Stress Management For Dummies
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Being off-balance can indicate that you’re caught up in automatic, often distorted, thinking, which can cause chronic stress. You need to re-group, detach from your feelings and thoughts, and become centered. One of the best ways to do this is to become more mindful.

This means becoming more aware of your feelings as just feelings, and your thoughts as just thoughts. But first you need to interrupt the process of being angry. You need to step back. There’s some truth to that old saying, “When you get angry, count to ten before you do anything.” This is a good start, but you can find even better ways of detaching.

Breathe mindfully to reduce stress

Start by focusing on your breathing for a minute or two. Try a simple breath-counting exercise. Wherever you are — standing or sitting; in bed, on the bus, or in your car — pay attention to the rhythm of your breathing. Notice your breath as you inhale: the way it feels in your nostrils and the way your abdomen rises as you take in air.

Breathe a little more slowly and a little more deeply than you normally would, but still try to keep your breathing as natural as you can. When you exhale, exhale through your slightly parted lips, noticing the slight swooshing sound you make.

Silently count “one” when you exhale, “two” when you exhale a second time, and so on until you reach ten. Then count backward from ten to one and repeat the process. With each exhalation, try to relax more deeply, letting go of any muscle tension in your body.

Mindfully detach from anger and stress

When you’re feeling more centered, the next step is to become aware of your thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental, non-critical manner. This means becoming an observer of your inner experience. You want to become an accepting, compassionate onlooker who is genuinely curious about your thoughts and feelings but isn’t locked into them or controlled by them. We tend to see our thoughts and feelings as Truth. We think:

“If I feel this way, or if I’m having these thoughts, they must be valid, true representations of what’s going on, and they should be listened to and reacted to.”

But not necessarily. Your thoughts and feelings can be a biased product of your history, experiences, parents, and even genetic make-up. Your anger can reflect insecurities, worries, fears, and a host of other psychological dynamics that you’re probably not even aware of.

The good news is, with a little time, practice, and direction, you can figure much of it out, fix your thinking, and change your feelings. The first step, however, is becoming aware of your inner experiences — your thoughts and feelings — and your behavior — your angry reactions. Keeping an anger log or journal can help you do this.

Assessing your stress balance gives you perspective, and mindfully detaching gives you even more distance and objectivity. Now you’re in a better position to explore and change the ways in which you create your anger.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Allen Elkin, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and the director of The Stress Management & Counseling Center in New York City. Nationally known for his expertise in the field of stress and emotional disorders, he has appeared frequently on Today, Good Morning America, and Good Day New York.

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