Taming Stress with Self -Talk

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Taming stress with a shift in self-talk is easier than you think. By taking some time to consider your self-talk and how you can make a shift from more negative forms to more positive forms you will be able to better move toward your goals. This perspective shift is key to laying the foundation for change and thus taming your stress.

What is Self-Talk?

Self-talk is talking to the self (often about the self). Self-talk can take many forms and not all self-talk is bad for you. In fact as we will see in this post there are some kinds of self talk that you may want to cultivate to help you better manage your stress levels. Taming your stress could be as easy and shifting your self-talk perspective.

Types of Self-Talk

We all have self-talk. In fact most of our thinking revolves around the self (even when we think it does not). Self talk is inevitable, but you can have an impact on the kind of self-talk you choose to engage with.

  • Negative
  • Postive
    • Motivational
    • Instructional

Negative Self-Talk

Negative self-talk is talk (thoughts) about the self which are negative in nature. This type of self talk can be toxic especially if we don’t do something to reframe our thinking. Because we often simply believe this kind of talk as “true” without investigating it more it can lead to poor choices. Negative self-talk is often the focus of therapy. Once we become aware of it we can use skills to reframe the thoughts into more accurate ones which can then bring our stress levels down.

Positive Self-Talk

Positive self-talk like the name suggests is talk (thoughts) about the self which are positive. There several types of positive self-talk as detailed below. Positive self talk is easy to overlook as we tend to take the positive for granted especially if it does not match the idea we already have about ourselves.

When we are working on self improvement it is easy to forget about the positive aspects about ourselves and the positive things we are already doing. Your positive self-talk is a benefit and a resource you can call on to help you during difficult times.

Review more about negative self-talk in the post Stress, Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors for specific types of negative self-talk.

Motivational Self-Talk

Motivational self-talk is often pursued as a means to improving self-esteem and creating a positive climate for pursuing goals. We can use motivational self-talk to encourage ourselves to set specific goals. We can use this type of self-talk to get ourselves engaged and ready to make an plan of action.

A 2008 article in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise detailed a study in which tennis players were able to decrease their competitive anxiety and improve self confidence. Check the article out here.

Instructional Self-Talk

Instructional self-talk is used to learn a new skill or take on a challenge in our lives. This is a great tool to use when we want to move toward a specific goal. Once we have an action plan and are ready to get moving in the direction of our goal, instructional self-talk can help us to move through the steps required to meet our goals.

So what’s the point of all this Self-Talk talk?

To decrease our stress levels it’s important to recalibrate your thinking between the negative and positive forms of self-talk.

Becoming more aware of our self-talk and determining the types we are most likely to engage in is key. While we will likely never completely eradicate negative self-talk we can make some changes to better address things we would like to change.

First we must become more aware of our self-talk. Review the post on the inner critic here.

Some ways to uncover your self-talk are:

  • Free association journaling
  • Self reflection several times a day
  • Ask a loved one what they think your self talk says

Free Association Journaling

Free association journal writing is a good tool to elicit self-talk. Simply put, this is a type of writing in which you start writing and write whatever comes into your mind for 15 minutes. Often I ask people to start with something neutral and my typical suggestion is “start writing about an orange.” It doesn’t take long before we will start writing about ourselves. Take a look and you will likely find some information about what you think about yourself.

Self-Reflection several times a day

This can be done by setting a reminder and asking yourself “what am I thinking about myself right now?” Jot down what you are thinking without judgement. Do this three to four times a day for three days.

Ask a loved one for their perspective

This is likely the easiest avenue, but could lead to some inaccuracies if there are issues between you and your chosen loved one. Another way would be to ask several loved ones and look for patterns of response. For example if each person you ask gives as one of their responses “you are too hard on yourself,” this is likely at the core of your thinking in some way.

Taming stress by shifting your self-talk style

Once you have started to tune into your self-talk and placing it in one of the above categories you may find that more of your self-talk tends toward the negative. You are not alone. This is a tendency we have as humans. Work at not judging your self-talk but taking some time to look at it and determine what part you want to change.

Often people get bogged down with emotionally laden words to describe the self. In my practice I encourage people to look at these and then start to shift them to descriptors with less baggage

I have a list that I call “The ‘F’ word list.” While not all of the words begin with ‘F’ they all come with varying amounts of emotional baggage. Once you’ve identified some of the ‘F’ words you use most often I encourage you to be on the look out for these words and then to shift your language to become more descriptive and less judgmental.

For example consider exchanging these words
  1. Failure
  2. Fat
  3. Judgement
  4. Bad
  5. Lazy
  6. Abnormal
  7. Stupid
  8. Fake
  9. Fault
With These
  1. Did not meet my goal
  2. Overweight
  3. Assess
  4. Not where I’d like to be
  5. Not as active as I’d like to be
  6. Move to a different beat than most
  7. Inauthentic
  8. Responsibility

When we are more aware of our self talk we can more easily shift our thinking into one of the more positive forms. This exercise is not about turning everything on its head and making it pie in the sky wonderful. It’s about accurately identifying our thinking without judgement and laying a plan to do something different.

Self judgement often leads to more negative thinking and a brick wall that may encouraged you to give up on making change which of course does not lead to any improvements in how you feel or your stress levels.

Once you have identified your negative self-talk you can work at inserting more positive forms of self-talk into your thinking.

For example if I am “not as active as I would like to be” what can I do to become more active? This may require some insertion of motivational or instructional self-talk into my day. This allows me to think more clearly about how to become more active rather than beating my head against the brick wall of “I’m just lazy.”

Use more positive self-talk to your advantage. Not to create inaccurate thinking, but to make some changes and decrease self-judgement. Shift o self-assessment and consider when you’ve been successful in the past. Often skills that have been helpful in other areas of life are transferrable. Using skills you already have to build new ones will help decrease your stress as well.

Give it a try and tell me what you think.
Drop a comment in the comment section.
Thank you for dropping by. Have a great day ~Lynda

DIY Stress Relief Kit~ on-the-go stress relief.

red park bench against a tall hedge. Stress relief on the go.

Chances are we are all going to have ongoing stress in our lives. But that doesn’t mean we should give up and just deal. Accepting that there will be a certain amount of stress is beneficial so you can address it. Putting together a DIY stress relief kit is a great way to take your skills on the road.

Remember those exercises back in 5 minute stress management and Effective stress Management makes you a better you? Knowing where and when your stress is likely to increase is helpful, because then you can make a plan for how you will manage it. Taking some time to build a DIY stress relief kit for when you are away from home can be a great help.

We can all be great stress managers at home, but what about when we have to be away? Whether it’s the day to day chores about town or being on vacation making your own Stress Relief Kit can be a great go to when you are away from home.

What is a DIY Stress Relief Kit?

A DIY stress relief kit is a collection of physical an/or virtual items and reminders that help you to better manage stress as it arises. The U.S. Department of defense has endorsed a helpful application for phones called Virtual Hope Box and is a collection of virtual distractions and inspirations to help individuals better manage stress. It is customizable to the individual and is available in both the Apple and Google app stores.

Stress Relief to Go

It’s easy to build a DIY stress relief kit. First think of what helps you when you have an increase in stress. Second think of items that speak to each of your senses. And then find portable versions of those items to take with you.

Here are a few ideas

  • Sight
    • Pictures of loved one(s)
    • Images of a favorite place
    • book
    • puzzle book
    • small bottle of bubbles
  • Sound
    • Music/book/podcast
    • Ear plugs-for those that are sound sensitive when stressed.
  • Smell
    • Favorite fragrance
  • Taste
    • gum or mints
    • favorite candy
    • Tea bag
  • Touch
    • Pocket rock
    • Favorite touchstone item
      • ring/necklace
      • clothing item

The kit can include anything that helps you when you are feeling stressed.

Then what?

Once you have all the items that you think will be helpful, choose a way to store them. A small container or ziplock to throw in your bag may be all you need. It also depends on how long you plan to be away from home. I often carry items daily, but when I leave home for an extended period I add a few more items.

Test Drive Your Stres Relief Kit

Don’t forget to test drive your kit and add or subtract items as needed. Your kit is only as good as how you use and care for it.

What do you think?

Will you make a stress relief kit to take with you?

Leave a comment in the comments section.

Thanks for dropping by. Have a great day ~ Lynda

Decrease Stress with a Pet~ and get healthier too!

A lady and her dog take a selfie and decrease their stress.

Decrease your stress by adding a pet to your life. Having a pet has been shown to decrease blood pressure, improve overall health, and decrease both sick days and doctor visits. If you can afford to have a pet (both in terms of financial commitment and time) it may help you live a longer, healthier life.

Why pets may be good stress busters

In a 2012 review article in Frontiers of Psychology Andrea Beetz and co-authors Andrea Beetz, Kerstin Uvnäs-Moberg, Henri Julius, and Kurt Kotrschal looked at 69 original studies concerning the effects of human-animal interaction (HAI) and the oxytocin system (OT).

Here we have what appears to be the effects in both mind and body from something as simple as owning (or even interacting) with a pet such as a dog or cat. More studies looked at dogs, but there were a few cats in the mix and even a few birds and fish. Effects for birds and fish were a bit less strong since the studies they looked at did not allow for human-animal contact only viewing.

The Mind

In terms of mental benefit they detail a number of studies of school aged children (mostly pre-school up to 1st grade) with a dog in the classroom. The bulk of the studies they looked at showed-

  • Decreases in aggressive behavior
  • Positive effect on empathy
  • Improved social attention
  • Improved interpersonal interactions

Effects in the adult populations were similar. They mostly looked at older people and people with dementia. This is where the birds and fish came in showing that just being able to watch birds in an aviary and look at fish in an aquarium had positive effects on restlessness and improvements in mood.

They also found studies highly suggestive of a positive relationship to stress reduction as well as reduction of fear and increase in trust. Since most of the studies were with dogs it must be noted that subjects in the studies did not have an aversion to dogs.

The Body

Well you may say “that’s awesome” but what about the body you mentioned earlier. Well they also detailed studies that indicated benefits to our body overall. These benefits include-

  • Reductions in overall blood pressure
  • Decreases in heart rate
  • Increases in heart rate reactivity.

These effects were better with one’s own pet, but the effect occurs with non-familiar, friendly animal interaction as well. As little as 5-15 minutes of stroking a dog showed effects. That’s a pretty powerful effect.

Human-Animal Interaction also had a subjective decrease in anxiety and fear in subjects. Some studies also looked at pain and noted that individuals with a dog often used less pain medication and had fewer overall doctor visits.

But That’s Not ALL!

An Amazing Hormone

The peptide hormone called oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and released into the circulatory system via a network of oxytocin containing nerves through sensory stimulation. Oxytocin has many effects on the human body, but particularly increases


  • Eye Contact
  • Empathy
  • Trust
  • Social Skills
  • Positive self perception

Oxytocin also deceases depression and counteracts aggression.


Oxytocin has great benefits for the body as well. And warning….this might start sounding familiar.

  • Decreases blood pressure
  • Increases the function of the parasympathetic system
    • the parasympathetic system works as a brake on the sympathetic system, so better function is a really good thing.
  • Decreases subjective experience of anxiety
    • Subjects report feeling better

Tying It ALL Together

So how do pets and oxytocin interact? Well it’s conjectured that given the effects of Human-Animal Interactions that pets are actually causing this to occur in the body, though there are no definitive studies showing causation there is so much overlap that there is a growing belief that the two are indeed connected. In fact in one study just making eye contact with your dog was sufficient to show changes in oxytocin production. How cool is that?

So it seems that pets can and do decrease stress. I have seen this in my practice. It’s so amazing to see people change in their mood and stress levels after getting a pet.

So, if you can afford one (and I recommend checking your local animal shelter) both at the beginning and through the animal’s life. And if you have the time to spend with your pet I wholeheartedly recommend adding a pet to your life. Not only will you likely feel less stressed, but you just might live longer as well!

Now having a pet isn’t the only way to improve your life don’t forget to get optimal sleep, eat well, and get some exercise.

How has having a pet enriched your life?

Thanks for dropping by and have a great day~ Lynda

Take Control of Finances and Bring Stress Levels Down

Person holding debit card. Stress and finances.

We’ve all been there before. You roll (or walk) up to the ATM, insert your card, and find that something is not quite right. You’ve misplaced the funds and things are just not quite adding up. Which makes your stress skyrocket. Finances and stress are often linked, but you can do something about it.

Key Financial Management Mistakes

  • No budget
  • Overspending
  • Champagne taste on a beer budget

Budgeting is key to financial success

If you want to know how much money you have at any given time, you need to spend a little time to develop a budget. This need not be a huge undertaking, but you need to sit down and write out how much is coming in (income) and where it is going on the way out (expenses). Taking hold of your finances will go a long way to helping you manage stress.

Most of us have one income stream (our job), but if you have multiple streams of income be sure to tally the monthly income from all streams.

Don’t overlook expenses. Take a moment to sit down and write out an exhaustive list of your expenses both essential and non-essential.


  • Rent/Mortgage
  • Car expenses–gas, service, insurance
  • Phone expenses–mobile (and landline if you still have one)
  • Utilities–gas, electricity
  • Groceries
  • Healthcare expenses
  • Savings
  • Pet expenses


  • Going out to eat/drink
  • Stops at coffee shop drive throughs
  • Vacations
  • Shopping
  • Subscription services
    • Netflix
    • Hulu
    • Internet service
    • Cable
    • Music


Overspending simply put is spending more money than you are bringing in. It’s easy to get caught up in this especially if you are stressed. How often do you buy something as a way to manage your stress even when you don’t have the money to do so? If this is you then sitting down and looking over your finances will likely do far more to manage your stress than buying that new (fill in your preferred impulse purchase here). Any quick search of how to better manage money typically brings up “SPEND LESS THAN YOU BRING IN” messages.

If you are using money to mange your stress levels you may find you are consistently in the scenario at the top of this article. Always running on an empty bank account. This simply makes the stress levels climb as you attempt to find more and cleverer ways to move things around.

Starting to budget while uncomfortable will help you to see where your money is going and make changes to address any problems you discover. It puts you in the diver’s seat of your life and help you manage stress more effectively.

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget

After taking a good hard look at your finances and discovering WHERE your money is going, start to think of the HOW and the WHY. Ask yourself some questions:

  • Do I purchase expensive items when a less expensive one will do?
  • Am I spending on vacations when I don’t even have an emergency fund?
  • When I go out with friends am I spending more to look cool or together?
  • Am I mindful of my budget when spending on non-essentials?
  • Would being able to save money give me peace of mind?
  • Am I engaging in mindless spending?
  • Do I use money as a way to address emotional pain?

Taking a good, hard, non-judgmental look at how you spend your money can help you make meaningful change that brings your financial stress levels down. And by all means be honest with yourself. You can’t make meaningful change if you don’t honestly assess your finances.

Financial bottom line

After tallying your income and expenses separately. Simply subtract the total of your expenses from your income. This tells you your bottom line and it can be helpful to know how much (or little) you have to work with.

Total Income Minus Total Expenses Equals Discretionary Income

Discretionary income is the income you get to do with as you want. Buy lattes and/or expensive shoes. But also keep in mind your goals. Do you want to take a big vacation? If so perhaps you put a percentage of your discretionary income into savings.

Notice that I have listed savings as an essential expense. Having at least 6 months or more of income in savings in the event of an emergency will also help your stress levels.

How are finances connected to stress?

One topic I hear about over and over again in my practice is money. It does not matter how much money you have coming in if you have poor money management skills you can suffer as much (or more) than someone who has very little money coming in. I hear about money related stress from people from widely differing incomes. It all comes down to how you manage those funds. Taking control of your spending by composing a budget and looking at your spending is key.

Don’t forget that this process can be used in other areas of life as well. Review eating, sleeping, and exercise.

Tell me what you think in the comment section.

Thanks for dropping by and have a great day. ~Lynda

Stress Reduction by Sleeping Better.

Sleeping stress free cat!
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” Robert Frost

Sleeping well is an important part of stress management. It’s a no brainer that having a high level of stressors can interfere with sleep. So while we focus on sleep let us not forget that we must also look to our other stressors and work to manage them as well. Don’t forget to review the steps in the previous section Stress-Management here. That said getting in the habit of sleeping well could greatly reduce the stress you feel while awake and your ability to manage any stresses that do come up.

So what constitutes good sleep?

We often focus on the hours of consecutive sleep as one measure. February 2015 the National Sleep Foundation changed the sleep ranges for many categories of humans.

  • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

Check out the full article here.

For the purposes of this article we will focus on the young adult through older adult ages.

First determine if you are getting enough sleep. Track your sleep on paper by writing down when you go to bed and when you wake as well as estimating how long it takes to fall asleep and any interruptions to your sleep through the night. You could also use one of the fitness trackers on the market to track your sleep.

If you find you are not getting enough sleep take a look at your habits around sleep. Are you…

  • Getting to bed at approximately the same time each day?
  • Rising at the approximately the same time each day?
  • Using your bed only for sleep and sex?
  • Turning off the television and stepping away from screens at least one hour before bedtime?

These are important components to having the best shot at a good night of sleep. Changing schedules from day to day can wreak havoc on sleep quality. Having a good routine is a must. Another important component is not using your bed as the command center for your life. Your brain needs to know that the bed is for certain activities which allows it to relax when bedtime rolls around. Things like solving the problems of the world and watching television or using computers cause the brain to become more stimulated which interferes with sleep. The blue and green pixels from television and other screens also suppresses melatonin (a sleep promoting hormone) which naturally rises as bedtime approaches.

Doing those things and still not sleeping well? Start looking at your daytime habits. Are you…

  • Getting at least 30-60 minutes of natural light?
  • Avoiding stimulants like caffeine at least 5 hours prior to bedtime and nicotine at least 1 hour prior to bed?
  • Getting 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise during the day?
  • Avoiding intense exercise within 4 hours of bedtime?

Natural Light

Exposure to natural light (sunlight) in the early part of the day helps to reset the circadian rhythm which helps make you more alert during the day and sets you up for better sleep at night.


Stimulants used through the day and into the late afternoon and evening can interfere with sleep. If you don’t experience sleep difficulties no worries, but if you are struggling with sleep cutting off the supply of caffeine to your brain earlier in the day may be helpful. If you are a heavy caffeine user it is best to taper your use over time as cutting off the supply suddenly could cause a major headache.


Exercise helps the body in multiple ways, but can also help improve your sleep. According to the folks over at hopkinsmedicine.org “30 minutes of moderate exercise may see a difference in sleep quality that same night.” And moderate exercise isn’t marathoning or olympic style speed stuff. The moderate zone is when you are noticing the effort, are breathing heavier, but can still talk and hold a conversation (but can’t sing), and you notice you are sweating a bit after 10 or so minutes of effort.aking one or more of these changes is a benefit to your sleep and helps to decrease stress during your waking hours.

Give it a try

Make one or more of these changes and decide for yourself if they help improve your sleep and help decrease stress during your waking hours.

Sleeping better and still stressed? Take a look at a previous post for other stress reduction strategies here and here.

The Inner Critic~Increases Stress!

The inner critic is always watching and always wants to be sure you know what you "can't" do.

The inner critic increases your stress. The inner critic is that piece of you that is watching everything you do, say, and think and passing judgement. Another way to describe this is ‘self-talk.’ We all have one, but sometimes the critic runs rampant and our stress levels rise. You can quell the power of the inner critic and help to decrease your stress levels, but you have to take some consistent steps to do this.

Who is the Inner critic?

Simply put the inner critic is you. More specifically the inner critic is your thoughts about you. In their book Self Esteem Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning refer to the “pathological critic” and while the critic can indeed be pathological, we need not allow the critic to call the shots. Allowing the inner critic to call the shots increases stress. We can all learn to recognize when we are being hounded by the critic and then learn to put the critic in its place.

Recognizing the Inner Critic.

The inner critic tends to show up any time there is a shift in mood. It also likes to judge your decisions. It may be the smallest of decisions such as whether to start a new exercise program. But it could also be a big life decision. Big or small the inner critic does not discriminate. The inner critic likes to create inner chaos.

A few weeks ago in the post Stress and Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors we discussed how inaccurate thinking can increase the stress. This is the place the inner critic hides. The critic may make it difficult to identify when thoughts are not accurate.

You may start to notice that the critic shows up in the same types of scenarios. It can be somewhat predictable which is helpful because once you start to notice you can begin to plan strategies to disrupt the critic.

How To Tame The Critic

So how do we tame the critic? Easy, start to talk back. Once you are aware that the citric is influencing your decisions you can begin to take back your power. Becoming aware of when the critic is most likely to show up is key. For example I used to have a lot of difficulty speaking up in groups. My inner critic was very good at telling me “no one cares what you have to say.” And for a long time, I fell for it. But then I started to pay closer attention and found that others actually wanted me to speak up. Over time I was able to consistently challenge the critic (i.e. challenge the distorted thought “no one cares what you have to say”) and I began to become more at ease with speaking in groups. It didn’t happen over night, but it did happen.

It can help to ask yourself a few questions:

  • If my best friend had this thought would I tell them the same?
  • What evidence do I have that this is accurate?
  • If I look back on this in a few years how will it look?
  • How has this type of thought helped or hurt me in the past?

Often just answering questions like these starts to loosen the critic’s grip. The critic does not like to be questioned.

Once you begin to challenge the critic you may find your stress levels begin to go down.

What part of this post was most helpful?

Leave a comment.

Thanks for dropping by! Have a great day. ~ Lynda

Learn Something New And Reduce Stress!

Learn something new!  This is my something, piano has been challenging for me to say the least.

A great way to reduce negative stress is to learn something new. It’s not just great for stress reduction, it’s also good for your brain!

According to the folks over at Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School learning a new and challenging skill causes your brain to grow which increases your cognitive reserve. Who couldn’t use a little extra ability to think and remember. Sign me up.

Choose a new skill to learn.

To get the benefits you have to choose something that you know relatively little or nothing about. It has to be a new to you skill. For example when I was in my late 30’s I chose to take up the piano during an emotionally challenging part of my life. Learning the new skill helped me in ways I am just beginning to recognize (but more about that later).

Choose something that you may have always wanted to know more about. It can be anything, but I would say making it as different from your daily grind as you can has an added benefit of adding variety to your life.

Choose anything that speaks to you, for me it was piano, but for you it may be learning Japanese or how to brew wine at home or anything else of interest to you.

Feel the burn

The next criteria is that it should be challenging. It has to have some elements that you may struggle with learning. This is what makes your brain grow. The brain won’t grow/change if you don’t give it a challenge.

In my piano learning I have struggled many a day with learning a new piece. My teacher is also sufficiently challenging me with something called music theory. He tells me it will make me better so I stick with it, but oh my goodness it is a struggle for me to learn the language of music theory.


To get good at anything we need to practice it. Another way to say this is repetition. The brain seems to love repetition. This is probably why children do things over and over as their brains are rapidly growing and building skills.

Also repetition creates an environment for growth that provides the perfect kind of stress to make your brain bloom. This happens with muscles as well. Think of a time when you couldn’t complete a physical challenge, but after sticking with it you were able to build muscle and power through.

How does any of this decrease stress?

Good question. Review that in the first paragraph I referred to negative stress. I conceptualize negative stress as the kind of stress that makes us grumpy and sometimes dysphoric. It’s a kind of stress that tears you down. Recall that in the post 5 Minute Stress Management we broke stress out into different categories of distress and eustress.

When we learn something new we are engage the benefits of eustress. This is the kind of stress that leaves us feeling accomplished or fulfilled. Cognitively we find this type of stress appealing which in turn tends to lead to positive emotions. Also doing something different that is off the beaten path of your life creates a great distraction from things that may stress you out.

What will your new be?

Drop a comment in the comment section.

Thank you for dropping by –Lynda

Political Stress–What You Can Do To Decrease It.

Political tensions in Scotland were high in 2014 as voters decide to remain part of England rather than to leave.
2014 Scotland votes to remain a part of England

Political stress is becoming more common. In my practice I am hearing about the stress of the political climate with increasing frequency.

Whatever side of the aisle you land on (I am not here to debate politics) you may be feeling stressed.

This often occurs around the time of a big election when tensions are already high, but in the last 10 years or so it seems that the tension has been lasting longer. This is a global phenomenon. We are all touched by politics in some way.

If you are stressed about politics you are not alone. But what can we do about it on an individual level? The focus of this blog is to discuss stress and what we can do about it personally.

While none of us can directly change the political climate we can–and I argue should– manage our part in that climate. This is the part that is changeable on an individual level. Remember back in early posts we talked about looking at what we can control and what we can’t and developing strategies accordingly. Review those here and here.

Addressing Your Part in Politics

  • Know your issue(s)
  • Get involved at your comfort level
  • Act locally
  • Be kind
  • Get distance

Know the political issues you are passionate about.

Break down the issues and decide which are most important to you. There are a lot of issues in any cycle and it would be impossible for anyone to be well informed on ALL of them. Choose 1 or 2 that you feel most passionate about and focus on those. These are the issues that you will be best informed on. Everything else can be relegated to the back burner. In doing this you can be somewhat informed on those issues, while your primary issues are the ones that you’ll be most informed on.

Get involved at a level that feels right to you.

Get involved at your personal comfort level. Not everyone is built to make phone calls or knock on doors. If you feel most comfortable just being informed so you can talk with your friends and family about the issues you are most passionate about then that’s good enough. That said if you’ve always wanted to go door to door then find a way to do that.

Make local politics your point of entry and action.

Act locally. While national politics is often more accessible in terms of what we see and hear on the news or in our news feed, local politics is truly accessible to the individual.

Being involved at this level often provides a feeling of being really involved and then seeing how the issues play out. Also these are typically the politics that most affect us on a personal level, so getting involved here makes it more likely that you will have an effect that you can see/feel.

Be Kind

Be kind. Having political discussions is difficult if we don’t agree. Most of these conversations will likely occur with family members or work colleagues. While these conversations can be emotionally engaging they can also be minefields of disaster. If you devolve into saying things you can’t take back you will create more pain for yourself and your relationship. I would argue this also creates suffering for all involved. While you can’t control the others in the conversation, you can control your part. If things take a nasty turn, step back and even leave the situation if needed.

Take a break from the political fray.

If you are feeling so stressed that you don’t want to hear one more thing about politics take a break.

In my practice I often suggest a “news fast.” This is either completely tuning out of the news or radically changing your consumption.

I hear of many homes where the television is on to various news channels “all day.” Given that most news channels are cycling the same news over and over through the day that becomes a lot of repetition which can feel overwhelming.

I suggest turning off the television and consuming news through printed material. You may want to take a complete break and that’s good too. Every year I see more and more people taking a break from social media for a period of time. I think this is great because they are using their personal control over an issue that is feeling stressful to them.

In conclusion, if you are feeling stressed about politics you are not alone and better yet there is something you can do about it.

Which of the strategies above are you planning to implement to address political stress?

Leave your answer in the comment section.

Technology and Stress–What Are You Missing?

Most of us have ready access to technology through computers and smart phones. This means that we are virtually never without access to information. We are also likely never far from our family or work. While this can be comforting to a point the constant availability can also be stressful. In this way technology increases our stress levels.

While this has enabled us to be more flexible with our time it can also increase stress if we aren’t able to set good boundaries around our use of these devices.

What’s the issue?

For many smartphone use has increased to the point that we are using them even in the midst of other activities. We’ve all seen it; folks who’ve made an effort to get together all sitting around looking at their phones. In many instances people still say they are “lonely” or feel “alone” much of the time.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my smartphone as much as the next guy, but it can get in the way of relating sometimes. We have all had those moments when our partner gets home and we are deep into that audiobook or scrolling through social media. You find it hard to set it aside and lose that precious time with a loved one. Even though that’s what we were told that technology would do for us–free us up to do fun things with each other–and yet time and again we opt for tech over real world connection.

What will it take for us to use our devices when it is helpful and set them aside when we want to connect with others?

What to do?

I have a few ideas on this and the first and foremost we have to rejuvenate our capacity to sometimes be uncomfortable. We have to build a tolerance for boredom.

That’s right. We have to be willing to be bored to enter into a creativity zone, a connection with other people zone, a zone of having our own uninterrupted thinking. As a culture we’ve gotten away from that and I think it does us all a disservice.

After reading Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zamorodi as well as Atomic Habits by James Clear I am even more convinced. (Disclaimer, I am not receiving any compensation from either of the authors I just really enjoyed their books and provide links for your convenience.) Both authors discuss the role of boredom in how we get hooked into habits. And to be sure we are quick to fill any empty space in our days as if we fear what we may find.

We also have to be willing to set limits on our use of technology. That can be a little more difficult if your work revolves around use of technology, but even then we can set some limits on what we are willing to allow. In limiting our reliance on technology we may also decrease our stress.

Try this:

The next time you find yourself with some alone time.

  • Try not being “connected” to your device.
  • Set a timer for 5 minutes.
  • Turn off that audiobook and don’t reach for the radio or television.
  • Silence your phone.
  • Just be alone with your thoughts.
  • Look at what thoughts come up.
  • Do they have a theme?
  • When the 5 minutes are up take another 5 to write down what you noticed.

If you find you are having difficult thoughts try looking at a previous post on thoughts, feelings and behaviors here.

You can also take 5 minutes and do the exercise in the post 5 minute stress management here.

What happened with your stress levels when you spent some time disconnected from technology?

Relationships and Stress: It’s about you.

Tree with swollen trunk. Sometimes we feel out of sorts when our relationships are out of sync.
When relationships having you feeling yucky.

Relationships come in many forms, work relationships, friendships, and romantic relationships to name a few. When one of these is out of balance we can feel our stress increase.

Knowing your specific needs within relationships will help to guide you in keeping all of your relationships healthy.

First it’s a good idea to determine who, what, why, and where. Well not exactly in that order. Start by considering WHAT you want from various relationships. Then consider WHO you want to provide those aspects. Keeping in mind that no one person can fulfill all your relationship needs. Look also at WHY those aspects are important to you. And WHERE does this relationship most impact you (home, work, social?).

Start with an exercise

In this exercise you map out the various relationships in your life to determine the number and closeness of the various relationships in your life.

Start by taking a blank piece of paper and draw 4 concentric circles like this:

circle exercise

In the middle circle you put yourself. Then consider all the relationships in your life and start to place them in the circles based on how close they are to you and how much trust you have in them.

Types of Relationships

  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Aunts, Uncles, Cousins
  • Co-workers
  • Friendships
  • Pets
  • People you see routinely, but don’t necessarily do things with.
  • Lover, partner, husband, wife

Just doing the exercise may help you to consider who you find most trustworthy and who you find difficult to trust. Also consider the last time you had a conflict with each of the individuals on your map.

When relationships are out of sync what can you do?

Remember the only parts within your control are your parts.

When you begin to identify that one of your relationships is out of sync. Sit down and start to look at what the issues seem to be coming up most often between you and that person. Look at the earlier post 5 minute stress management to determine what is within your control and what belongs to others. Once you figure out what is coming from your side of the relationship you can start to make changes.

By looking at your overall stress management you will begin to see some recurring themes in your thoughts. Check those thoughts and correct any that are distorted. By correcting those distortions you may be able to alleviate a lot of the stress you feel, by simply thinking more clearly.

If difficulties remain after you have completed this step then it may be time to talk to the other person. By talking to the other person about what is stressing you and why you may find information on the issue you haven’t considered which can help your stress levels decrease. Review the earlier post thoughts, feelings, and behaviors here.

Give it a try and let me know how it worked for you!