5 Ways to Flip Your Stress Mindset
Delayed trains. Spilled coffee. Lunch left on the counter. Dropped laundry. Stepping on a Lego shudder.
It's easy for our days to get off track before they even really get started.
At times like these, it’s so easy to want to turn back around, jump back in bed and pretend the day never happened. But, because that’s not an option for most of us, there are a few simple ways to turn that frown upside down.
It starts with changing the way you react to stress.
According to a recent study by Harvard and Yale researchers, we have the power to alter our stress mindset and change how we feel and act when we're under pressure.
The study authors pinpointed two stress mindsets: a stress-is-debilitating mindset—when you view stress as a major setback—and a stress-is-enhancing mindset, when you view stress as a learning and growth opportunity.
The second mindset is where it's at.
"Individuals who endorse a stress-is-enhancing mindset reported having better health than those who endorse a stress-is-debilitating mindset," the study authors found in their research. "Specifically, respondents reported fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety while also reporting higher levels of energy."
Yes, I know the whole “change your attitude, change your mindset” sounds like a whole lot of mumbo jumbo, but hear me out: After a pretty epic run-in with stress recently (I’m talking furnace went out, short-circuited the electricity with the space heater AND unexpectedly starting my period on the train), I made the executive decision that I wasn’t going to let bad days get the best of me.
So on a recent bad day, I stripped down, turned on some Ariana Grande, hopped in the shower and sang my heart out, emerging fresh and clean and with a new resolve to take on the world afterward.
Instead of letting my bad day get the best of me, I made a conscious effort to flip the script and see it as a challenge worth accepting. I chose a stress-is-enhancing mindset versus a stress-is-debilitating mindset—and it worked.
A better mood can be yours with these proven strategies:
1. Rise to the Challenge
If you’re a competitive person, like me, try viewing your stressors as an obstacle you have to overcome. Sure, it may be less physically daunting than the Rock’s Titan, but, as the researchers found, treating your stress as something you learn from rather than dwelling on the negative aspects can help you feel less stressed.
Next time you run into a challenge (printer jam, anyone?) try flipping your perspective. Instead of seeing it as a blocker to a good day, think: "Oh, I see you morning challenge—and I accept." Then, dive in.
2. Take a Break
There are physical acts that can help you flip your stress mindset, too. Even if it feels counterintuitive to step away from a stressor (my fellow "fix everything ASAP" folks get it), doing so will help you come back to the situation feeling more resilient and solution-oriented, according to the American Psychology Association.
Some break ideas: Go for a walk outside, focus on fixing a snack or meal, or simply take a few deep breaths at your desk (with your computer closed!).
You can also literally wash the day away and send all your worries down the drain—at least temporarily. According to TIME, there are health benefits to singing in the shower, such as the release of endorphins and oxytocin, a hormone that’s known to alleviate stress and anxiety.
Need help getting started? Check out this playlist from Spotify.
3. Go for a Run
There’s a reason people rave about a runner’s high. Our bodies produce a chemical called endocannabanoids when we're excercising, which helps us de-stress, according to research from the University of Heidelberg.
So lace up those running shoes and hit the pavement—your body and mind will thank you.
4. Get Your 'OM' On
I bought myself an Apple watch because #TreatYoSelf and one of my favorite features is the daily reminder to breathe. For a minute each day, I stop what I’m doing and breathe in sync with the animation on the screen. It sounds so simple, but it instantly makes me feel calmer.
The Shine app is also a great free meditation app for when you need a longer timeout. Plus: You can now sync the Shine app with an Apple watch to listen to meditations right from your wrist.
5. Try Empathy on for Size
When you’re stuck in traffic and someone cuts you off, it’s so easy to cuss them out and flip them the finger while you’re at it. But after reading The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu last year, I remembered the religious leaders suggested putting yourself in the place of the other person.
What if the other driver had a family emergency? Or just received some really bad news? Showing empathy costs you nothing and can change everything.
Bottom line: Stress is a natural part of our day-to-day. We can't avoid it—but we can flip it when it pops up. Printer jams got nothing on you.
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