -- simply because the next morning, you can see your problem in the proper perspective.

It's amazing how many different ways there are to keep your stress in perspective and yet how few people actually attempt do to this. We tend to do exactly the opposite, thus creating mountain out of mole hills and tempest in teapots. Using Cognitive Behavior techniques like keeping your stress in perspective is literally just a thought away. The key ingredient is building the habits that allow you to employ these techniques over and over again, whenever you have the opportunity.

Changing your habits requires your full commitment. You have to commit to invoking them at every opportunity, because every time you replace an old dysfunctional thought or behavior with a new rational thought or behavior, you create new pathways in the brain. Eventually these new pathways will become habits.

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