Everyone is eager to have zero stress in their lives, but I tell clients that having zero stress is a dead person goal! A little stress is actually a really good thing. I’m going to share 3 ways to reframe your stress to have it work with you rather than against you.
As a stress physiologist, I understand stress. And frankly, it’s easy to stress people out about how detrimental stress can be for your health, productivity and happiness. But the goal shouldn’t be to have stress begat more stress. Instead, I want to offer 3 ways to reframe your stress in the moment so you can get back to being a more optimal version of YOU.
Reframe #1 Thanks brain!
Giving gratitude may seem like a bizarre thing to do when you’re feeling as if your workload is going to swallow you whole, but allowing your brain to send you spiraling down that path of fight/flight/or freeze isn’t going to help you either. Instead, take a moment to pause and literally thank your brain for doing what it thinks is helpful to you. I literally will say thank you outloud while patting my head. Bizarre? Sure…but it’s effective for me! All those anxious thoughts and worries your brain is sending into play makes it believe that it’s doing a favor for you. Because our brain evolved in a time when stress usually meant you were about to get eaten alive by a tiger, your brain is triggering the only thing it understands. HERE’S HOW TO SURVIVE! GET SCARED, GET VERY SCARED!!!!
When we pause long enough to say, ah yes, I understand that you’re scared brain, it’s okay, I’m not going to die.this isn’t an actual tiger charging at me, it allows the nervous system to settle down rather than continuing to fire up all your resources to escape the oncoming threat.
Reframe #2 Pull back from the microscope
Ask yourself, a year from now, will I even remember being stressed about this thing that’s causing me so much consternation today? Heck, will I even remember it a week from now? It can be helpful to keep a journal of the major stressful triggers as they occur, and how things resolve themselves. Going back through the journal at the end of the week or month can be a pretty revelatory experience when you realize that you’d forgotten nearly all the things that seemed like such major issues at the time. Over time, this technique can give you greater perspective in the moment to help you recognize just how insignificant most of our stressors really turn out to be.
Reframe #3 Wow…I really care.
Sometimes it can be helpful to modify the meaning we attach to our stress. Often there is a fear of failing or looking foolish if we don’t handle the situation appropriately. This leads us to worry and ruminate on anxious thoughts. But rather than catastrophizing about what might happen, we can reframe that worry as a signal that this project or relationship or situation is meaningful and worth putting our best into. While we can’t control the outcome, we can lean into the feeling of value and do our very best.
Until next time, live more, fear(less).