There is a lot more you can do to manage your stress than you think. Much of it resides in building up your inner capacities.
I’ll review 10 of the best research-based strategies for managing stress. Many of these are tried and true tools you will know, and others will be new to you. And, what is especially new, is the connection with your inner capacities, known as character strengths, which can help you with each strategy.
Use reframing: This is a mental activity that involves looking at a stressor or negative situation and explaining it (realistically and honestly) in a positive or neutral way. Many times, when something bad happens to us, we get emotionally wrapped up in the negative. But, this is a bit dishonest as it’s usually not the whole picture. There’s usually another vantage point.
Strength tip: Use your strengths of critical thinking and hope to look at any negative situation in a fresh way. You might tap into hope to see how there are benefits to the stressor. You might deploy critical thinking to examine the situation from multiple, detailed angles. This will help you see pros and cons, positives and negatives.
Improve your planning: Stress management research by Robert Epstein has made it clear that stress can be managed through planning. Start making your daily checklists, dust off your planners, and take action by organizing your weekly activities.
Strength tip: The essential strength you use when planning is prudence. You can learn to thinking prudently. Use your prudence to take stock each morning on the work tasks you’d like to accomplish, the household tasks you must get done, and the fun activities you want to do.
Learn relaxation: Where would a stress management list be without relaxation techniques? Scores of studies have showed an important link with relaxation tools such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, guided imagery, clinical hypnosis, and biofeedback are all useful for managing stress.
Strength tip: Any relaxation strategy involves use of your self-regulation strength. This strength involves taking control of your breathing and creating a greater feeling of calmness in your body’s physiology. In turn, such self-regulation has a positive impact on your racing mind and your worries of the day.
Affirm your values: Research studies have shown that those who think about their highest values before a stressful event actually experience less stress and show a substantial decrease in the stress hormone, cortisol, compared to control groups.
Strength tip: Each of the 24 character strengths can be the subject of this activity – in other words, something highly valued. Prior to an upcoming stressor, reflect on how much you value one of your character strengths.
Use one of your signature strengths: Many studies, across cultures, now show that using one top strength in a new way leads to greater happiness and less distress.
Strength tip: The challenge is to consider how you will use your best quality in a new way. For a list of ideas, see this article here. This strategy helps you widen how you think about and how you act from your strengths.