7 great ways to outsmart stress

7 great ways to outsmart stress

via Forbes by Naz Beheshti

Stress is inevitable. We cannot wish or hack it away. However, by being smart—and playful—about stress, we can rob its power over us. We can be proactive instead of reactive. Similar to the skilled practitioner of martial arts like judo (which translates as “gentle way”), we can artfully deflect stress rather than trying to meet it head-on.

Science tells us that we can get a jump on stress by executing strategies that give us the upper hand. Stress is most debilitating when it builds up over time—when we ignore the subtle symptoms and instead try to tough it out. By the time we can no longer ignore it, it has evolved into chronic stress.

The strategies below should be implemented in conjunction with everyday healthy habits that raise our baseline mood and improve our resilience. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and restorative sleep help us thrive and ward off stress. Attending to our connections, both at work and in our lives, counters the loneliness that is a well-known driver of stress.

1. Do not keep calm and carry on

Certainly there are times when an unproductive emotion like anger arises, and the best course is to pause, reset, take a breather, walk away, or sleep on it.

There are other times—such as before a big presentation—when willing ourselves to be calm will not work, and may even be counterproductive. In these cases, research shows, the best strategy is to re-label stressful anxiety as positive excitement.

Anxiety is a high arousal state. Our blood is pumping and our senses are alert. We cannot shift immediately from a high gear to a low one any more than our cars can. Instead of trying to downshift, shift to a more productive high arousal state—a state of excitement. Across several different activities, researchers found participants who told themselves they were excited performed better and exhibited less stress.

2. Take off the rose-colored glasses

The field of positive psychology is sometimes confused with the power of positive thinking—making an effort to be optimistic and see the glass as half full. While positive psychology embraces the benefits of a positive outlook, it also tells us we should begin by viewing the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.

The false optimism of seeing the world as we wish is to be can sometimes set us up to stumble. Conversely, seeing the world as it is, and then accepting what we cannot control, changes our focus toward what we have control over—our attitude and mindset…

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