By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.
Do you find that you can’t stop dwelling on problems, regrets, and aggravations? Over thinking can deplete the use of good chemicals in the brain and trigger the use of stress hormones, like adrenaline or cortisol. This makes it even more difficult to put a “brake” on negative thoughts. A number of techniques are available to help you relax, clarify your thinking, and balance your lifestyle to reduce stress.
What are some steps to take to reduce rumination? Talking with someone, or writing down your thoughts instead of going around and around in your head may be the most helpful. There is no one way to manage difficult emotions, but here are four approaches to consider to FACE problems and stress.
F ace what you feel. Knowing what we feel and making emotions count makes a difference. We may need to consider all our options to resolve an issue. But, if we are trying to fix our feelings, figure them out, or forget them, we may be avoiding what we feel. In this case, we inadvertently reinforce negative sensations by focusing on them, or trying not to focus on them. Awareness, though, includes mindfulness: observation of one’s feelings, thoughts, and sensations without reacting or judging them. With practice, strong feelings, thoughts and sensations will not alarm you. This can bring peace of mind. Facing feeling can be accompanied by “belly breathing,” deep breathing using your diaphragm. Many do not realize they the hyperventilate, which leads to emotional reactivity, insufficient carbon dioxide, and a higher pH level in the blood. To lessen the intake of oxygen and balance with carbon dioxide, breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Breath out slower than you breath in. Your stomach should extend, not your chest.
A ct based on acceptance of reality, and that includes what you feel. What does acceptance mean? It does not mean to feel good about your situation or feelings, it means you acknowledge what part is real and cannot be changed. Distinguish how you would act if you accepted what you feel, and how you would act if you did not accept what you feel. What would you do differently? What actions would you take to care for yourself and others? This includes taking steps to consider what you feel, but also act according to your values, what is important to you. Self-care includes eating right, exercise, and relaxation. Furthermore, what would give you a sense of accomplishment, a sense of purpose and meaning at home and work?
C onnect and communicate with others. Don’t face feelings alone. Put energy into relationships by spending time, talking, giving and doing for others, including family, friends and God.
E njoy the moment. Our mind is often preoccupied with the past and fears of the future. Focus on the here and now. No matter what is happening, now is the only place it is happening. In this moment, you can handle it. Find something for which to be grateful.
One idea is to create a list of meaningful activities under each of these categories. Divide this list into your daily schedule. Find the right balance and budget your time.
Facing what we feel instead of fixing it, or forgetting it.
Actions, based on acceptance of what you feel, including caring for self and others, and that gives you sense of accomplishment.
Connecting and communicating with others.
Enjoyment and gratitude.