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Here are one psychologist’s 5 favorite stress management tips that you probably don’t want to hear
Your brain is part of your body. And if you’re not taking care of your body, how can you expect your brain to function well and be resilient to stress?
I know consistent exercise is tough for all sorts of very legitimate reasons. But that doesn’t make it any less important.
If you’re chronically stressed and not consistently exercising, just stop reading right here and start make a plan to make this happen. Even 20 minutes a day of brisk walking is an excellent start and will make a dramatic difference in your stress levels.
If you’re stressed, there’s a good chance that stress involves other people—conflict with a spouse or family member, worry about coworkers or bosses, etc.
What people seem less aware of is that other people can also be one of the biggest sources of stress relief and resilience. Specifically…
Spending consistent, quality time with people who are genuinely supportive helps you stay resilient in the face of stressors and difficulty.
Now, like exercise, this takes some work and requires tradeoffs… If you want to make more time for spending it with supportive people, you’re going to have to say no to other things and protect that time. And if you don’t have supportive people in your life, that means doing some serious work to find and foster those types of relationships.
It seems like a law of human nature that, left unchecked, our expectations of people only increase with time—especially the people closest to us.
It also seems like a law of human nature that we strongly resist examining our expectations of other people, much less—God forbid!—actually lowering them.
Unrealistic expectations are not inevitable.
Start here: Pick one important relationship in your life and do an expectation audit. Sit down with a cup of coffee and pen and paper and start writing down all the expectations you have of them.
Most people who are chronically stressed are also chronically worried.
I mean, why wouldn’t you be stressed all the time if you’re constantly catastrophizing, playing out terrible outcomes in your mind, and imagining the worst?
Unfortunately, you can’t just tell your brain to stop worrying—this usually just leads to even more worry and stress! And that’s because worry is a habit. Which means that if you want to do less of it, you have to train yourself to worry less.
The best way I’ve found to re-train your mind out of chronic worry is a technique called scheduled worry. By deliberately making time to worry on purpose each day for a limited amount of time, you train your brain to let go of worries at other times throughout the day.
Everyone wants to believe that if they just put on a happy face and do some positive self-talk each morning, or do some bubble bath self-care, all their stress is going to magically melt away.
If you’re stressed out all the time it’s likely because the structure of your life is literally stress-inducing. And very often it’s the structure of your work life that’s the main culprit (marriages are a close second).
So, difficult as it may be, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re not seriously considering and making concrete plans for how to leave an unhealthy job or career
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