It creates negative emotions, saps energy and causes brain fog. But isn’t it the case that much of the stress we experience on a daily basis is unwarranted? Because it’s not often that we’re actually facing a life threatening or dangerous situation that justifies a genuine stress response. We manufacture unnecessary stress over mildly problematic situations or needless worries. And holding stress in our bodies and minds doesn’t just ruin a moment or a day, it can create serious health issues.
Like the famous quote, the first line of defence against routine stress is our thoughts. Here’s our 3 favourite mind tricks to catch stress before it starts.
1. Zoom Out
Broadening your perspective can help you gain a more useful outlook on a stressful situation. When viewed within the context of 10 years, 20 years or even your whole life, the true significance of a stressful situation can be better assessed. Will that fender bender matter in 10 years? Not likely. You probably won’t even remember it. So how much negative energy is worth putting into it right now?
TIP: When feeling stressed, try asking the question “What would my 80 year old self tell me to do?” Along with aiding you in zooming out on a problem, getting advice from your future self helps you apply a personal approach to perspective adjusting and ensures you make decisions that align with your values.
2. Imagine the Worst
While spiralling is an uncontrolled descent into extreme, unlikely outcomes, methodically analyzing a situation to determine the worst case scenario can actually help reduce stress. Why? We typically find that the worst case scenario just isn’t that bad. Someone’s behaviour unacceptable? Maybe you have to initiate an uncomfortable conversation. What’s the absolute worst that could arise from that? Perhaps they refuse to speak to you again. While an unfortunate result, do you still have friends and family that love and support you? Do you still have passions, hope and opportunities? Are you still here? The answer is usually yes. It’s grounding and stress relieving when you grasp that what truly matters can’t be taken from you.
TIP: Try writing or thinking through the sequence of events that lead to the worst case scenario of a stressful situation. For example, imagine you’re not going to be able to meet a work deadline. What happens next? You might ask your boss for an extra day. What happens next? They say no. Continue exploring the subsequent steps that lead to the worst case scenario, perhaps getting fired. (And would you survive if you lost your job? Probably, so not the very end of the world, right?) This practice allows you to quickly see that it is usually unlikely the worst case scenario will occur. Your boss will probably just give you an extension and all the stress was for nothing. Hashing out the worst case timeline also helps you determine actionable steps and taking action in a tough situation is possibly the best stress buster of all time.
3. Put Down The Bag
How much of the stress we experience on a daily basis is from past events? A rude comment, a tailgater, a mistake, or disappointing news will spark a negative reaction. This stress creates emotion and unless we consciously deal with those feels, we can carry that vibe-killing negativity with us for a long time. It’s a surefire stress beater to learn to healthily resolve small stresses and not revisit the pains once past.
TIP: Visualize any stress or negativity as a big ol’ heavy bag carried on your back. Think about how that makes you feel — bent over, tired, heavy. Then imagine setting the bag down. Just leaving it on the ground. Feel the relief and lightness as you stand tall and smile. Walk away from that bag of stress, knowing you can leave it there and never have to pick it up again!
It’s not all in your head
Learning better ways to think about common stress is part of developing a healthy, diverse stress management tool kit. Exercise and endorphins are classic stress busters and healthy diets rich in fibre, fruits and veg have been shown to reduce anxiety. We also love self care routines that include meditation and nature. Cognitive and/or behavioural therapy facilitated by a professional is a must for anyone dealing with heavy stress due to illness, loss or disaster.
Natural herbs and supplements can also support our well being during times of high stress. Adaptogens are non toxic plants that can help the body resist physical, chemical and biological stressors. Freshfield’s Ashwagandha (click to shop!) can provide extra support for your body, mind, energy levels and immune system during periods of long term stress.