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Six Mental Strategies for Stress Relief

Adjust Your Perspective

At a women’s conference, prime front seats were erroneously double-ticketed. Many of the ladies who had previously arranged for front seats were delegated to the back. Their unhappiness with the seating arrangements threatened to derail the positive tone of the meeting. Apologies were made but to no avail. Then the chairwoman had an idea. The next speaker was Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic, who has spent more than several decades in a wheelchair. When she was wheeled onto the stage, she said, “Some of you ladies are unhappy with your seats. I understand.” She then launched into her motivational talk. No one complained after that. We can gain perspective and courage by learning from people who have overcome challenges greater than our own.

Check Your Focus

Selective filtering is a cognitive distortion where the mind focuses on the negative to the point of excluding or downplaying the positive. Disgruntled with someone? Identify his positive traits and contributions. Maybe a husband does not help in the kitchen or with housework, but he does take out the garbage, wash the car, mow the yard, play with the children, and work faithfully. Your happiness and the quality of relationship depend upon appreciating his good traits and the contributions he makes towards the wellbeing of the family.

Expression Deepens Impression

Our words have the power to react upon our mood and character. If we speak or write negative thoughts, negativity will register more easily upon our brains. Frequent negative thinking depletes the brain circuits of needed brain chemicals. By strengthening the synapses involved in negativity, thinking unpleasant thoughts becomes more dominant. In contrast, if we express positive thoughts, positive thinking will become easier for us. Of course, there are times we need to discuss problems; but these can often be restated or reframed as to convey hope.
Mrs. Smith, a talented opera singer, had surgery for a removal of a growth on her vocal cords. Following the operation, she progressed well and could sing, but experienced periodic bouts of high anxiety caused by the event. Mrs. Smith had come so close to losing her livelihood! Whenever someone asked, she rehearsed her fears. When this principle of expression deepens impression was shared with her, she immediately incorporated it, and soon her anxiety was gone.

Check Your Mirrors

By beholding, we become changed. Mirror neurons are brain cells that fire either when we perceive an action or perform it, forming a visual-motor circuit within the brain. Observing an action activates mirror neurons in the visual centers located inside temporal, occipital, and parietal lobes. Mirror neurons explain why viewers connect so strongly with on-screen emotions. Of course, we do have the capacity to modify our automatic emotional responses. If one views the typical TV dramas, characterized by crime, dishonesty, and lust, one can experience vicarious stress. For example, watching drama impairs the ability of blood vessels to dilate. The effects upon our moods and attitude are often significant, yet largely imperceptible.

Distinguish Between Real and Imaginary Stress

About 30 years ago, I lived on a rural campus and often walked 2 miles along a mountain road to my home. There was a short cut trail which I seldom used in the summer because of chiggers and ticks. It was near dusk. I had a mile to go when suddenly my heart increased its pounding and I broke out into a profuse sweat, for there, three feet ahead of me was a copperhead. I would have to backtrack to the trail but it was getting dark, and I didn’t have a flashlight. So I began to throw rocks at the snake. Three times. No movement. I thought maybe a car had run over it. I edged closer. No, a car had not hit the snake. My enemy was a stick! Imaginary stress can produce many of same physiological reactions as real pressure. Why waste your energy on imaginary stress? Imaginary stress produces many of the same harmful, physiological effects as genuine stress does. Why waste your energy on imaginary stress?

Develop Manageable Strategies

List all your roles. Set realistic goals and then break those goals to achievable sub-goals. Do allow some buffer time in your schedule because unexpected situations do occur. Working from a list helps you to stay focused on your priorities. Adjust unrealistic expectations. Since happiness and health depend upon the harmonious development of the physical, mental, social, and spiritual aspects of our being, carve some time out of your busy schedule to invest in your health and happiness.

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Disclaimer: The information in this article is educational and general in nature. Neither Wildwood Lifestyle Center, its entities, nor author intend this article as a substitute for medical diagnosis, counsel, or treatment by a qualified health professional.

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