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With the financial recession, job loss, holidays and the looming threat of Iran attacking, getting through the day is challenging as stress levels are at an all-time high and a sense of control at an all-time low. For those whose entire assumptive world changed overnight, it has been emotionally devastating. While there are lots of things we can't do much about, tough times demand tough actions, and there is no better way to cope than with an attitude of gratitude. You can choose to focus on the negative or on the positive. Those who focus on the positive, even in times of great stress, report feeling happier. Happiness translates to good mental health and good physical well-being.
One of the best ways to focus on the positive is to focus on the here and now - to be in the present moment and not in the past; to focus on what you have and what you can do, not on what you had, no longer have or cannot do. This strengthens our resilience. In other words, as difficult as it may seem, and it is difficult when one feels overwhelmed, you will feel better if you learn to appreciate the moment and put meaning back into your life.
Here are a few suggestions for getting started: Get up in the morning, get dressed and get going. Routine is important and creating a schedule for yourself instills a sense of purpose. Decide what you are going to do for the day, make a plan and visualize carrying it out.
Recognize that your mind-set determines your ability to cope and move forward. Focus on the solution and not the problem. This allows you to be more open to change. Pay close attention to your thinking and determine whether your thoughts are helpful or self defeating. Focus on what is important and not what seems important, by reframing things, redefining your priorities and letting go of the past. Get unstuck and move on by being flexible and thinking positively. You can do it.
Let those who are special know just how important they are in your life and let them comfort and be nurtured by you.
Talk with your children. Let them know that these are difficult times but be a role model as to how you can grow in spite of difficulties. Find ways as a family to ease your burdens. Catch your children "being good."
Increase your daily happiness quotient by changing your attitude. Pick three to five things that you are grateful for and say them aloud or write them down. Each day pick different things. Look at the details of a flower, a baby's tiny and perfectly formed hand, the people who were polite and friendly, something that made you smile today, the sun or even the rain. If you are having a problem coming up with things you appreciate, it is most likely because you are looking for miracles instead of noticing the small but wonderful things in life.
Volunteer your time and skills to help someone else. This can have an amazing impact on how you feel. There is no shortage of volunteer opportunities. The secret is to pick something that you personally are interested in and can imagine spending time doing. Whether you tutor a child, read to the elderly or act as a driver, there are many agencies that are desperate for good volunteers. Do it together with a friend or as a family.
Work on a long-neglected hobby or project. Put the family albums, toolbox or recipes in order. It can feel great to lose yourself in something you enjoy and restore order to chaos. Do something creative and fun such as making a gift, preparing a meal for a neighbor or completing your life story. Create a toy or book for a child. All you need are catalogs, photos, markers and your imagination.
Keep busy and stimulate your brain. Learn something new or explore a new place. How about taking that course that you never had time for, do the crossword puzzle, check out the Internet, study some Hebrew.
Call your friends and meet for a walk or coffee. Make sure these are people who influence your life in a positive way.
Cut financial corners. Recycle your clutter and sell it! Take the money out of gift giving by offering to baby-sit, drive, bake a fresh dessert for Shabbat or help paint a room and freshen up someone's environment.
Put humor into your day. Studies have shown that smiling and laughter make you feel good and decrease stress.
Take care of yourself physically as well as spiritually and mentally. Whether it is to exercise, eat right, or meditate, all can decrease stress and improve your sense of well-being and help you feel physically better. When you feel physically better your mental state improves and vice versa.
Seek professional help if you are having difficulty coping.
While we all want more, the secret to being happy is to be happy with what you have and put the rest in perspective. Now more than ever, it is important to be your own best friend.
The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra'anana.