Stress – the thing that creeps in when you least expect it.
When you are stressed, it’s quite easy to develop negative thinking patterns because you can become frustrated by your challenges and frequent feelings of being overwhelmed.
This negative outlook then makes it even harder for you to manage those challenges and move forward and break through the stress cycle.
Noticing your negative thoughts roaming around in your brain can be a good start to your ability to change those thoughts into something more positive that will serve you better. After all, how much will you be able to achieve if you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed? It’s difficult to get into action when you have thoughts like: “ this is so difficult or I’m never going to be able to do this,” running around in your brain. Instead, if you changed your thought to” yes it is difficult but I will learn what I need to learn in order to get it done,” you will have more chance of achieving what you set out to achieve.
Here are my top 10 tips that provide practical suggestions that you can use to help you shift into more positive thinking patterns and to kick stress in the butt:
1. Take Good Care of Yourself
It’s much easier to be positive when you are eating well, exercising and getting enough rest. Focus on eating meals at normal times, taking a 5-minute break every hour and eating a nutrient-dense and diverse diet.
2. Remind Yourself of the Things You Are Grateful For
Stress and challenges don’t seem quite as bad when you are constantly reminding yourself of the things that are good in your life. Write in a journal at the end of the day and think of one thing you are thankful for from the day.
3. Look for Proof Instead of Making Assumptions
A fear of not being liked or accepted sometimes leads us to assume that we know what others are thinking about us, but our fears are usually not reality. If you have a fear that a friend or family member’s bad mood is due to something you did, or that your colleagues are secretly gossiping about you, speak up and ask them. Don’t waste time worrying that you did something wrong unless you have proof that there is something to worry about.
4. Refrain from Using Absolutes
Have you ever told a partner “You’re ALWAYS late!” or complained to a friend “You NEVER call me!”? Thinking and speaking in absolutes like ‘always’ and ‘never’ makes the situation seem worse than it is and programs your brain into believing that certain people will always act in a particular way.
5. Practice Deep Breathing
Before you are about to enter a nerve-wracking situation like presenting a workshop or speaking on stage, try this breathing technique: Breathe in through your nose for 3 counts and out through your mouth for 5 counts. Repeat 3 times. This stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system and helps your body to rest, relax, digest and heal.
6. Squash the “ANTs”
In his book “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” Dr. Daniel Amen talks about “ANTs” – Automatic Negative Thoughts. These are the bad thoughts that are usually reactionary, like “Those people are laughing, they must be talking about me,” or “The boss wants to see me, it must be bad!” When you notice these thoughts, realise that they are nothing more than ANTs and they mean nothing about you.
7. Practice Lovin’, Touchin’ & Squeezin’ (Your Friends and Family)
You don’t have to be an expert to know the benefits of a good hug. Positive physical contact with friends, loved ones and even pets, is an instant pick-me-up. One research study on this subject had a waitress touch some of her customers on the arm as she handed them their bills. She received higher tips from those customers than from the ones she didn’t touch!
8. Increase Your Social Activity
By increasing social activity, you decrease loneliness and stress levels. Surrounding yourself with healthy, happy people and their positive energy will affect you in a positive way.
9. Volunteer for an Organisation or Help another Person
Everyone feels good after helping someone. You can volunteer your time, your money or your resources. The more positive energy you put out into the world, the more you will receive in return.
10. Use Pattern Interrupts to Combat Rumination
If you find yourself ruminating, a great way to stop it is to interrupt the pattern and force yourself to do something completely different. Rumination is like hyper-focus on something negative. It’s never productive, because it’s not rational or solution-oriented, it’s just unnecessary worry that leads to stress. Try changing your physical environment – go for a walk or sit outside. You could also call a friend, pick up a book or listen to music.
The key to busting stress is making sure that you look after YOU. As your happiness levels increase, your stress levels decrease. Have a look at your work life, your personal life and your social life to see if there are any areas where you can reduce your stress levels.
Remember, your thoughts are optional. You can choose to believe whatever you want to believe so get into the habit of recognising your negative thoughts and practice changing them to something more positive so that you can take action in order to get the result that you are aiming for.
Medical Disclaimer: All information contained in this blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent health problems. For all serious health issues, please contact a medical or nutrition practitioner. The information provided in this blog is based on the best knowledge of the author at the time of writing and we do not assume liability for the information within this blog, be it direct or indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages.