Stress Reduction: Non-Negotiable for Any Positive Life Change
There are myriad changes we often want to make in life. We want to lose weight. Be happier. Eat a healthier diet. Change our general life direction. We should always strive to be living our best life and most of us need to tweak some things to make this happen. We may start off enthusiastically but then falter along the way.
Things may not change overnight and that is okay, it will take time. But, in order to stick it out and keep on the right path, we need to make some deeper changes that lie at the root of the bad choices we make, that zap us of our motivation, that keep us stuck where we are—we need to do some work on the inside, not just focus on outside changes. One of these deeper changes is learning to deal with stress more effectively.
Stress as Saboteur
Stress is a natural part of life and unless you become the Buddha, you will probably grapple with it on a regular basis. So, if we cannot eliminate it, the primary goal becomes finding ways to deal with it more successfully so it does not wreak total havoc on our life. Without finding ways to manage stress more effectively, you will never be able to make lasting change in your life, no matter what that change is.
Why? Because regardless of what changes you want to make or what you want in life, it all starts in the mind and if things are not going right up there, all efforts will be for naught. Stress messes with our mind big-time and when it is controlling us rather than us controlling it, we self-sabotage.
Stress leads to negative thinking, damaging perspectives and self-criticism and judgment–of which will keep us off the path of getting what we want. Making certain choices lies at the core of successful change and our mental state determines if we make choices that bring us closer to our goals or farther away from them.
Whether you are hoping to change your eating habits, achieve healthy weight loss or find the courage to leave your office job and pursue your deepest passions, failure to achieve a calmer mind will stand in the way.
Tips for Dealing with Stress
There are lots of ways to relieve stress—anything that makes you feel good mentally and physically will do the trick, but certain tools may be particularly effective in improving your overall mental state since they will help you get at core issues.
I highly recommend meditation—it will reduce stress and help you gain better control over your thoughts. Meditation helps you step out of your crazy mind and into a space where you can observe everything that is going on; you will soon see that all of that craziness is not you, but fleeting entities.
In this space, you can respond to what is going on around you rather than automatically reacting in harmful ways. Responding instead of reacting will not only reduce stress levels, it will prevent a lot of unnecessary suffering in life resulting from doing and saying things in the heat of the moment that you come to regret as soon as a minute later.
Journaling is another great stress-relieving tool because it gives you a chance to bring all that stuff in your head out into the world where it may lighten the load mentally; it gives you a chance to consciously reflect on what is going on in your life and analyze it in a constructive way. Things to include in a stress journal may be what is bothering you that day, how you reacted, why it bothered you, why you reacted the way you did and how you could handle the situation better.
All too often, we focus on all the outside things to make the change we want and these outside things are of course necessary. But, we often ignore ourselves, and the inner change, and then wonder why we are not getting the results we want. Our mental state needs to be attended to as well if we want to make true change.
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Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about topics that help people achieve happiness and greater health, such as nutrition tips and personal development. Photo provided by Alan Cleaver.