Three simple ways to reduce stress and anxiety

Three simple ways to reduce stress and anxiety

There are three simple ways to reduce stress and anxiety. If you’re anything like me, I find life stressful to varying degree but it’s rare that I have days on end with no stress or anxiety. Knowing simple ways to reduce stress and anxiety is very useful but can take practise. Life drives our focus onto problems and we forget to step back and focus where it helps. We tend to want to fix problems in life and this leads us to focus on problems.

Positive beliefs about worry – not helpful

Many of us maintain stress and anxiety by persistently focusing on what upsets and stresses us. We mistakenly believe that worrying will somehow fix our problems. What it actually does is keep you focused on what is stressing you out. If all your worrying to date was working, don’t you think your life would be sorted by now?

Sorry to tell you this but worrying in itself is the biggest waste of mental and emotional energy there is. So…what can you do to quickly and simply reduce stress and anxiety?

Acceptance

All too often we resist what we can’t control. I do it all the time. I get fed up that my health is unpredictable at times and fight against it. I go into victim more at times and feel sorry for myself. I also get angry and frustrated at times in my resistance of what is.

When I work on acceptance – something interesting happens. I feel more at ease and peaceful. It doesn’t mean that I like having health issues but instead of resisting and getting stressed, acceptance allows me to deal with situation far more effectively. Sometimes we need to take the emotion out of the equation and be practical.

What are you resisting? Think of the analogy of sitting on a little sailing boat. There’s no wind and you are resisting this fact, annoyed that you can’t move. So you begin blowing and huffing anf puffing at the sails. Instead of moving the boat, you just end up flustered and out of breath. Now if in your wisdom, you could sit back and accept that for the moment there is now wind, you might feel a sense of relief. If you wait and accept, eventually a gust of wind will coe along and take you where you want to go. Think baout what you might be resisitng that you could be accepting. Just shifting your mindset in this way can have huge positive implications for your situation as well as your mental health. Acceptance can be empowering.

Gratitude

Gratitude is another simple mind shift that can immediately help you to feel happier about yourself and your life. Gratitude doesn’t mean that you think your life is perfect. It’s just about moving away from the negative mental filter default setting to a more positive outlook where you focus on what is good. IT’S ALL ABOUT FOCUS!!

There is always something in our lives that isn’t an issue – no matter how small – remind yourself of these things regularly. Evolutionary Psychologists say that our default mode is negative as this is how we survived as cave men centuries ago. We had to be aware of threat in order to survive. That’s not entirely true these days. You are unlikely to be hunted by a lion at work. It’s not life and death yet part of our brain (amygdala and hypothalamus) still registers stress as life threatening and releases adrenalin. Take death breaths, remind yourself that you are safe and focus back on the good stuff. Anxiety and stress are just feelings in our minds – they aren’t necessarily well matched to what is really going on in the real world. Gratitude takes us out of threat mode quickly.

Problem Solving

Acceptance and gratitude are great for in the present moment and can help us to be more mindful/ Porblem solving is where we take action to improve our situation. This is different to worrying – you are focusing on the negatives in your life but with a view to find a solution. Rumination on the other hand, is pure worrying – cyclical thinking that leads us back to the beginning and doesn’t get us anywhere.

“Worry is like a rocking chair – it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere”

With problem solving – you think about all the possible solutions. Write down on a piece of paper every possible solution to your problem. At this stage – you are being creative. Don’t hold back even if it seems impractical or illogical. You can seess that after the initial brain storming session.

It’s important to be open minded and non judgemental in the initial stages of problem solving. See problems as challenges to be solved not as something insurmountable. Approach it with a ‘can-do’ attitude.  Look at what others have done when faced with similar problems. Think outside the box. Use your resourcefulness.

Acceptance, gratitude and problem solving come neatly together to help you deal with many issues you may be facing. A healthy acceptance of the current situation (and this doesn’t mean passive acceptance – it just means you accept the status quo for now instea dof exasperating yourself with “Why me”” statements or “It’s so unfair”. Yep, it may be but it’s still happening so you need to accept it and deal with it.

Gratitude reminds us that all is not lost and there is still good around us. Problem solving offers possibilities to move forward/ This keeps hope alive and helps us not to feel stuck. Write these three ideas down somewhere to remind you to focus on these three mental skills. They really do help!

Mandy X

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash