Many of us lead stressful lives, filled with busyness from social media, career life, community involvement, family, friends and so much more. Many studies have proven, stress can lead us to a range of health issues, such as anxiety, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and insomnia. Sometimes when we try to reduce our stress, we then focus more on it, and in turn we end up being more stressed than when we started. So what do we do?
There is new research stating that instead of trying to reduce our stress, we need to shift our relationship with stress. If we continue to tell ourselves the story that stress is bad for us, then this is what we shall manifest. Believing these negative thoughts about stress will cause our health to suffer. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, researchers conducted a large analysis of longitudinal data and found that those who had high stress levels and held the belief that stress was unhealthy experienced a higher risk of premature death. Then they found people who had high stress levels but believed stress was a normal part of life had a lower risk of stress related deaths in comparison to people with lower stress levels. Another interesting finding was made, through a collaborative research by Florida State University and Stanford, which showed that people with high levels of stress report more meaningful lives.
Here are 3 ways we can begin to transform the way we perceive stress:
- Tell a New Story: Change that old story about stress. Realize that experiencing stress is an indicator that your life is meaningful. You feel stress because you are expanding, or in other words you are growing. When we start something new or take risks, we will make mistakes. Its a part of the process, but these mistakes are how we learn to do better next time around. Instead of seeing our mistakes as a negative aspect, lets perceive it as a lesson. Let’s celebrate our mistakes and understand that the stress we feel is because we are challenging ourselves. Only through challenging ourselves will we grow into the person we are wanting to become.
- Checking in: It is vital that we check in with ourselves. When was the last time you did this? If ever. Its necessary for us to stop and notice how we are feeling in the moment. Get in the habit of asking yourself, once a day, “How am I feeling right now?” This is a mindfulness practice, it allows us to acknowledge our feelings, and then helps us focus on how to address them. Mindfulness techniques help us cope with our stressors, by teaching us how to focus our attention on purpose and in the moment, in order to help us process the way we are feeling.
- Breath Exercise 4 4 4: Another mindfulness strategy is breathing exercises. This is a beginners method which I love to teach in my workshops. We begin with inhaling (deeply & slowly) for 4 seconds, then we will hold our breath for 4 seconds, finally we will release our breath on the count of 4 seconds. You can repeat this exercise as many times as it takes to help you come back into the now. Each time we take a deep breath, it sends a signal to our brain to calm down and relax. People who practice mindfulness are more adept at managing stress, have lower levels of anxiety and are better able to regulate difficult emotional experiences.