Ever notice that when you’re stressed you tend to focus on your own needs and push others away? Or, you totally neglect yourself and only attend to others around you? Do you also become short with strangers and close family and friends and feel that you don’t have enough time, patience or energy to attend to yourself and the needs of others?
If these actions sound familiar, it is important to remember that these types of strategies will not reduce your stress levels, as they leave one or both parties dissatisfied and shut out. In an effort to decrease your own stress levels and connect with others, try any or all of the following techniques:
• Actually listen to the other person. Whether you’re in an argument, have opposite opinions on a topic, or are best friends chatting away, the more you actually listen to the other person, the more they will actually listen to you. You’ll both come away feeling heard and considered, even if no resolution is achieved.
• Focus on taking deep breaths. Deep breathing will keep you connected with your own center – your own body. In stressful conversations, deep breaths can help you remember that there are many more things outside of this particularly tense situation.
• Focus on the other person’s breathing too. Just notice the other person’s breath; you’ll feel more connected to them as you remember everyone is complex with diverse feelings and needs.
• Get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep helps keep you more level-headed and ready to face interpersonal challenges that might arise throughout the day.
• Keep a healthy diet. Eating too many refined carbohydrates, sugars, caffeine, and alcohol and not enough whole grains, fiber, fruits and vegetables can contribute to mood swings and irritability. Eating healthy sets you up to better combat stressors.
• Spend time with people you love and who love you. Even if they don’t live nearby, give an extra call to someone you love – it can make both of your days.
And remember, no one is perfect. It can take a long time to break away from long-term habits that come from coping with stress. Try to be more open and empathetic with those around you, and don’t judge yourself (or them) if you revert back to old habits or coping mechanisms. Remember to be compassionate with others and with yourself!
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