How to Cope During a Stressful Time
The media is constantly targeting us these days with ominous news stories of terrorism, crime, ecological issues — just to name just a few. These issues appear to be widespread and multidimensional and sometimes seem to intensify each day. Dealing with this negativity could be anxiety provoking to say the least.
How do we as individuals and as families cope during these stressful times? Is it possible to be positive and feel good on a daily basis when we are consistently bombarded by these negative issues?
Believe it or not, it is quite possible to remain peaceful and joyous during these challenging times. Here are eight suggestions aimed at achieving and consistently maintaining emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing:
1. Own your personal power. Every human being has personal power—that is, complete power and control over our thoughts and our actions. It is important to recognize and understand this innate capacity within each of us, and learn to use it to cultivate our wellbeing.
2. Take control of your thoughts. Once you recognize and understand the concept of personal power, you can learn to control your thoughts. Many people do not understand that our emotions do not just happen—they actually flow from our thoughts. In other words, first we have a thought, and then we experience a feeling. Therefore, if we can learn to choose more positive thoughts about ourselves, others and the world around us, we will automatically feel good. Conversely, if we stay stuck in negative thoughts, then we will continue to feel negatively. What you can do to start implementing this is to notice when your thoughts are negative, and then try to reach for a more positive or more comforting thought—the best you can do at that moment. For example, instead repeatedly thinking thoughts like: “The stock market is down again…what a crisis,” reach for more optimistic thoughts such as, “This is only temporary…many things in life are cyclical…Let me think of other creative ways to bring in income…” The basic difference here is thinking/ feeling hopeless versus hopeful. This takes time and practice. Eventually, you will notice that you feel better because more positive emotions will flow from your more hopeful thoughts.
3. Recognize what you can control and what you cannot. Understand that there are some things in life you can control (your thoughts, your actions), and some things you cannot control (the stock market, the weather). Do your best to think positive, hopeful thoughts. Choose actions that support your true desires and goals. Then, let go of the rest—because you cannot control it anyway. Then have faith in the universe that your more positive, healthy, optimistic thoughts and actions will attract great things into your life.
4. Practice gratitude and appreciation. Try to look for positive aspects of your life. Choose to focus on these things rather than only what you perceive as negative or lacking. Then, practice thoughts and feelings of gratitude and appreciation for the beauty and blessings in your life.
5. Think about the broader perspective. Reframe your thinking by looking at the bigger picture. If you and your family are having a difficult time, think of it as temporary and an opportunity for growth and learning rather something permanent and/or disastrous.
6. Find balance—physically, emotionally, spiritually. Think about your life and whether or not there is enough healthy balance physically, emotionally and spiritually. Achieving wellness is multi-dimensional. So…start asking yourself some important questions: How do I feel physically? What can I do to improve this? Exercise? Nutrition? Better sleep? More balance between activity and rest/meditation?
How do I feel emotionally? What can I do to improve this? Am I able to let go of anger and fear easily? Do I have a support system of people I can be real with and share with? Do I experience joy, enthusiasm and laughter on a daily basis?
How do I feel existentially or spiritually? Do I have a sense of connection to something that gives me comfort— nature, a higher power, other human beings? What can I do to improve this?
7. Utilize prayer/journaling/affirmations. If you are spiritual or religious, use prayer and your sense of faith to help you to achieve (a sense of deeper connection) the above. Journaling is a great tool to help you express your thoughts and feelings, get in touch with your true self—your desires and beliefs. Positive or self-love affirmations are also helpful tools to aid you in changing negative beliefs about the self, others and the world around you.
8. Turn off the television. Please… Again, own your power. We have choices everyday. There is no need to watch television, particularly programs that make youfeel emotions such as fear, sadness or anxiety. You can choose to either watch no television, or to watch only those programs that make you feel good, such as comedy or educational programs. Consciously decide to partake of other activities that make you feel good—read a book, take a walk, spend time with good friends, or do something creative and have fun.
Carin Friedman MSW, LCSW