The other day when my friend and I were meeting over coffee, the topic came up. “Why is it so hard to stay in a stress-free state?”
She asked, “When I use some relaxation technique, I do feel relief. But it doesn’t last. I feel stressed again within a short time. Why?”
Do you ever feel the same way?
Let me share what I shared with her, and it may help you to feel stress-free for more extended periods.
So let’s use the example of watching TV as a distraction/relaxation technique. When you relax by becoming a couch potato, your body relaxes. If it is a good program, your mind also relaxes a little as it stops thinking about all the stress and worries. But as soon as the program is over, you feel stressed because your stressful thinking pattern returns.
No matter how much you distract yourself, the relief won’t last unless you train your mind to stop producing stressful thoughts.
Therefore you need to develop a stress-free mindset to continue to feel stress-free.
Now, if you have already read my book Stress to joy, you have learned many mind-shifting tools. Are you applying those in addition to relaxation techniques?
It doesn’t matter how much you know about your diet. Unless you practice good eating habits, your knowledge won’t help you be healthy. Similarly, unless you practice good thinking habits, your knowledge won’t help you to be mentally healthy and stress-free.
My friend had recently lost weight. So I said; you lost weight by practicing good eating habits. You know that if you stop exercising them and slip back into the old habits, you’ll put the weight back on. Right?
Similarly, if you stop exercising stress-free thinking, you are likely to slip back into old habits, and your stress will creep in again.
Therefore, stay aware. Watch for stressful thoughts and change them to stress-free thoughts regularly.
Another problem she identified was that she feels like giving up as she is not able to practice those techniques consistently.
If you eat healthy for three days and slip for one day, do you say what the use is? No. You keep trying to eat healthy the next day or day after. You don’t give up because one day of eating healthy is better than none.
You have many years of practicing the old habits of stressful thinking. It may take several tries to develop a new habit. So keep giving yourself chances. Each day is a new day — a new opportunity to try to be better.
Can Your Brain Change?
In the same way that an athlete trains his body, you can also train your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
Research shows that your brain can change. It is called neuroplasticity.
Your mind is not set like concrete; it is more like soft dough. It remodels with new ideas. Thoughts orchestrate how nerve cells grow and connect. The health of your brain depends on the quality of your thoughts. You can learn to change these thoughts. You can grow your resilience and your ability to cope with stressors.
To get a glimpse of how the neural paths are built and modified, do this simple exercise with me.
Take a sheet of paper and fold it. Press on the crease. Now open it, and the paper would fold automatically over that fold. The more you press, the easier it will fold. Let’s now turn the paper and make another crease in another direction. Press the second crease. If you press several times, you will see the paper is now folding over that crease automatically. The first crease is still there, but it doesn’t have control over the paper as much as the new crease.
Consider your brain the paper and the crease a habit. The more you practice, the more you are likely to repeat a behavior automatically.
If you want to break an old pattern, practice a new one.
Imagine how much easier it will be to remain stress-free by making new roads that your mind prefers over the old destructive roads!
Let me know if you like this article. I love to hear how these insights are helping you to get better every day. As a thank you, I will send you another cool technique to remain stress-free.
Stress to Joy Online Course An American Institute of Stress certified comprehensive 21 modules online educational program in the practice of stress management.
Dedicated to your best health and happiness, Dr. Rozina