How to live a stress-free life

All of us face stress and anxiety in our lives at some point, but its how you handle them that really determines the level of psychological disruption you experience.

When something frightening or stressful happens to you, what is your initial reaction? Do you shut down and stop communicating, or are you more likely to try to overcorrect whatever is wrong?

How you react to these types of situations plays a large role in your overall stress levels and in turn, your quality of life. Or in other words, your level of resilience to stressors is enough that you stay calm in the face of pressure.

Joining host John Deeks on the YourLifeChoices podcast this week is Dr Jane Foster, author of It’s in Your Hands – a practical guide to building emotional resilience across all age groups.

The book gives practical language and exercises for you to work through, aiming to give you the mental tools to reframe your responses to negative stimuli and hopefully lower stress levels in your life.

Dr Foster says she was inspired to write the book after noticing the same stress-relieving and resilience-building techniques she taught seemed to work on people of any age.

“I wrote it because of the [counselling] success I’d been having with 18-month-old children right through to 100-year-olds,” she says.

“And because I wanted to create something that was simple, because we all get told ‘you’ve got to change your thought pattern’, but how do we do it? So, I created a language that can just be incorporated into your everyday language.

So, what’s different about the language in Dr Foster’s book compared with what you might use yourself?

“Well, the first language change is to change emotions from good and bad to smooth and rough. So, there’s no judgement about how they feel.”

Removing the judgemental statement helps strip the automatic emotion from our reactions to stressful events, allowing us to look at them with neutral eyes.

“Exactly,” Dr Foster says.

“I’ve found, once you introduce ‘rough’ and ‘smooth’ roads, so neither emotional road is bad, you can be on a rough road or a smooth road, but as long as you’re in control …”

As long as you’re in control of your emotions, you can control how you react and in turn how much stress the event causes you.

“At the moment, what we’re [counsellors] doing is we’re judging the bad emotions – the rough ones – as bad, and we’re picking people off those bad roads and putting them on good ones.

Is that not a logical approach? No, says Dr Foster, as it can mean we never truly learn how to deal with negative emotions and thoughts. Better to lean into the emotion and learn to process it.

“Where do you learn your driving skills?” she says.

“You learn to increase those on a rough road, not on a smooth road. And the older you get, the more you realise everybody’s carrying something.”

But it’s those with the capacity to reframe their stress into something healthier that will have the most success in building a stress-free life.

Are you often overwhelmed by stress? Do you think you could benefit from reframing your negative thoughts? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Why it’s so important to keep social connections

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.
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