A lot of people handle stress and anxiety by drinking, shopping or eating. But if those are your coping mechanisms, you’re going to end up drunk, fat and broke. Those stress-reducing techniques do nothing to build your inner strength. But you can learn to thrive no matter what comes your way. Here’s how, according to psychologist Joan Borysenko, columnist for Prevention magazine:
- The first way to bolster your inner strength is by not letting bad news overwhelm you. Let’s face it – good news rarely gets repeated. But bad news is aired again and again and again, in living color. But emotionally intense images get deeply etched in our memory because they activate the amygdala. That’s the part of the brain that’s involved in anxiety and panic. So why program it with frightening images? Avoid being overwhelmed by limiting TV, internet and radio news. You’ll get the information you need a few minutes; after that, it’s just more of the same. Instead, put inspiring images where you’ll see them. And go to sites like Good News Now .com for uplifting news stories.
- You can also learn from super-resilient people. Dr. Dennis Charney from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine investigated people who suffered extreme stress and emerged psychologically intact. We’re talking Vietnam war veterans who were held captive and tortured for years. So how did they avoid depression? They were optimistic and unselfish. They used humor, had strong role models, and felt they had a purpose in life. You can nurture those traits in yourself. Look for ways to help others, and act on what you know to be right, even in small ways.
- A Ukrainian priest was going to church as he did everyday, when he was stopped by a military guard. The guard asked him, “Where are you going?” The priest replied, “I don’t know”. The guard was furious and threw him in jail. He asked him “Why did you lie?” And the priest answered, “I didn’t lie. I didn’t know that I was going to jail.” The lesson? We don’t know what will happen either. People who expect the worst tend to be stressed-out. And what you imagine often turns out to be worse than reality. So focus on what’s happening now. You really don’t know anything else than what’s happening at this very moment.