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6 Surefire Ways to Manage Stress Now

6 Surefire Ways to Manage Stress Now

We can’t avoid stress: it’s always going to be there, no matter how much we wish otherwise. We can, however, try to minimize our stress by using effective stress-management strategies. It’s not always easy to change the way we deal with pressure, but it is doable. Learning how to manage stress takes time and persistence, but it so impacts the quality of our life that it’s well worth the effort.

Effective Ways to Manage Stress

Eliminate stressors

Though you can’t completely get rid of everything in your life that causes tension, you’d be surprised by the amount you can eliminate. Identify the people, things, and situations that cause the most stress in your life, and then sift out the ones you can avoid, minimize, or get rid of completely and figure out what you need to do to make that happen.

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Some suggestions:

  • Avoid the people who cause you stress. Completely remove them from your life if you can, but if you can’t, limit the amount of time you spend with them. Don’t worry about what people think or if they’ll be offended: if they’re causing you stress, they need to go.
  • Say no. We hear recommendations about that all the time, yet we still don’t do it. Don’t accept responsibility for something that’s not yours, and don’t commit yourself when you’re already over-committed. You have no obligation to set aside your integrity to make someone else happy.
  • Steer clear of things that upset you. If the news causes you anxiety, don’t watch it; turn off the TV or change the channel. Don’t argue over hot button issues. If arguing about politics or religion raises your blood pressure, don’t engage: change the subject.
  • Trim your “to-do” list: don’t do things you think you should; only what you must. Cross off tasks that don’t absolutely have to be done.
  • Lighten your schedule. Don’t over-commit your time,, and give yourself extra time in between appointments.

Reframe problems

If you can’t avoid a stressor, change the way you look at it. When you re-frame a problem, you automatically feel some sense of control, and you’ll lower your stress just by changing your attitude. The attitude you take and the expectations you set may actually be what’s causing the stress. There are many things we absolutely cannot change in life, but we do have the ability to change the way we react to them.

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Some suggestions:

  • Try to view problems as learning opportunities.
  • Lower your expectations, and don’t set standards that neither you nor others can possibly meet. Perfectionism is likely the largest stressor we have, so figure out what’s “good enough”, and be satisfied with that.
  • Look at the bigger picture to get perspective: ask yourself if something really is as important as you think it is. If it won’t matter five years from now, just let it go; it’s not worth the stress it’s causing you to worry about it.
  • Learn to relinquish control. If something is beyond your direct influence, it’s a waste of your energy to stress about it. You’ll just endanger your health and lower the quality of your life over something you can’t do anything about anyway.
  • Accept responsibility. If your actions or choices contributed to the stress, you need to take responsibility for that. When we take ownership of our contribution to problems, we automatically lower our tension.

Take action

We can often lower our stress just by taking action in order to do something, anything to impact the way a problem affects us. Sometimes it’s a significant action, and sometimes it’s just a tiny step, but the important thing is that we do something to change the situation.

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Some suggestions:

  • Communicate your feelings. Telling people that something they have said or done has upset you is often enough to make the stress more manageable. Keeping our feelings bottled up only causes problems to snowball into huge mounds of tension that are hard to overcome.
  • Get support. Talk out your stress with someone you trust. Venting to a friend is very cathartic, as not only do we get our stressful feelings off our chest, but often the other person can provide a different perspective  on actions we can take.
  • Stand up for yourself, and be proactive. Prepare ahead of time to deal with situations that you know cause you worry, and address problems as soon as they happen instead of letting them grow. Don’t tolerate criticism, and don’t allow other people to manipulate you—demand respect.
  • Change the way you do things. Look for tools that can save you time and effort, and try to find a better way to handle a situation. If you don’t know how to do it differently, find resources to help you.

Stay healthy

Good health is of vital importance in managing our stress levels, and it may be the aspect that we have the most control over. Improving our physical health allows us to have the energy and stamina to deal with stress more effectively, while improving our mental health puts us in a better frame of mind so stress doesn’t affect us as much.

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Some suggestions:

  • Get regular physical activity: a few sessions of exercise every week—even short periods of activity every day—can make a significant difference in the quality of your health.
  • Use better fuel by choosing higher-quality foods. You don’t have to eliminate all of your favorites to be healthier; just substitute better ones whenever you can.
  • Get more sleep. The majority of Americans are walking around sleep-deprived. It’s difficult enough to manage stress when we’re well rested, but it’s nearly impossible when we’re exhausted.
  • Be proactive. Go to the doctor for health checkups, and don’t just seek medical help when there’s a serious problem. Make sure to visit your healthcare professional regularly so that you can avoid a problem before it starts, or prevent it from blossoming into a full-blown chronic health issue.

Recharge your batteries

Taking the time to give yourself the attention you need is the single most effective way to manage your stress. It may seem frivolous, selfish even to put a fun and relaxation at the top of your list, but taking care of yourselves actually gives you the energy, stamina, and patience to manage stress more effectively. We get so caught up in the craziness of life that we often forget that we are actually the central force that controls our lives. Recharging is not a luxury, it’s mandatory.

Some suggestions:

  • Make time to relax. Schedule time for relaxation on your calendar if you need to, whatever you need to do to make it a real commitment. Take a break from your problems, your obligations, and responsibilities just for a little while. They’ll still be there later, and you’ll be better able to handle them when you’re well-rested and relaxed.
  • Be social. Spending time with friends and family who support and nurture you provides a healthy support network that can act as a shield against the effects of negativity. Being around other people who are positive and upbeat can have a positive effect on your mood. Happiness is contagious—catch it.
  • Laugh. Being able to laugh at difficult situations not only releases endorphins and lowers blood pressure, but it also allows you to view problems with a lighter attitude. The ability to find the humor in life, even if you’re laughing at yourself, is a very effective way to manage stress.
  • Regularly do things that nurture you, instead of drain you. Read a good book, go for a walk, listen to music, play with your pets, take a bath, call a friend, or watch a movie you love.

The bottom line is that while tension can’t be eliminated, it can be managed. If we learn to incorporate some of these stress-management strategies into our lives, we can actually avoid some common stressors and learn to handle the rest in a calmer and healthier way.

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How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality.

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser. He is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

He is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would he abuse you? And since “he” is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

He is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it.

Occasionally, he is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

He is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

He can be set off by words or feelings. He can even be set off by sounds and smells.

He has no real motivation; he has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

His motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • He riles up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • He is often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • He is a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • He is the destroyer of self-esteem. He convinces you that you’re not worthy. He’s a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get him out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace him with your new best friend who supports, encourages, and enhances your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

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Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

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One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(He’s made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

Becoming the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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