In a recent podcast, I talked to Dr. Samantha Boardman, Harvard and Cornell trained positive psychiatrist, about her new book Everyday Vitality and how to cope with the stresses of life. We discuss how to turn stress into strength; how to find the motivation to utilize healthy coping mechanisms; tips for social anxiety; how to counteract daily stressors; lifestyle factors that can help with stress; how to counteract it in the moment and when stress can actually be useful. We also talk about what the wellness world gets wrong when it comes to stress and counteractive measures, so here are some useful tips for managing stress.
Often times, the daily stressors that we’re constantly battling can really add up and take a toll on our mental health. Research shows that people tend to be more resilient to major life events, whereas the daily grind and things like traffic during your commute, tight deadlines, or an argument with a coworker can build up over time and become unmanageable. When we’re going through a major life event, we tend to have more support from friends and loved ones, but when it comes to the mini-stressors in our lives, we’re left to deal with them ourselves.
“Nobody brings you a casserole if you’ve had a bad commute.”
So, how can we be more resilient to the everyday hassles that wear and tear on our mental health? Dr. Boardman talks about three things in her new book that can help us overcome the daily stressors in our lives: how you’re connecting with others and having meaningful experiences, how you feel like you’re contributing to something beyond yourself, and how you’re feeling challenged in a positive way. Having positive things in our lives that help us manage stress like being outdoors, spending time with loved ones, or working on a hobby can help balance out those everyday stressors.
The way we perceive stress can actually change our experience of it as well. Knowing that we have positive things in our lives like feeling connected to someone that counteracts stress can actually change the way we respond to stressful situations. Otherwise, dwelling on the negatives can lead you into a downward spiral of feeling worse about little, insignificant things.
“Our perception of stress shapes our experience of it.”
The single most important contributor to our wellbeing is our connection with others, and one of the best anecdotes for stress is doing something for someone else. The wellness industry tends to focus on the sense of self, but studies show that being self immersed can actually cause you to feel more stressed. The same can be said about gratitude; gratitude is most effective when we make it about others, rather than ourselves.
“Gratitude can get distorted when it’s self immersed.”
Ultimately, giving to others and being more outward focused sustains the joy you get from it which surpasses the short-term joy you might get from doing something for yourself. Thinking about the things that are most meaningful in our lives and aligning our actions with those will also help us feel more connected to what truly matters. Be deliberate about delight – find something everyday single day that delights you and share it with somebody else.
For a deeper dive into managing stress, listen to my full podcast with Dr. Boardman here.