Almost everyone can agree that stress reduction is a good idea. But understanding what will work for you is not always that simple. Sometimes there is resistance to positive change that may not make much sense on the surface. We may cling to negative habits and behaviors, and then berate ourselves for it. Just as it is easy to judge a woman who stays with an abusive partner, it is easy to judge yourself for binge eating when you want to regulate your food consumption, or going on a shopping spree when you are trying to get out of credit card debt. This can become self hatred.
The more loss, trauma, and difficulty you have had, especially early on in life, the more complex the road is to healing. Reaching a point where you can find ways to nurture yourself is a big accomplishment.
It is important to be sensitive to yourself and understand what will work for you. Sometimes this involves such small steps it can be very frustrating at first. Try not to compare yourself to others–there will always be someone else who seems to be better at doing what you would like to do or having what you want to have.
In thinking about stress reduction, most of us know the drill–exercise, smile more, start a gratitude journal, take a deep breath, do yoga, take a break. Great! Do you find yourself stuck on how to do any of these wonderful things? Most of us have very long to-do lists. Is there space for something peaceful?
The question here is motivation. Many people–both men and women, wait until there is something wrong before taking action. That’s better than avoiding and not doing anything. However, you may be interested in prevention also. I’d like to propose a step-by-step approach for putting more stress reduction into your life.
Think about one thing you might actually want to do that would reduce your stress. It doesn’t have to be fancy or take a long time. This step is to get clear on what it is. You never have to do it!! Just thinking about it is a step you are taking towards reducing your stress. If you want to try doing it and are having a hard time, remember to keep it simple and find a way to give yourself some positive feedback about doing it.
Let someone know what you are thinking about doing. Maybe they will want to join you.
And if you are engaging in something that is stress reducing, try to name that for yourself. If you go to the gym, it might be for body image or to stay in shape, but it is also a stress reduction activity.
Give yourself credit for your efforts. Do you allow yourself to take a moment to feel good about what you are doing for yourself? Do you beat yourself up emotionally for not doing it perfectly?
Keep it up. These things build on themselves as you develop good habits.