Your back aches, your coffee's luke warm, or you fall behind schedule.
There are myriad things that can and will go wrong every single day of your life. (And hey -- there's also plenty that goes right, so keep track of that, too.)
Many of us allow one sour moment to spoil what would have otherwise been a perfectly sweet day. But it doesn't have to be this way. There are simple -- really simple -- ways to keep your stress in check and stop agonizing over the inevitable.
"We're living in a society where we think the answers have to be really complicated," says Kathy Gruver, Ph.D., author of "Conquer Your Stress With Mind/Body Techniques." "We tend to complicate our own lives, but things can be ridiculously simple -- and still work." The next time there's a bump in the road, remember a few of the mental tricks below to help yourself smoothly redirect back on course.
Just. Stop. Thinking. About. It.
Certain pain, like an aching back, feels impossible to ignore. But agonizing over what hurts won't help you to feel any better. Instead, you're just suffering twice (once in your head, once in your back). "You have the choice to think about something else," says Gruver, which is a somewhat shockingly simple truth. Just. Stop.
Focus on the breath.
"Breathing is so cool because it happens automatically and it's something we can control," Gruver says. Breath concentration works anywhere and it gives you something positive to focus on. Gruver suggests thinking "I am," on your inhale and "at peace" on your exhale. This technique it powerful: It overrides negative thoughts and redirects your focus. "It's hard to stop thinking things, but it's easy to replace those thoughts with something else."
Don't beat yourself up if stress-inducing thoughts creep their way in (what will I make for dinner?). It's normal and natural for this to happen, but judging yourself for it sort of defeats the purpose of the practice. Gruver says to dismiss these thoughts without judging yourself for having them, and carry on.
Visualize something that doesn't make you anxious.
"Visualization gives you control and can help decrease your pain." Visualize anything from your favorite vacation spot when you're feeling on edge to your body actually healing itself when you're experiencing physical pain. "The more real you can make it, the more it's going to work." The doctor herself visualizes a "little construction worker" moving around her body, working to mend and heal her whenever she feels achy or sick.
Use cues to remind you to be mindful.
"Mindfulness isn’t about setting time aside and sitting on the pillow for meditation," says the practitioner. "Mindfulness is about making your everyday activity a meditation." There are times when the practice of being mindful seems to slip our minds, and we get caught up in the heat of the moment. In these cases, it can be helpful to use "mindful cues" to bring us back to center. Whether it's an alarm on your phone, an app that reminds you to breathe or even the laugh of your colleague that you choose to associate with being present, setting these little reminders will prevent the chaos of the day from becoming too much to bear.
Rely on a someone you trust.
When you want to start making changes, ask a confidant to be a gentle reminder. If you want to stop complaining about your boss, mention it to someone you're close to. He's more likely to catch -- and stop -- you in the act. It's a system that'll keep you in check when you react to a stressful situation rather than respond to it.
For more on stress, click here.