Chronic stress is a hazard of our modern lifestyle. Finding ways to manage stress levels can be crucial in helping to foster better connections and positive feelings such as joy and gratitude. Here are just a few tips you can use in your daily life to create a greater sense of well-being.
1. Maintain Balance in your life. Well-being comes from living a life with a balance of activities that are pleasurable and offer feelings of achievement and closeness. Examples of pleasurable activities may include reading a good book, watching a comedy, dancing or singing to your favourite songs, taking a relaxing bath or eating your favourite food.
Accomplishing small goal-orientated tasks can also help us gain a sense of balance, so you might consider getting some housework done, doing some gardening, completing a work task or cooking a new recipe. Finally, we are social animals who benefit greatly from closeness and connection with others. Catching up with loved ones, going for a regular walk with a neighbour or friend, or picking up the telephone are ways we can maintain connection.
2. Practising mindfulness and self-compassion. Mindfulness practise helps us gain perspective on our thoughts and feelings so we can be more present to our moment-to-moment experience. This changes our relationship to our thoughts and often brings much needed compassion. As Tara Brach so eloquently says in her book, ‘Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of R.A.I.N’, we can learn to love ourselves into healing. Download a mindfulness app, join an online mindfulness class or read a book to learn how to develop a kinder and more compassionate relationship with yourself through mindfulness practice.
3. Rethinking unhelpful thoughts. Learning to become aware of our negative automatic thoughts and challenging their validity can bring a sense of truth and peace. This leads to cognitive flexibility, which helps to appraise our life circumstances with more discernment and discrimination. If you find yourself thinking in unhelpful ways, you might try ask yourself how helpful the thoughts are. Are you seeing the situation in a new light, or a positive way? Does thinking about the problem in this way make you feel better? If not, you might try and approach the problem with a new perspective, or focus on something else.
If you are practising such tools, but still find it difficult to reduce your stress, seeking out a therapist to help discover your own unique issues is a good idea. Working with an experienced therapist will help to uncover thoughts and behaviours, family and relationship problems and/or past experiences and traumas which contribute to your ongoing feelings of stress.
Jacqui Snooks is a registered counsellor and psychotherapist and director of Haven Counselling and Psychotherapy in Mornington. For more information please visit: havencounselling.com.au