1. Talk about what's bothering you to someone you trust will be supportive rather than judgmental. If a partner or friend is not available for that, find a professional counselor, clergy, or coach, or write about what is stressing you. Writing provides a forum for self expression and exploration, and provides a safe place to express thoughts and feelings that we fear might be judged by others. Perspective makes it interesting to go back and read what you wrote a few days or weeks or even years down the road. A gratitude journal helps keep us focused on what is working in our lives and what is really important. Keeping feelings bottled inside does not usually have a good outcome. Finding safe and appropriate ways to express them reduces stress levels.
2. Humor has been identified as a factor in developing personal resilience, so laugh at yourself whenever you have the opportunity. ‘Finding humour in stressful moments allows you to separate who you are from what you do,’ says Lois McElravy, who runs workshops on humor. Recognize that doing something stupid does not make you a stupid person; it just means that in that moment of time you did something stupid. Other times you do brilliant things. In times of stress we often forget that distinction, so remind yourself with humor. "If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.” Jimmy Buffet
3. Become more physically active. Exercise, join activities, take a walk, a class, go to the gym, dance, do yoga. Move your body and invite it to grow healthier with practice. Physical activity produces endorphins, improves concentration and sleep, creating a more workable environment for problem solving. Stress causes muscles to tense, often into holding patterns of constriction that can lead to chronic pain. Movement returns us to the contraction and relaxation pattern that is intrinsic to healthy muscle function. Even taking one minute to stand up and elongate your body along your spine while taking a deep slow breath makes a positive difference.
4. Don't take things personally. Listen to the conversations in your head and rewrite them when they take you in a direction that you don’t want to go. Remember that other people’s behavior says more about them than it does about you. Avoid retelling your story about being picked on or singled out or pathologically unlucky, just stay in the present and deal with the situation in front of you. Most of the time the stories we run thru our heads are simply a projection of our history overlaid on the present. Take a slow deep breath and focus on what is actually happening now.
5. Take a time out in nature to refresh and reboot your brain. Gaze at a flower, a tree, the sky, walk barefoot in the sand or grass. Find something beautiful to appreciate even for a moment. One morning I saw an ahinga body surfing in the ocean, traveling the waves down the length of the beach and then flying back to do it again. This bird, also known as the snakebird for his long neck, is primarily a fresh water creature, so it was an extraordinary gift to be witness to this sight, and it was obvious that he was having the time of his life. His joy was radiant and my stress melted completely in his delight and celebration of life.
6. Explore other ways to refresh and reboot. Your thoughts might tell you that you don't have time, but they are confused about this so don't listen to them. Just as with your computer, a two minute reboot can clear away malfunctioning programs and give a fresh start. Meditation, massage, acupuncture, mindfulness practice, hanging out with your animal, guided imagery, art, and music all open doorways into a different state of body and mind for relaxation and clearer thinking. Explore and discover what works best for you. Use stress as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and how to move more comfortably through challenging times.