5 Positive Ways to Respond to Stress

stress-or-relaxedEmotional and psychological stress are virtually unavoidable in today’s fast-paced, on-demand culture. Everywhere we turn we’re bombarded with negative news headlines.  Our cities are becoming more crowded.  Rush hour traffic is now just about every hour.  We live in an instant gratification society and the demands to keep up are relentless.  Ugh!

That doesn’t mean it has to control us though.  Yes, a stressor that is not dealt with or keeps recurring is going to eventually lead to physical and psychological negative effects.  And we are going to still be bombarded with demands, probably even more so as time goes on.

But there’s hope.  There is always hope.  The good news is that YOU have a lot of control over your level of stress and how it affects you.  When you accept responsibility for your feelings, thoughts and emotions, you gain more control over them.  That is so empowering!  We need to consider our perceptions of and responses to stressful situations, along with giving our bodies what they need to deal with these stressors the best way it can. Today’s tips are for helping you with your perceptions and responses to stress triggers.  Next time, we’ll get into how you can give your body what it needs in order to deal with these stressors the best that it can.  So here we go!  

5 Positive ways to respond to stress:

  1. PERCEPTION: This is a perfect example of the Optimist vs. the Pessimist.  Ask yourself, “Is this event a crisis or an opportunity?”   How you view an event is going to have a tremendous impact on how your body responds.  You can take the negative approach, which will undoubtedly lead to a significant stress response, or take the high road.  Try to see the opportunities that this event may afford you.  Seeing something from a more positive perspective and believing in your ability to face the challenge will increase your self confidence, empower you, and get you fired up to make things happen.  On the other hand, if you respond to the event with a fatalistic attitude, chances are you are going to leave yourself feeling anxious, incapable, inadequate, stressed and even depressed.  It’s your choice.  How will you perceive it?
  2. HOPE FOR THE BEST, PREPARE FOR THE WORST: So many of the stressful events that we experience are actually quite preventable with just a little forethought and planning.  So plan ahead.  Consider all of the possible or likely outcomes of a situation and think about how you can prepare for them and take steps to achieve that preparedness when necessary.  That way, if the worst does come to be, you will at least have an idea of what you can do and you won’t feel as blindsided.  When something comes at us seemingly out of nowhere, it often triggers that fight or flight response.  One of the many actions the body takes when in that “fight or flight” mode is decreasing our ability to think rationally.  We can think much more clearly before hand, when we can prepare, than we can in the moment of that stressful event.
  3. WE CAN’T CHANGE OTHERS, BUT WE CAN CHANGE HOW WE REACT TO THEM.  We all have those people in our lives.  You know the ones.  They grate on our nerves, make our lives more challenging and often aren’t the most positive folks around.  Unfortunately, as much as we may want to help them make changes to be easier to be around, it just doesn’t work that way.  We can’t change those people.  The only changes in their behavior are going to have to come from them.  But what we can take ownership of is how we respond to that person.  Try to keep those negative, energy suckers at a distance whenever possible.  When you do have to interact with them, try to be as positive as possible and do your best to not let them get you down.  You don’t have to get sucked into an argument or believe the negative things they say.  Just smile and change the subject or walk away.  When we let them get to us, they win and we will lose every time.  That is because YOU are the only one who walks away hurt and more frustrated and stressed out.  Don’t do that to yourself!  You deserve so much better.  Stay positive, don’t get sucked in and walk away if/when necessary.
  4. CHANGE WHAT YOU CAN, ACCEPT WHAT YOU CAN’T.  Ask yourself, “Is this stressful situation something I can change?  What can I do to improve the situation?”  If the answer is “Yes” then great!  Get out there and do what you need to do to make the situation less stressful.  If you realize after much thought that the situation is completely out of your hands (that alone can be a pretty significant cause of stress), then nothing you do can change the situation.  So, what do we do when we can’t change the situation?   It all leads back to the idea of perception.  We accept it as our reality and respond to it in a more positive manner, then move on.
  5. HOLD ON TO THE LESSON, NOT THE EXPERIENCE.  Have you ever had an experience that left you wishing for a time machine so that you could just go back and do it over?  I’m pretty sure we all have.  Now, have you ever been so disappointed in yourself and ashamed that you just keep replaying that awful scene in your head, over and over again?  Do me a favor, STOP IT!  Reliving that horrible experience does nothing positive for you. It only reinforces those feelings of embarrassment, inadequacy and shame.  Of course you should look back on it, but only long enough to do a quick post-mortem.  Evaluate the situation and its result.  Ask yourself what you could do next time to reach your desired outcome.  In other words, learn from your mistakes.  Don’t use them to punish yourself.  Focus on reinforcing the lesson, not the experience.

I hope you find these tips to be helpful.  Please don’t forget to comment below and let me know what you think.  Remember, this is a two-parter, so keep your eyes open for the next post which will focus on the physical actions we can take to help our bodies to be better equipped to handle all of those daily stressors.

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Long time health coach, health educator, and exercise physiologist and holistic nutritionist, with special interests in helping others improve their busy lives with self care and more authenticity

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