If you’re interested in reinventing yourself, consider for a minute how much of your life is affected by stress. It’s possible to get so entrenched in fighting fires and lurching from disaster to disaster that we become essentially reactive. We plan our lives around our troubles, instead of having fulfilling lives filled with challenges and opportunities.
We get so enmeshed in problems related to stress, our very personalities get warped. This isn’t to say we become an evil shadow of ourselves, but we end up straying from what we want to do, how we want to be and who we really are.
It’s possible that at one time we had some great coping skills, but times change, and so do situations. What worked well in the past might not be working so well nowadays. Think then of how different your life could be if you weren’t so powerfully affected by stress. By learning some new coping skills, you reinvent yourself anew.
Consider the following techniques to improve how you cope.
Change your self-talk. We aren’t always aware of the way our inner voice affects our outer reality, but we need to get awake to it. When something irksome happens, do you think “Not another disaster! What am I going to do? This is hopeless.”
No one is suggesting you change that to a mental happy dance when something bad happens but changing your self-talk to a more supportive and encouraging stance helps reduce stress. In many ways, it’s the way we perceive disadvantageous situations that control our response—not the trouble itself.
Cognitive re-framing. Changing your self-talk is part of a coping skill set called cognitive reframing. Cognitive reframing involves looking at a problem or situation with a fact-based approach, as opposed to an emotional approach. Feelings are real, and it’s important to honor them, but our emotions are not always rooted in reality.
Recognizing when our feelings aren’t coming from a realistic outlook is one of the most powerful coping skills you can ever learn. It’s a skill, and it takes time and practice to shift from a stress-coping approach based on emotion to one based on facts. By observing things as they are, as opposed to how we wish they were, how we think they should be, or how we fear they might be, we learn to tackle problems realistically.
Increase your flexibility. Often, we don’t see solutions to life’s problems because for various reasons, we deliberately block off those very solutions. This following is a complex example, If you’re behind at work, but working one weekend would get you totally caught up, would you do it? If your answer is “No way, I’m never doing work for free,” yet you agonize over your backlog of work all week long, are you really better off holding to your ideal of no weekend work? If it’s just one weekend to correct a perpetually agonizing thorn in your flesh, which would you rather have?
There are so many examples of this kind of self-blocking. Sometimes, you have to think of the unthinkable to reduce stress. As well, a rigid approach to problem-solving doesn’t get anyone anywhere. Reducing stress requires a fairly flexible approach. People will notice when you become less rigid.
Add mindfulness to your life. Mindfulness is self-explanatory, but more of a challenge than it sounds. Mindfulness means fully attending to what we’re doing right now, what we’re feeling, and what’s prompting those feelings.
Mindfulness also takes into account the physical environment. Where are we, what are the colors, the whole tactile experience going on around us?
If that sounds ridiculous, remember that everything we experience—everything—gets filtered, interpreted, valued or discarded inside our heads. Our minds create stress. You can be mindful anywhere, at any time.