By Stephenie Craig, LCSW
Have you ever had those times when life did not turn out like you expected? The Summer was supposed to be low stress, slower pace, and relaxing. Instead it’s very busy, kids are nursing injuries, parenting is stressful, and you’re exhausted. Maybe you thought you were getting to some finish line in life, only to be met by another curve and several more miles to go when you’re already beyond tired. The house isn’t ready on time, an unexpected job change happens, your health is struggling or a relationship gets complicated. Shifting expectations to live life on life’s terms can feel disappointing and stressful. So, how are you supposed to accept your current reality while also remembering to be joyfully present in the current moment?
7 Steps for a Mindful Approach to Life Stress:
- Notice your stress. Listen to what your body is telling you. Notice tension, headaches, stomachaches, irritability. Notice unhealthy coping skills like substance abuse, overspending, and avoiding. Your body and behavior will let you know you’re stressed if you pay attention. “I’m having a migraine which usually indicates stress for me.”
- Name your stress. After noticing your state of stress, slow down, breathe, and make an effort to determine the origin of your stress. “I think I’m stressed because I was expecting to work at my current job for years and I’m suddenly transitioning unexpectedly.”
- Validate yourself. Say to yourself, “It’s normal and okay to feel stress about this. Most people would be stressed about this. I’m not crazy or dramatic.”
- Sort what you can control from what you can’t. Notice and try to have an accepting attitude toward what is outside your control. Notice action steps that are within your control and take meaningful action on those steps. “I cannot control the house not being finished on time. I can control the next steps about where I will live until the house is finished. Today I will make 3 phone calls.”
- Seek gratitude. While being honest about your feelings of stress or frustration, also notice things in your life that are good. “I’m thankful for caring friends. I’m thankful for my home. I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful for my favorite hobby.” Gratitude provides perspective and balance to difficult situations and emotions.
- Engage in self-care and fun. Take time to do things that are healthy and comforting for yourself. Take a walk, talk to a friend, pray, journal, spend time in nature, play an intense sport, punch a punching bag, listen to a podcast, read a book, take care of an animal, watch a funny show, create art, float on a raft, dance, color.
- Remind yourself that walking through hard things often creates growth and strength. Once you’ve navigated hard things, you carry the experience into future hard situations and know you can persevere because you have before.
You only get one life. It’s easy to slide into consistent frustration and irritability when life inevitably fails to cooperate with your agenda. Try slowing down and taking time to intentionally navigate life’s disappointments while also squeezing the positive out of each day and each situation where you can find or create it. As you navigate your life journey, remember to connect with Journey Bravely at journeybravely.com for additional support.
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