Because stress is an inevitable part of life, these steps help us to live with it better. Click the link to access a worksheet that you can use with the following steps: Get Better at Stress Worksheet.
Name it to Tame it.
Stress is an umbrella term (both broad and vague). Lack of clarity about our own stress may cause more stress making it hard to know which resources are needed to cope (1). Here are some guidelines for naming your stress (writing down the answers helps):
Increase confidence in your ability to cope.
This repeated sense of failure conditions our brains to associate the goal with unpleasant feelings, which means that we are more likely to procrastinate (4).
Decide what the next step will be, no matter how small. We may make today’s attainable goal, Sign up for Spanish school. But if we haven’t decided which school or how we are going to choose one from the many schools available, we are likely to put it off. Getting Things Done author David Allen suggests that people have a tendency to procrastinate when faced with making even small decisions (5).
Your daily attainable goals should be a list of specific next steps. For example, Monday: Write down five school criteria that are important to me. Tuesday: Look up 10 schools and compare using criteria.
Include rewards. Just as we avoid unpleasantness, our emotional brains thrive on positivity. (Even something as small as a pat on the back facilitates a sense of accomplishment and releases positive brain chemicals). Stick with it. The positive effects are cumulative (4).
Change the way you view stress.
Changing attitudes towards stress may not change the stressful situation. However, when we believe that our stress response is evidence that we are not coping well and that our stress is harming our bodies, we are piling stress on top of stress. Consider the amount of times per day, week, or month that we think about stress and the cumulative effect that negative self-talk has on us.
Changing our stress perception makes us less fearful of stressful situations. According to Health Psychologist, Kelly McGonigal, if we believe that stress is an inevitable and a normal part our everyday experience, it is more likely that our brain will react with a healthier stress response (6). Read how this works: The Science Behind Stress.
Connect with others.
We all know that physical exercise, healthy diet, and sleep can rebalance a stressful life. But psychiatrist and play expert, Stuart Brown, says that making these things fun can be that much more effective (8).
You Don’t Have to Figure It Out Alone. You can contact me and we can work on your stressful situation together. To find out more: How Psychotherapy Helps You Alleviate Stress.
References and Contributors
How therapy works
Worksheets and useful information
Guilt and shame
Find out more
What I do differently
Your inner critic
The science behind it
Steps you can take now
More than CBT
More than IFS
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