With Love and Gratitude

A blessing a day keeps the doc away

Good-Thought Choices: 8 Ideas to Keep Stress at Bay

Create scenarios for turning around "what if" worry into embraceable solutions.

From businesswomen having panic attacks because of overload to students feeling blue about not having a love — and those in between—women can find themselves walking into a dark place shielding themselves from the light of possibilities. When that happens my mantra often comes not from our work at the psychiatry department at Yale, but rather from a coffee table book: Feng Shui Your Life: Jayme Barrett with foreward by Mary Steenburgen, page 51 to be exact. Sometimes we need simplicity.

“What do you do when a negative thought or series of thoughts come into your mind? How can you stop the scenario from unfolding?”

Say out loud, “That’s a story that doesn’t need to happen!”

Eight "Good-Thought" choices to clear your head

1. Change the channel

Without even stopping to analyze the fear or root cause of stress that concerns you, banish it. Pretend you are channel surfing for a show that will lift your mood. Look around you. What brings you the most joy? Focus on it. Relax. Breathe. Smile. Activity, Sex, Laughter and Meditation Are Stress Relief Secrets

 2. Rewrite your worry story

Many people worry today about something that may never happen tomorrow. Jot down what is troubling you then, as Dr. Robert Sternberg suggested in rewriting our love story, think of ways to rewrite your worry story using these ideas as a model to think differently. 3 Ways to Rewrite Your Story and Embrace the Future  

 3. Make a gratitude list

Basically a gratitude list is a specific way to count your blessings. This is almost always a helpful way to relax. Make a list of all the things around you for which are grateful. Be certain to express gratitude for yourself and everything about you. Let Gratitude Bring Back Your Smile

 4. Design an indoor serenity garden

Think about where you might place a serenity garden in your home. How would you like it to look?  Where might you find the sand, the polished rocks, the plants? Here are some Ideas for Indoor Serenity Gardens | Garden Guides. Any type of gardening is a stress reliever.

 5. Turn your attention to someone who needs you

Everyone at every moment has a friend or relative who needs to hear a cheerful voice. Think of who it is that needs to hear you say, "I'm calling you just to listen to you talk to me about anything and everything."

David Spiegel, M.D., Stanford University, told me during an interview published some years ago that “Social support is a stress buffer.” And he added: “My prescription for good health is to take one friend or family member at least three times a day as needed.” Q&A on Stress with Dr. David Spiegel, Director, Center for Integrative Medicine.

6. Visualize the world through rose-colored glasses

When the world feels as if it is crashing down around you because you are overwhelmed or sad or feeling as if you cannot move forward, here is one of my favorite meditations from Shakti Gawain, author of Creative Visualization. 

“I am an open channel of creative energy. Creative ideas and inspirations are coming to me every day. I am the creator of my life. I am now creating my life exactly as I want it. Divine love goes before me and prepares the way. My inner wisdom is guiding me now.”

This link will help you to experience her Pink bubble meditation technique - YouTube.

7. Generate solutions to overcome stress and fears

A student called this week to interview me because she was writing an article for singles who had no date or plan for Valentine’s Day. In the lives of 20-somethings, this is stressful and an easy time to begin feeling very sorry for oneself. I explained that the secret to chasing the blues away is in generating solutions rather than thinking of that sad place of home alone. Just a few simple thoughts that brighten: 

  • Plan a movie night with BFFs and watch laugh-until-you-cry films.
  • Have a champagne and strawberries party with lots of chocolate.
  • Buy boses of notes and invite friends over for a “Thank you note” party. Then send everyone who deserves more than an email a real note with a stamp on it. Try 4 Tips to Pave the Way for Valentine’s Day

8. Give yourself an "I wish" night — the reality of a plan outweights imagined angst

Did you ever notice how certain television shows with cliff-hangers lasso you? While I have no television, I became so addicted to White Collar on Hulu.com that I found an online link that brought me episodes starting with Day One. Yes, I am missing tonight's finale. Please don't tell me a word about it. I will catch it through iTunes.

However, during this distraction, I ignored my massive “To Do” list and didn’t feel the least bit guilty or anxious, although I can obsess over such lists.

However, when we have another focus that drives us, it helps to minimize our stress and our fears. The reality of a plan eventually outweighs the unreality of gloomy anxiety. If you are in that anxious place, try setting a goal for yourself: 7 Days to Our Heart's Desire

Dr. Melanie Greenberg’s advice: Reevaluating worry

With regard to anxious moments, Dr. Melanie Greenberg pointed out the following in Psychology Today's "The Six Best Ways to Decrease Your Anxiety." http://shrd.by/sSpZeH. She noted:

“Anxiety makes us feel threat is imminent yet most of the time what we worry about never happens. By recording our worries and how many came true, we can notice how much we overestimate the prospect of negative events.”

Tonight, give yourself a stress-free break. Think positive thoughts. Look at great photos. Watch a movie. Find something to do that will bring a smile to your face. 

Find a therapist who can help

For those unable to shake the blues or panic attacks, it is important to your health and well-being to find a therapist who can help you embrace life with joy rathen than anxiety that can feel as if it is taking your breath away.

Copyright 2014 Rita Watson

Rita Watson, MPH, is an Associate Fellow at Yale's Ezra Stiles College and a columnist for The Providence Journal.

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