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 Six Everyday Stress Reducers for Women

By Ms. Michelle Krepps, LCSW

The daily pressures of life can consume our peace of mind as easily as they consume our energy and the unfortunate result can be stress and anxiety. However, we can fight back! By consciously practicing self-management strategies for our stress, we can once again find serenity amongst the chaos. Here are a few everyday stress reduction practices that can help you lose the stress and enjoy your life more.

Practice Number 1: Positive Self Talk

     Scientists say that we have between 30,000 – 50,000 thoughts each day. Those thoughts can be productive, neutral or negative and self defeating. If a good majority of our 50,000 thoughts are negative – imagine the damage we are doing to ourselves – everyday! I believe that self-talk - or that dialog of thoughts that goes on in our heads – has a gigantic effect on our thinking about ourselves, and an our self-esteem. Make the decision to stop the negative self-talk and replace it with positive talk. Self criticism, self-loathing and “fat talk” (you know, calling yourself fat or saying to yourself, “I look so fat”) is not helping anyone, least of all you. One way to evaluate whether a self-talk thought is positive or negative is to ask yourself, “Would I say this to my daughter or my best friend?” If the answer is “No!” then you should not be saying it to yourself. We all must realize that speaking badly or negatively to ourselves is self-defeating and it hurts our self-esteem.
    To replace years of negative self-talk and criticism you first need to catch yourself in the act. When you hear your inner dialog saying something negative, “Oh honey – you can’t do that, you aren’t smart enough” or the like – you need to catch yourself – say STOP IT (either to yourself in your head or out loud – you choose!) – and rephrase the negative comment to yourself. For instance, to replace the above statement about not being smart enough you could say to yourself, “Well, I never have tried to do this sort of thing before – and I am a little hesitant because I haven’t learned the skill, but I am going to learn and try my best! What’s the worst that could happen?. The long practiced habit of negative self-talk will not disappear overnight, but it is possible to train yourself to eliminate some of your negative thinking. It will pay enormous dividends to your personal happiness, positive outlook and success in life. That nagging, negative critical inner voice will lose power and get smaller and smaller until it is banned from speaking into your life. That voice lies. It is not the truth and is not your friend – don’t let it run your thought life!

Practice Number 2: Find your spiritual connection

    A therapist friend of mine told me her ‘three legged stool’ approach to a fullfilling life: one leg of the stool is physical, taking care of your body. The second leg of the stool is mental, thinking clearly and keeping our thoughts in check as discussed in the first practice. The third leg of the stool is spiritual. She believes, as do I, that all of us have a spiritual core. Many may try to deny this, but you can feel it if you allow yourself to open up. There is an ‘empty hole’ inside each of us that only God can fill. No amount of money, success, material goods or sex will bring you peace. Practice opening yourself up and connecting to God and you will be filled. Some find God through nature, some through prayer, some through reading the bible, and some through faith in God and organized religion. However you find God, you will find that this daily infusion of goodness can calm, will grant you peace and will fill you up. Try it – God is waiting for you to open up to him.

Practice Number 3: Reach out and Touch Somebody

    There was an old Diana Ross song that went, “Reach and out touch somebody’s hand, make this world a better place, if you can.” The lyrics implied the truth that by helping others and connecting with others, we make the world a better place. When we reach out to others – we feel better. (PS: so do they!) This is win-win solution or a 2 for 1 combination that helps everyone. So how might something like this look? Maybe it’s just a simple text or phone call to a friend who is struggling. Maybe it’s making a double batch of your famous meatloaf and dropping off a meal for that neighbor who is a single parent. Maybe it’s sitting with Great Aunt Betsy at the nursing home for an hour playing cards. You’ll feel better and so will they – a fairly foolproof pick me up. Reach out for support for yourself too – and at the same time you’ll feel the positive influence you have on that other person as well. It’s ok to need people – we all feel a bit better in community with others.

Practice Number 4: Don’t Worry (Be Happy)

    There’s a bible verse that states this about worry, “Who can add even one hour to their life by worrying?” The chapter in Matthew goes on to say that worry is worthless and good for nothing. There’s a lot of truth in that ancient book, because if you are one of the many who are prone to rumination and worry, you know how overwhelming and distressing worry can be (and how it never really solves anything!). So what can you do about worry? Well, for starters, you can fight it. Fighting worry can look like fighting negative self-talk as we discussed in the previous section. This might look like re-framing a worry. For example: if you are worried about the results of your mammogram your thought process might go something like this, “Oh my, I’m so concerned about my mammogram results. What if I have cancer – what if they find something – then I’ll need a surgery and radiation and lose my hair – and then if that’s not working I might die!” That can be what I like to call a ‘scary downward spiral of thinking. To reframe this negative downward spiral of scary thoughts you could replace them with something like, “I am nervous about the results of my mammogram. Well, there’s nothing I can do at this point, and the positive thing is that I went and got my mammogram done – which is so important for my continued health. I should be congratulating myself for being proactive and getting that test done. Well done! Now I’ll get busy with this project at hand and I’m sure I’ll hear from the hospital if they saw something concerning. Until then, I will just assume all is well!” The illusion that we are ‘in control’ of the mammogram results - or anything for that matter is what we hold on to. Are we truly in control of others or tests or results? No. We are “in control” of ourselves, our behaviors, our thoughts (most times) and our decisions. The rest we have to let go of.

Practice Number 5: DO LESS

    What? Did I read that right? This crazy person thinks it’s ok to tell me to do less when I’ve got a million demands and things to do? Why am I even reading this….she must be crazy. Ok – give me a chance. I know it sounds totally un-American and decadent. It might sound that way, but the reality is that most people try to cram so much into their day that in the process they take on additional anxiety that eventually hurts them. The illusion of feeling so responsible for everything or everyone, or that the world is spinning because of them and would fall off it’s axis if something were to NOT GET DONE TODAY – is ludicrous. What would be the harm in reducing the demands on yourself? Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating a lazy unproductive life-style. But I am advocating a pace within that life-style that can slow down – and savor – life – all the while still being a productive member of society. Maybe taking a short break during your day? Put your feet up for a few moments (or 30 minutes!) during a child’s nap, or after an exhausting morning. You will feel revitalized and less stressed. There is a slower pace of life that can be recaptured by doing less multitasking – and taking your time. You will benefit from slowing things down because you will gain some peace and tranquility, which will allow you to face the rest of your week’s agenda without as much anxiety.

Practice Number 6: Acceptance

    Life sometimes has a way of getting out of control. Let’s face it, life is sometimes chaotic. Whether that takes the form of a family illness, job loss, divorce, death or a “behaviorally challenged” child, we can sometimes feel that we ‘should be’ controlling what’s going on around us. In the case of the examples listed above – there is really no way to ‘control’ any of those or make them stop. There are times that we just have to practice acceptance of the situation. We all must go through periods of time when we accept a situation that we are not happy about. Holding grudges or trying to affect change in someone else will result in frustration, resentment and more anxiety and negative feelings. When we learn to forgive, let go and move on with our lives – then we can embrace the ‘it is what it is’ motto – and start to feel better. I like this quote, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” – because we must all ride the waves that life sends our way. “Let it go” sings the popular Disney princess…..and she is so right! You can do it.

    Keeping a positive and healthy outlook on life starts with our thinking – and if you practice these ‘thinking’ skills you will begin to feel less stressed. Naturally, there are degrees of stress and anxiety that require intervention and support from professionals – if your thinking and anxiety is causing you daily dysfunction in your life, please see a professional psychologist, social worker or therapist. They are trained to help you point you to towards the practices that can help – and to understand your particular situation and history.

 

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