Five Instant Stress Soothers
for Counteracting Negative Emotions

By Nicky Vanvalkenburgh

Do you ever have thoughts, feelings or impulses that attempt to hijack you?

These intense feelings and thoughts come out of nowhere. They show up when you least expect it. It might be anxiety, despair, loneliness, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, or anger. What is your response to this villain who is attempting to take over your mind, body and emotions?

You have two choices: Willingly become a prisoner, or assert yourself and regain control.

If you don't want to be “hijacked,” turn the gun around and hold your thoughts captive. Use your inner voice to coach yourself, and regain control of your emotions. For quick relief, try these five instant stress soothers:

article about stress reduction1. Change your perspective. You may not be able to control the source of your stress, but you can control the way you respond to it. Change your perspective by reframing what is happening around you. In other words, change your interpretation. Think about things in a new and positive way. If you’re on the verge of a meltdown, for example, because your spouse trashed the bathroom (and left wet towels on the floor) you could remind yourself that he was running late for work. If your co-worker lashes out at you, remind yourself that they are stressed because of deadlines, quotas, or something else beyond your control. In other words, try to be easy going and don’t take things personally. Whatever happens, strive to be cool, calm and collected. Rather than lashing out and reacting emotionally to difficult people and situations, diffuse your feelings by putting things in a proper perspective. Reframing takes conscious effort, but being flexible and easygoing will reduce your stress level.

2. Let it go. Be forgiving of others and yourself. There is a difference between conviction and condemnation. Conviction is a healthy form of guilt. If you make a mistake, admit it. Accept responsibility and strive to make things right. Learn all you can from your mistakes, and then let it go. Don’t rehash, analyze, blame, or continue to ask why things happened the way they did. Don’t condemn yourself; let it go. Release your feelings and don’t apply any more negative energy to the situation. Remember that there is nothing you can do to change the past. Let go of your mistakes. Put it behind you and move on with a clean slate.

3. Realize that the only person you’re responsible for is yourself. Sometimes obvious solutions are overlooked by the people who need them the most. Your aunt can’t finish a sentence without hacking, and gasps for air after walking up the stairs. The problem? She refuses to stop smoking. There’s a job opening that’s perfect for your unemployed neighbor with seven kids. The problem? He refuses to apply. The man is crippled by feelings of inadequacy and failure. To make matters worse, he refuses to get help for his emotional problems. As much as we want to help other people, they must want to help themselves. We can’t talk them into it. In the long run, individuals must be personally motivated to change. Don’t be stressed out about people, circumstances or events that are beyond your control. If someone refuses to get the help they need, realize that it’s not your responsibility. The only person you’re responsible for is yourself.

4. Keep a positive mental outlook. You can be resilient to stress in everyday life by thinking positively. Be happy, optimistic, upbeat and adventurous. Let setbacks roll off your back. Change the way you look at problems until you find the best solution. No matter what the situation, strive to be cool, calm and collected. Keep a good sense of humor about yourself. If all of this seems Pollyannaish to you, consider a person who dwells on negative thoughts, beliefs and attitudes. It will take them twice as long to succeed (if that happens at all.) Pessimism enhances stress, and tends to make things worse.

5. Be assertive when you need to be. It is important to deal with problems immediately and directly. Speak up for yourself. It may not be appropriate to vent your frustrations at work, but you can confide in a spouse, friend or family member. In other words, express your feelings in a safe environment. Don’t stuff your feelings, or attempt to de-stress by overeating, smoking or drinking excessively. It’s important to be in touch with your feelings and to acknowledge them. Express your thoughts clearly and with conviction. Look at people when you talk to them. You can be assertive and still be considerate of the feelings of others.

Realistically, there will be always be times when we fall prey to negative emotions. We can train ourselves to recognize these feelings and address them, before they “hijack” us and take us prisoner. Increased awareness and better coping skills will put us on the road to less stress, every time.

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