Over the past couple of weeks I’ve made the argument that we have proven tools at our disposal for preventing stress from becoming chronic and impairing our mental and physical health. Some of these same tools can be used in the midst of chronic stress and have been shown to reverse many of the symptoms of anxiety and depression that often go along with it. This week, I want to briefly describe some of these tools and encourage you to look deeper into them on your own. I think you’ll find that they are more than just psychobabble.
- Replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk. No more “I can’t handle this” or “no one could love me.” You can handle this. And someone does love you.
- Acknowledge your feelings. Acknowledged feelings can be dealt with; denied feelings only make matters worse.
- Be present in the moment. Being continuously lost in thought is hard on the brain. Interrupt yourself every so often with something tangible and in the moment like a sound or a taste.
- Invest in relationships. Regardless of whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, we are all wired for relationships. We can’t be healthy if we ignore them.
- Breathe. Yes, it’s that simple. Intentionally deep, slow breaths have an immediate impact on your heart rate and emotional state, and can protect against future stress when practiced daily.
- Get some exercise. Physical exercise changes the brain in some very important ways, both in the short term and in the long term. (See my next post for details.)
- Try yoga and meditation. Not just for Buddhists, meditation is a way to give your mind rest from racing thoughts, worry, and all around busyness.
- Eat healthy. Refined sugar, carbs, saturated fats, and caffeine all contribute to making us more sensitive to stress, while fruits, vegetables, meats, and vitamins and minerals can help us to tolerate stress better.
- Establish a rhythm of rest. Five minutes per hour, one full hour per day, one full day per week. Set your alarm.
- Pray often. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
- Meditate on Scripture. “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8).
- Give God praise. We were made to worship God, and when we praise Him, it restores our proper perspective.
- Seek joy and peace. These are commands in the Bible, not feelings that are dependent on our circumstances. Choose joy. Choose peace.
*If you’re like me and need to see proof that these methods really work, read the upcoming post, Science Mumbo Jumbo.