People talk about the importance of keeping their lives in balance. But when it comes down to it, few people really know how to achieve it.
“When you’re stressed, taking steps to strengthen your personal integrity can bring you back to a sense of balance that restores a sense of inner peace and harmony,” says Brian Luke Seaward, Ph.D., author of Quiet Mind, Fearless Heart. “The human spirit is composed of free-flowing energy. But unresolved anger, fear, and other negative emotions can choke the spirit by creating stress.”
According to Dr. Seaward, you can reduce stress by understanding the unique relationship that exists between less stress and more spirituality in your life.
“For many people, spirituality has been the missing link in strengthening the mind-body-spirit continuum that’s the basis of a healthy life,” he says. “People who have healthy minds and bodies but still feel stressed or uneasy haven’t satisfied their spiritual hunger because it can’t be satisfied by material things.”
The following strategies can help you change or modify behaviors that increase stress and replace them with behaviors that promote harmony.
Keep everything in perspective
When you’re stressed by a particular event, it’s easy to lose perspective, particularly of how good your life is overall.
“When you find yourself focusing on the foreground of a problem or a crisis, take a step back and look at it in the context of the big picture of your life,” says Dr. Seaward. “Doing so helps you realize that in many areas of your life things are going well.”
Establish healthy boundaries
Boundaries let other people know how far they can go before they infringe on your personal integrity. Setting clear boundaries helps minimize misunderstandings between friends, family, and coworkers.
Keep anger under control by changing your expectations. Many episodes of anger in day-to-day life are the result of unmet expectations. By lowering your expectations, especially about things you can’t control, you can reduce angry and stressful responses. For instance, plan in advance to let go of things you know will drive you crazy, such as traffic delays.
Adopt an attitude of gratitude by directing your thoughts away from negative thought patterns that are common when you’re stressed.
“When you’re feeling as if nothing is going right, stop and make a list of all the things you’re grateful for or take for granted,” says Dr. Seaward. “Start with simple things, like being able to see and breathe. Then move on to personal things, such as family members and your job. Don’t stop until you reach 100 items.”
Turn off the TV
Prolonged TV viewing increases stress because of violent or disturbing content and constant visual stimulation.
Carrying the weight of a grudge becomes immobilizing over time. But when you forgive someone, you bring light into your heart and the whole world benefits.
Seize the day
Choose one of your unmet personal goals and map out a strategy to make it happen. Fill in the specifics, identify the resources you need and come up with an estimated completion date.
“Human behavior is slow to change, but it can be done,” says Dr. Seaward. “Start by selecting one strategy from those above and incorporate it into your life for several weeks. Then try another one for a while. Over time, you’ll feel more whole and less stressed because you’re consciously seeking balance in your life instead of imbalance.”