“Stress is our perception of what’s happening outside of us and the power we give it,” saysLauren E. Miller, author and stress expert.
If you can adopt Miller’s definition of the phenomenon as your own, you may find it possible to reframe your perception of stressful situations and, inevitably, experience less stress overall.
The author of “5 Minutes to Stress Relief,” has compassion for hardship (as a cancer survivor she’s been through a lot of it herself), but believes it’s counterproductive to see yourself as a victim. Rather than letting stress overcome you, Miller insists you must transform it.
Yes — stress is, at times, imminent. It’s “recession-proof … It’s one of those things we, as human beings, wage a war against in the jungle of our mind,” the author told The Huffington Post in an interview. The key to dealing with stress, according to Miller, is knowing that you are in charge. “If you make the conscious choice and stay awake at the gate of your thoughts, then you can adjust your perception of any situation,” she says.
Being in charge may not come naturally, but there are some strategies you can use to show stress who’s boss. Below, find six stress management techniques, all of which can be performed in five minutes or less, that can “literally transform the way you do life.”
Be mindful of how you label things.
“Life happens. You have a thought about it. It’s completely objective until you label it,” Miller explains. The way in which you decide to label a certain event — whether joyful, good, painful or ugly — will determine how your body reacts to it. “Your cells are listening,” she says, meaning it’s your brain that tells your body how to respond to an event. Decide to take a moment before you judge and categorize a situation: It’s your choice to label an experience as something beneficial (because you’ll end up learning from it in the long run), or something strictly painful, that’ll only make you hurt.
Erase and replace.
With the tap of a key, you can delete a typo from your screen. The same goes for a stressful thought. Miller suggests using the word “delete” consciously. Practice saying “delete” aloud. “You can actually shift your attachment, you can sever the power you’re giving to your negative thought that’s defining your reality.”
Use your imagination.
If you feel you simply cannot pull yourself out of a negative situation or mood, turn to your imagination. Picture a time where you felt happy and not stressed, or make up an instance in which you would feel this way (even if it never really happened). Although it sounds too elementary to work, Miller assures us that the technique is gold. “Imagination can shift our attitude and perceptions on the spot,” she explains. “Our conscious mind doesn’t know the difference in terms of real and imagination.” So if you can just conjure something calm in the midst of chaos, you’ll begin to experience calm.
Look at your life as a movie.
You’re the director — you get to decide which events become catastrophe, and which don’t make the cut. This is a practice that involves stepping away. “Be the watcher rather than the reactor,” Miller instructs. Look at a stressful moment as if it’s on screen — imagine the scene that initially caused you to feel stressed, and imagine your reaction to it. There’s a lot you can do with this power. You can add props (have the people who are making you feel threatened wear clown costumes, for example). You can make the aggressive characters in your life physically smaller, and decide that your voice is louder than all of the supporting actors of your life’s movie. Looking at a problem from this angle will remind you that you’re in control.
Revisit what’s valuable.
Write down seven things you value most in life. It’ll help put things into perspective, Miller explains. She says to put this list on a “big, fat sticky note, or even make it your screensaver.” This list will remind you time and again that people are more valuable than things. This is your “big picture” doctrine.
Stop by a graveyard.
Admittedly, this sounds more than a bit morbid, but visiting a graveyard — whether literally or figuratively — can help you reframe a stressful situation. Ask yourself, “Would I want to be worrying about this from my deathbed?” and consider the choice you would have wished you made at the end of your life. Taking an “aerial view from your death bed,” as Miller puts it, might help you dig up some wisdom. Miller says when you’re overwhelmed with life, you can experience tunnel vision — “you’re giving too much power to something that’s non-essential.”