If you find yourself immersed in a stress-filled life, you’re not alone. Our lives are often filled with a sense of chaos from morning until night. Sadly, even our sleep is often disrupted by anxious thoughts or worried spells of wakefulness. You might find yourself thinking, “Why is my life so stressful and out of control? Why can’t I turn off my crazy thoughts?”
If questions like these fill your head, you are off to a great start for creating changes that will reduce stress in your life. How could questions result in positive change? By slowing down to create greater self-awareness—learning to notice what gives us joy and what creates stress—we begin to take charge of our lives. Once we pause to notice what isn’t working for us, we can begin to create the positive shifts we want in our lives. Practice these seven easy steps to create a positive, less-stressed life.
7 Steps to Boost Self-Awareness and Reduce Stress
Step 1: TRACK WHAT STRESSES YOU!
Purchase a small “self-awareness” notebook to tuck in your purse or pocket. If you prefer, use a “notebook” app on your phone to track your thoughts. This little notebook will become a treasure chest of self-awareness jewels and a guideline for how to reduce stress in your life.
Step 2: BECOME YOUR OWN STRESS RESEARCHER!
When you find yourself feeling stressed, pause to notice what causes the stress. Is it a person, a situation, a too-packed daily schedule? Perhaps it’s a critical voice in your head that won’t let up. What ever it is, simply make a note without judgment. Bonus Tip: Don’t re-read your notations; just let them go from your mind directly to the page!
Step 3: MAKE A SELF-AWARENESS DATE!
After a 7-day stretch of making notes about your life stressors, make a date with yourself to review your notes. As you read your notes, you will realize what causes the greatest amount of stress in your life. Make two lists: one of the stressors that are within your control to change and another for those that are not within your control. For example, you may be stressed by an irritatingly nosey neighbor, but you may not want to move. Thus, this stressor might be out of your control to change. This stressor would then fall under your “not in my control” list. Continue until you have a clear outline of stressors that are within your control to change and those that are not.
Step 4: ACCEPT WHAT YOU CAN’T CHANGE WITH POSITIVITY!
When you look at your “not in my control” list of stressors, you might feel powerless. However, with a little attitude adjustment, you might shift into a place of positive acceptance. Thus, if your nosey neighbor causes you stress, you might reduce stress by embracing the nosiness with a smile and thoughts of gratitude. You may think, “My neighbor seems lonely. Her nosiness actually makes her a great watchdog—I bet I’m actually safer with her around!” It can be difficult to always find a silver lining, but with a bit of practice, you’ll discover that you can create an attitude of positive acceptance in almost every situation.
Step 5: TAKE CONCRETE STEPS TO CHANGE WHAT YOU CAN!
Now look at your list of stressors that can be changed; take note of the top one or two you’d like to address first. Then, create specific, actionable micro-goals that will allow you to move toward change. For example, if you feel stressed by a friend who constantly puts you down, your list of micro-goals for this stressor might be: 1) Read up on creating healthy boundaries; 2) Practice setting boundaries by talking to myself in the mirror; 3) Set up a coffee date with my friend to discuss my new boundaries and stress-reduction changes. Now you’re ready to take action! Trust that you have the power to change each stressor one step at a time.
Step 6: PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE ARE KEY!
As you create more self-awareness, you will find that certain stressors melt away while others become more pronounced. This is normal and natural. Your increasing awareness will guide you toward more of what feels good, and it will steer you away from what doesn’t feel good. However, some changes may be difficult initially, as you may unconsciously resist the changes. As well, some people in your life may resist your attempts to shift into a more positive way of being. Stay strong. With patience and perseverance, your stress-reducing changes will ultimately become a natural part of your life.
Step 7: BREATHE AND TAKE TIME-OUTS!
As you create more joy and less stress in your life, remember to take plenty of time-outs. Even a five-minute break to breathe and stretch will do your body and mind a world of good. As you learn to engage in good self-care, you will naturally take breaks to reduce stress before it overwhelms you.
Although life’s stressors can’t be completely eradicated, the use of stress-reduction strategies can go a long way to reduce stress and create inner calm. You might not be able to prevent certain challenges in life from occurring, but you can learn to respond to them in healthy, positive ways. A focused, calm attitude makes all the difference when it comes to reducing the impact of life’s stressors.