Stress, and its physical symptoms, affects 77% of the population as reported by the American Institute of Stress. Over 90% of doctor visits can be traced back to stress in some way from poor digestion, disrupted sleep, increase heart attack/stroke risks, compromises our immune system, increase in anxiety symptoms and more.
The top causes are reported as: job, money, health, relationships, poor nutrition, media overload and sleep deprivation as reported by the American Psychological Association. Therefore, finding ways to relax and get in touch with your true self has become a crucial pursuit in this day and age.
So, what can we do about negativity?
Stress, and its dear companion negativity, is simply a deviation from love. We are surrounded by opportunities in our life, inviting us to either choose love, or to choose fear - and fear is the root of negativity and stress.
Here are some suggestions on how to choose love, in order to reduce stress:
Tweak #1: Love yourself first
We, especially women, tend to ensure everything and everyone else is taken care of before we take care of our own needs (wait… do we take care of our needs ever?). The truth needs to be known: we cannot offer what we ourselves do not feel or have. Not fully, anyhow.
Whatever we are offering, is just a shadow of what our potential could be if we first showed ourselves love. We love ourselves by nurturing our bodies, our minds, our spirit. We do this through proper nutrition, meditation/prayer, movement through yoga or anything else that appeals to your spirit, as well as through sleep & rest and meaningful connections.
Tweak #2: It’s ok to love others from a distance
Your tribe, or your circle of influence, has a direct result in your own feelings and behaviors. Eliminating toxic relationships is a must. If, after interacting with an individual, you feel bad about yourself, or what you do, or who you are, then the relationship is toxic. Though blocking the relationship completely should be the last resort, sometimes it indeed comes to it.
If you feel there is no way to make this relationship a positive one, then it’s time to end it and love them from a distance. Even if they are family. If you can’t entirely remove them from your life, then set clear boundaries and let them know when they have crossed them: “I love you and care for you, but negativity isn’t welcome here”.
Explain that if positivity or respect isn’t something they can offer, then space is what is needed. Then focus on and cultivate relationships that do make you feel safe, secure and good about yourself.
Tweak #3: Be more conscious about what you allow into your mind & heart
Can you remember how many times you smiled in the last 30 days when watching or reading the news? The stories that are told are tragic and heartbreaking, but they are also presented in ways that cause more separation than togetherness. It may be important to you to know what is going on, but it is more important to focus on the things you can compassionately change.
The American Psychological Association has released survey results that clearly indicate how the news can be a major source of negativity and anxiety. My own experience pinpoints to this being a valid concern.
I used to watch the news daily and found myself constantly pessimistic and with an us vs them perspective. Now, I am super selective about the news I digest and have found that over 60% of my tension and negative moods have been eliminated from simply being cautious about what I let into my mind & heart. Instead of turning on the news, just pick up a good book or listen to an uplifting podcast.
Tweak #4: Social media is what you make of it- choose to make it good
More than ever, there is an influx of inspirational do-gooders, a massive amounts of support groups and an abundant access to positive messages. At the same time, there is so much destructive behavior that comes in many flavors such as bullying, complaining, tasteless jokes, attack forums - the list goes on and on.
Here is the thing: whatever makes your soul cringe, just get rid of it. Unfriend. Unfollow. Unsubscribe. AND…don’t go snooping on other people’s pages if it only makes you feel bad. Focus on you and on protecting your emotional well-being! There are even retreats specialized in digital detox, so if you feel like getting a fresh start and a healthier relationship with your devices, consider booking a relaxing stay in one.
Tweak #5: Stop complaining
Most people complain 50-60 times a day and have no awareness that they do so. It is the opposite of healthy communication. It is an energetic statement focused on the problem or negativity rather than the solution.
Complaining includes sarcasm, gossip, judgment and criticism. This keeps us focused on problems and negative thoughts rather than looking for solutions or being grateful for what we do have.
It is damaging to our physical, emotional and spiritual health, as well as our relationships and careers. How can we stop something that is so ingrained in our daily behavior? Here is a cognitive behavioral tool that I use at my retreats - I got the idea from Will Bowen’s A Complaint Free World.
Grab a bracelet and put it on either wrist. Every time you complain, gossip, judge or criticize move the bracelet to the other wrist. Bringing awareness and attention to this often-automatic behavior is more than half the win! Now… see how long it will take you to go 21 days without moving your bracelet!
Tweak #6: Practice detachment
We as humans have a strong need for control. This control includes desires, expectations and requirements that we feel have to be met in order to produce a ‘happy’ life. There is a universal truth that many have figured out though: in order to acquire something, you have to relinquish your attachment to having it.
WHAT? I am not saying detach from feeling good, having nice things or achieving greatness. I am saying we have to detach from the idea of the exact outcome and surrender to the process. Accept that you cannot have perfect control over the way that something happens, and micro-managing it is actually destructive, both for you and your goal.
Detach from needing to have things work out exactly a certain way. The universe is perfect and there are no true failures. Trust that everything is happening perfectly and in the perfect timing.
“Detachment is not that you should own nothing. But that nothing should own you.” Ali ibn abi Talib
Immerse yourself in a healing experience so you can start over with positive vibes; book a stay in a yoga and meditation retreat, to chase all negativity away!