7 Steps to Reframe Stress
Updated: Oct 22, 2020
As I was washing the dishes the other day, I felt an almost palpable sense of anxiety all around me. My mind was racing through a list of to-do’s, and I was frustrated about being stuck cleaning a messy kitchen. As my thoughts were spiraling me into a negative head space, I realized I needed to reset my mental state. After I reframed the task, I actually began to enjoy washing the dishes! I wanted to share my process so anyone else struggling with excessive stress can use the steps to allow their minds to rest.
1. Body Scan – If you are feeling stressed or anxious, do a quick body scan starting at your head and going down to your toes. Notice any areas that feel tense or restricted. When I am stressed, I clench my jaw, grind my teeth, and tense my shoulders. Figure out where you hold your stress so you can easily identify these warning signs in the future.
2. Take Some Deep Breaths – Once you notice which areas of your body are holding tightness, take a few deep breaths and imagine sending your breath to the tense areas and work on actively relaxing them.
3. Let It All Out – If you have a laundry list of things to get done, do not simply muse over them in your head. Grab a pen and paper and write everything down. The process of seeing what needs to be accomplished on paper will usually assist in prioritizing tasks so you do not feel so overwhelmed.
4. Be Fully Present – Become focused on the task you are doing. Give it your full attention. Are you washing dishes? Feel the warmth of the water, the texture of the dishes, and listen to the sound of the brush. Try to actively immerse yourself in each moment.
5. Call It Out – I am a big believer in the power of words. If you find yourself struggling with negative thought patterns it is helpful to call them out by name and identify exactly what they are. Putting a name to what you are feeling makes it feel more manageable.
6. Speak Affirmations - Speak to the feeling you just identified. Specifically, that you are bigger than the emotion. Phrases like, “In this moment I feel incredibly angry, but that is okay. I am allowed to be angry and I am also allowed to let it go.” Sometimes giving an emotion recognition and then the permission to leave is what is needed for release. It may not work right away, or you may have to tweak the phrasing periodically for it to continue working but finding affirmation is a powerful tool to stop negative thought patterns in their tracks.
7. Zoom Out – As a perfectionist, I can get caught up in the little details and making sure everything is just right. However, thinking with the intent of “perfection” is not really a recipe for rest and peace. I have learned that when I feel stressed or anxious about something if I zoom out and think about the big picture a year from now, the issue does not feel as overwhelming. Or if the issue does feel big, then I know it is something that needs to be prioritized. When we are in the moment things can feel much larger than they are but viewing them a little way out gives us perspective and insight into the situation.
I hope that these 7 ideas help you relieve some of the anxiety that can come with long to-do lists and lots of responsibilities. When we learn to reframe our thoughts, even if there is a lot going on, it can put our mind in a state of ease while accomplishing tasks.