Reduce Stress by Changing Perspectives

by Gini Grey

How a stressful situation is viewed determines its effect. It’s easy to reduce stress by changing perspectives. It just requires a new attitude.

Difficult situations occur in everyone’s life. How they are viewed and handled can lead to more or less stress. What causes stress in one person’s day may be nothing to another. A major catastrophe to this person may be a minor set back to another individual.

The key to experiencing stress relief is in changing perspectives; looking for the new opportunity instead of fussing and fretting; trying something different instead of repeating old habits; letting go and accepting the situation when it’s out of one’s control.

Change Perspectives to Reduce Stress

Focusing on the negative aspects of any situation only makes it seem worse. What is focused on expands in view, while everything else slips into the periphery. Stepping back and looking at the big picture with all of the puzzle pieces, allows new possibilities and solutions to come into view.

For example, while caught in a traffic jam a person has several choices. They can get angry and frustrated and give passersby the one finger solute. They can get really frustrated by imaging how late they will be and what the repercussions might ensue. Or they can use the time to relax and contemplate life, practice deep breathing and mindfulness techniques, groove to their favorite music, or listen to a hilarious comedy CD. It’s up to each person as to how they use their mind, body and time.

When a major life difficulty arises, like losing a job, the same shift in perspective is helpful. Blaming the company or boss for being fired or laid off may seem justified, but over time does it feel good? Ranting and raving may vent some frustration, but in the long run, it depletes one’s self-esteem if they feel powerless over circumstances. Viewing the situation as an opportunity to find a better job, explore a new career, go back to school, or take early retirement is much more expansive and freeing than adopting a victim’s attitude. Every situation can be experienced as a blessing or a curse, depending on one’s perspective.

How to Handle Challenging Situations in a New Way

Whether one is faced with daily obstacles or a major crisis, there are always new ways of dealing with difficult situations. The first step is to become aware of what actually causes stress – is it the noise of the traffic jam, the slow pace, or the idea of being late?

The second step is to determine if you have full control, limited control or no control over the situation. And the third step involves looking at all possibilities for dealing with the situation.

  1. What causes stress? Look at the typical situations that cause stress and notice any patterns. Is it pressure from others or yourself? Is it actual events or future imaginings? Is it daily routines such as getting kids ready for school, or is it long term patterns like taking on too many projects? Go further and determine the true source of stress – is it a lack of boundaries, worrisome thinking, disorganization, time management?
  2. Who’s in control? There are times when a person has total control of what’s happening and times when they have no control. When a person does have control over a situation, it’s helpful to take advantage of that. With getting to work on time, a person generally has control over what time they leave for work, how they get there, what route they take, and even if an external obstacle get’s in their way, like a traffic accident, they still have control over their attitude about it. A person has no control over the weather, others’ behavior, and most world events. Therefore it’s relieving to acknowledge that and stop trying to control the situation or other person and find something more pleasant to focus on.
  3. Search for new possibilities. Once the true cause of stress and the level of control have been determined, it’s time to explore new ways of dealing with difficult situations. Does a new action need to be taken or a shift in perspective? With situations in your control, brainstorm a list of new ways to handle them. Be creative, flexible and open minded. For circumstances out of your control, try looking at the situation from various perspectives. View it through the eyes of compassion, forgiveness or appreciation. How does it look when you are being small and petty versus big and gracious? How does it feel to view the situation as a drama versus a comedy? Look for all the positive possibilities.

As people change their attitude and view stressful situations from a different perspective, they find new ways to deal with difficulties and discover how to turn life’s challenges into new opportunities.

Copyright Gini Grey

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