Everybody gets stressed — it’s a universally shared experience of being human. But when not managed properly, it can wreak havoc on an individual’s general well-being. Stress is directly linked to physical health and longevity (not to mention the mental impacts and general quality of life), so it’s important to make an effort to manage your stress levels.
It has been proven that a person can consciously practice behaviors and adopt patterns of thought that alter stress levels, making them more positive with more enriched, stress-free lives. Courtesy of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, here are some tips for positive thinking that may help you escape the entrapment in stressful thinking:
Learn How to Reframe
Reframing is basically the psychological concept of reconfiguring your approach, outlook, or general interpretation of a situation. Here’s an easy example.
Say you’re a basketball fan, and your favorite team has the worst regular season record in the NBA. At first glance, this would seem like the worst possible outcome for your team. But, in this scenario, there’s actually an upside to completely tanking. Being the worst team on paper in the NBA qualifies you for the best chance at getting the first pick in the following year’s draft. This is an incredibly valuable asset in the world of sports when used correctly. Arguably, it’s even a better position to be in than a middling team that never gets any similar chance to break through to the upper ranks despite their better record.
Getting last place in anything usually isn’t fun, but in this case, it’s also an opportunity to rebuild and possibly totally reinvent the team that wouldn’t have been afforded to a team with a better record. You choose what to focus on. This same psychological concept of reframing this situation can be applied to any number of your day-to-day happenings.
Right about now, you may be thinking, “But what if I don’t have anything to smile about? I’m stressed!” Well, it turns out that it doesn’t matter how genuine your smile is. A study by the University of Kansas found that physical markers that typically indicate stress, like higher blood pressure and increased heart rates, were reduced by smiling during stressful situations — even if you faked it. Making a conscious effort to find the humor or joy in things, even if it feels a little contrived, can make a world of difference.
Become More Resilient
Ultimately, the core characteristic of people that handle stress well is their level of resiliency. Resiliency, defined by Johns Hopkins, is “the ability to adapt to negative situations and/or losses.” This essentially boils down to the effectiveness of the approach you take when handling and resolving the circumstances or obstacles that bring you stress. This can vary from person to person and situation to situation, but there are a few general steps you can take to improve this skill:
- Build and maintain a good support network with your family and friends. The people most important to you are the ones that will help carry you through times of distress and difficulty.
- Accept the fact that change is a fundamental part of our lives and of the world we inhabit, and that there’s nothing inherently wrong with this. The more you can incorporate this as a key principle of your worldview, the easier it will become to surrender to the aspects you can’t control.
- For the things you can control, take action on it, and as quickly as you possibly can. Things usually don’t disappear or resolve themselves, and the longer you wait, the more difficult it may get.
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