What makes us the most powerful creature on earth? It’s our imagination! With our imagination we are able to think into the future. We create, plan and manipulate our environment.
Because it is powerful, it also has the ability to pollute our lives and cause personal damage in the form of stress and anxiety.
Add to this every bad thing that happened in the last few hours on TV, radio, the internet and other news sources, and we have a constant barrage of negative stressors feeding into our imagination.
Taking the time for restoring and repairing is essential. Push the reset button. This is where you fix up, clean up, and paint up your inner life. We can worry, catastrophize, and criticize ourselves into a pessimistic, negative, and impossible mindset. We get stuck, which is nothing more than a regression of the imagination, where we think things will remain the way they are right now. Yet that’s not true!
Here are 5 actions for coping with stress and getting unstuck.
1. Identify your community. Who are your mutual supporters? This is more than Facebook, which rarely goes deep. We see each other with 24/7 smiles and continual bliss. No one’s life is remotely that euphoric. Facebook has its place, but if we are unaware of its limitations, “Facebook” becomes “Fakebook.” It can even build a subtle envy where “friends” become “frenemies.”
Real relationships build real communities of love and support — even the not so good moments. Community is an investment of love, and love is a verb leading to action.
2. Live a hardy lifestyle. This means rest, exercise and nutrition. This also includes matching your demands with your capacity. In other words, your load should be less than your limit – the definition of margin. We have physical, mental, and emotional limits. When we don’t have financial margin we run out of money. When there is no margin in our schedules we run out of time. Living a hardy life is impossible without margin. And just like driving our cars, the faster we go the more margin we need. Without margin, the crash is inevitable.
3. Change what you can. Is there something you should start doing differently? Of the things you are currently doing, what should you do more? What should you do less? What should you stop doing? What is stressing you out or making you chronically anxious? If it can be changed, then change it. What you are facing now does not mean you have to face it in the future. Maybe it’s a change in the way you are communicating? Bottling things up guarantees a future eruption. It’s the law of physics. As one expert put it, “choose discomfort over resentment.”
4. Change your response. If the stressor cannot be changed, adapt. Learn to live with it. Reframe the situation. What is this teaching me? How will it benefit my growth? Reshape your attitude and embrace what you cannot change. This is easier said than done, but I’ve learned that if I can’t eliminate it, resisting and fighting does not help. The opposite leads to a self-defeating and self-pitying mindset. I have a friend who is young, energetic, and bright. She had breast cancer that included a double mastectomy. This came right on the heels of a divorce. Her emotional stress was off the charts. She reframed this as a time to take a scan of her life. Her growth has made her a sought-after leading authority in the area of stress recovery. Her response took her from surviving to thriving.
Francis of Assisi’s Prayer is applied wisdom – change what you can, accept what you can’t, and have the wisdom to know the difference.
5. Change your perspective. You have more control over your well-being than you might think. An external locus of control is the mindset that I have no control – everything is happening TO me. All I can do in this situation is react. An internal locus of control says that there are things I DO control – I can also be proactive. The stressors in my life are not separate from me. They are connected to me. And in that connection I have varying degrees of control. Our perspective is a combination of #3 and #4 – changing what we can and embracing what we can’t change.
Dealing with stress is a life-long process that happens on a daily basis. Knowing what you value as well as developing personal mastery over your stress triggers — is a powerful proposition.
How do you reduce stress and embrace wellness? Share your thoughts.