5 Powerful Practices to Reduce Stress & Build Resilience

gratitude journaling meditation stress management success principles May 05, 2024
reduce stress

I’ve been working with a couple clients to navigate some unusually difficult situations recently. Each situation has been very different from the other, including the emotions and actions, but exceptionally stressful nonetheless. Perhaps you’re dealing with a particularly stressful situation right now and can relate a little extra.

I’m not sure I know of anyone who hasn’t gone through an incredibly difficult period in life, short- and longer-term. Even people who generally come from a very positive, upbeat perspective will find themselves challenged by people, events and situations that can leave them feeling frustrated, heartbroken, depressed or even downright pissed off.

There’s no way around it. The ups and downs are all part of the human experience. The question then becomes: how do you cope with the stress?

For many of us, we may seek the temporary release that comes from a glass of wine or a cocktail, or perhaps even an edible. (Just keeping it real.) Others may turn to indulging in comfort foods or shopping. Those who are feeling out of control or angry could find themselves snapping at, or full-on lashing out at, those around them.

The problem with seeking temporary relief from stress with these options, though, is that it doesn’t actually help, it doesn’t last, and it doesn’t help to resolve anything. The short-term unhealthy ‘stress reliever’ may even end up causing more stress. Worse yet, it could become a counterproductive habit that keeps you from reaching your goals.

There’s good news, though: You have a choice in how you handle every situation and there are several things that you can do to cope and build resilience.

Whether you’re concerned with managing the current stress of what you’re going through right now, or you’d like to handle the next event in a healthier, more productive way, I’d like to offer a few options that I’ve found to be very supportive with my clients, as well as in my own life.

1. Movement and healthy eating.

Yes, this is stating the obvious and something that I’m confident that you are very well aware of! However, I’m not suggesting this from an overall health perspective. Instead, I offer this as the first idea as a foundational suggestion because if you don’t feel healthy physically, it’s going to be a heck of a lot more challenging to make healthy, positive decisions in daily life – let alone during stressful periods of life.

Think about all of those funny Snickers commercials that poke fun at how people can act when they’re ‘hangry’. The point is that we’re a lot more prone to treat others poorly and make decisions from an unhealthy perspective when we are not feeling our best, so this is a great spot to start.

Going on a walk, especially in nature, is a wonderful way to ground back into the present moment, giving your mind and body a break from the stress. And if the weather is bad or you only have a few minutes, try cranking up a favorite song and dance, bounce or shake it off! Movement is a great way to help you process and release stress, not to mention give yourself space to figure out how to move forward. 

2. Journaling

Journaling can be a fantastic release. And since it’s your private journal, you’re free to write about anything and everything that you’re experiencing without any fear of judgment, which can help you process and release at an even deeper level. It’s also a record of your journey that you can go back to see how far you’ve come. Plus, you never know what may show up when you’re journaling. Personally, I’ve even had a number of awesome ideas pop up for me during some of my journaling!

If you’re journaling your way through a difficult relationship or situation, you may even find tremendous relief at some point in creating some sort of ceremony around burning the related journal pages (using caution, of course!) Marking the moment when you are giving the universe the signal that you are ready to move on.

Free-form journaling

Grab your favorite pen, open your journal and simply start writing whatever comes to your mind. And, yes, I absolutely believe that journaling should involve paper and a pen. No devices allowed! No judging your words, spelling, handwriting. Draw pictures or doodles. Just let whatever shows up flow onto the page.

Question-prompt journaling

If you’re someone who feels more comfortable with a little more guidance, answering a series of questions may be a good option for you. Here are a few questions that you can ponder and write about every day:

  • What or who challenged me today?
  • How did I handle the situation?
  • How might I handle a similar situation in the future?

Gratitude journaling

My favorite way of journaling, hands-down, is gratitude journaling. Gratitude journaling, as well as expressing gratitude in other ways, is life-changing. When you spend time regularly reflecting on what you’re grateful for, you’ll wire your brain to begin to see more of the positives in life! This practice will change you from the inside out as you begin shifting to a more positive mindset.

I speak from personal experience as I’ve completely shifted my entire existence from being a more negative, depressed person to someone with a positive perspective and who’s much more resilient when faced with tough situations. This doesn’t mean that I don’t get stressed, angry or depressed, of course, that’s part of the human experience. But it does mean that I can bounce back from a tough situation a lot faster than before I began this practice.

A gratitude journaling practice can be as easy as writing down five things you’re grateful for each day. Ideally things that are unique to the day or time in your life, and not generically using “my house, my family…” Yes, be grateful for those things, but this is about grounding into the present and finding more goodness in the little things each day. Even when you’re in a bad place, you can still find appreciation for simple things like sunshine, food, or even the release of a good cry. 

3. Shake It Off & Transition Practice

We often carry the emotions and energy of whatever was going on with us as we move into the next phase of our day. When you find yourself in an argument or worked up about some interaction that’s taken place, stand up and literally work to shake it off.

Picture how an animal in the wild has a near-death experience and ends up shaking its entire body and then going back to nibbling on the grass as if nothing happened. That animal was in the flight-fight-freeze state of being, but returned to its natural state. It’s as if all of those stressful emotions were water that the animal intentionally shook off. You can try the same practice.

Alternatively, close your eyes for a few minutes and focus on your breath. Breathe in calmness. Breathe out any residual stress. Picture yourself calm and content in the next part of your day that you’re entering. 

Try both of these and see how you feel!

4. Yoga & Meditation

Yoga and meditation are probably along the lines of #1, but they both deserve a mention. Both of these powerful practices go a long way towards developing mindfulness and connecting with your inner guide. When you’re faced with future stressful situations, you’ll be much more likely to be able to respond in a healthier, more productive way, which can increase the chances of a happier outcome.

5. Owning Your R

Speaking of responses, there’s a magic little formula that you can keep in mind that’s known as E+R=O. Event + Response = Outcome. As someone who’s certified in Jack Canfield’s Success Principles, I’m very familiar with this formula and I’m always working with my clients to keep them focused on the only part that they can fully control – their response.

The event is the event. Whatever it is is going to happen. How you respond to it, though, is entirely up to you. Powerful, right? And how you respond is going to have an impact on the outcome, so taking care of practice 1-4 above will go a long way in helping you respond in a much more productive way, thereby helping increase the odds of a positive outcome.

When things are going well, ask yourself if things could be going even better. Even if you’re not currently feeling like you’re in a challenging phase of life, there’s still plenty of benefit in using all of these techniques.

Enjoy the journey!

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