I've had a pretty blessed life. I have a family and friends that I love and a job that satisfies and challenges me. However, recently an international move that coincided with the birth of my son led to a time of lots of paperwork, lots of big decisions, and lots (boatloads, actually) of stress.
It wasn’t just the mortgage. Or the labor pains. Or the late nights reviewing hospital bills with my equally stressed out husband. Ít was the overwhelming, incessant feeling that my life was spinning out of control. Where I expected things to go right, they were going wrong, and I started to fear that I wasn't enough.
Dealing with these insecurities and overcoming anxiety is something I have to work on every single day. So how do I stop the negative emotions from taking over? I do what I always do and focus on three things: mindfulness, gratitude, and activity.
1. Zone in on Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness, whether through guided meditation for anxiety, prayer, or targeted positive thinking reminds us that we have control over our attitudes and that we don’t need to believe everything we think.
Have you ever heard that FEAR, is just False Evidence Appearing Real? As negative thoughts are based in fear, mindfulness exercises help us to move past these negative, fearful thoughts to shift our thinking into a more positive reality. Prayer and positive thinking exercises are what work for me, but anything that helps boost mindfulness can have countless benefits when fighting stress.
2. Practice Gratitude
It is a known fact that gratitude improves your overall well being as well as your self-esteem. But how do we “practice” being grateful? For me, it’s about focusing on all of the things that go right in my day. Sure, I didn’t get the promotion I wanted, but did I wake up healthy? Is my family safe? Did I get a good parking spot at the grocery store?
Actually sitting down and thinking through (or writing out) all of the things that went right in your day when you're feeling overwhelmed is a great way to practice gratitude and shift your thinking from feeling victimized to feeling truly blessed.
3. Stay Active
When things are overwhelming, the worst thing you can do is freeze up. This means in terms of physical exercise, but also in terms of productivity.
Physical exercise is a natural mood booster and an absolute essential for keeping a positive outlook. When I’m stressed, practicing yoga or going for a run are my go to activities to chill out.
However it’s just as important to stay active in your approach to life, especially when things are tough. When you are feeling overwhelmed, instead of letting your panic paralyze you, force yourself to tick off some tasks off your to do list, no matter how small they are. Getting started on what you need to do will instantly help you to feel more empowered and in control.
As tempting as it can be, never lock yourself in your room on a Netflix binge when life is stressing you out. Practice meditation or mindful thinking, write a gratitude list, and actively chip away at your problems, one step at a time. If you employ these three tips, you’ll reclaim your sanity, and those “monsters” of stress will shrink down to manageable little pests.