How to Stay Positive in Times of Stress in 7 Simple Steps
When life hands you lemons do you use them to make lemonade? There’s no denying that life can be challenging at times – the last year has been proof of that. While life has a way of kicking you down just when you think you’ve gotten back on your feet, you don’t have to stay down. You can choose to see the silver lining in the thunderclouds that come rolling in or you can sulk in a shroud of negativity.
Though it may seem like positivity is a character trait you either have or you don’t, it’s actually a choice you make each and every day. It may take time and practice, but you can learn to challenge negative thoughts and habits to turn them toward positivity. In fact, it may be easier than you think!
Here are seven simple steps to help you stay positive even when you’re stressed.
Choose to start each day on a positive note
There will always be days when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, but even on those days you can choose to have a positive attitude. Try starting your day with a little yoga or meditation to center yourself and elevate your mood. You could also try listening to your favorite podcast on the way to work or treat yourself to your favorite breakfast to send the mental storm clouds on their way. At the very least, try to put a smile on your face as you head out to start your day.
Be mindful of negative self-talk
Day in and day out we all have a running dialogue with the voice inside our heads. You can’t always control that voice, but you can cultivate an awareness of negative self-talk and choose to challenge it rather than letting it run rampant and ruining your mood.
When you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, pause for a moment and try to reframe those thoughts in a more positive way. If you can’t come up with a positive way to spin things, think about something else instead – keep a deck of motivational cards handy to give your mind something else to focus on.
Practice gratitude on a daily basis
It’s easy to wallow in negativity when you feel like everything is against you. If you take a moment to think, however, you’ll realize that it isn’t all bad – you’ll always have something to be grateful for. Research shows that gratitude is associated with happiness and practicing gratitude could even help relieve some of your stress.
Once a day, take the time to jot down things you’re thankful for in a notebook or journal. When you start to feel stressed or the negative thoughts come home to roost, remember the things you’ve written in your journal and practice positivity instead.
Cultivate positive connections with others
Loneliness and social isolation can amplify stress and deepen a negative mood, so try to include social activities in your weekly routine. Stay connected with friends and family by phone, email, or in person – even a quick coffee date can lift your spirits. If you’re not comfortable with in-person social gatherings, try hosting a Netflix watch party at home or set up a Zoom happy hour with friends.
While you’re working on cultivating positive relationships with the people in your life, keep an eye out for toxic relationships. If there’s a person in your life who drains your energy or drags you down the path toward negativity, consider phasing them out of your life. It’s much easier to stay positive when you surround yourself with positive people.
Take advantage of opportunities to help others
Even when it’s difficult to keep your own spirits up, it’s easy to make someone else smile. Doing good for others can help you foster positivity in your own life and it’s simpler than you might think. Simply giving a stranger a smile or paying for someone’s coffee can have a positive impact. It may also distract you from thoughts of yourself and your own stress for long enough to put you on a more positive track for the day. Try to make a habit of it by challenging yourself to make someone smile each and every day.
Protect your physical and mental health
Negative thoughts are more likely to settle in when you’re feeling poorly. When you start taking better care of yourself, however, you may find it easier to stay positive. Take steps to protect your mental and physical health by eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising on a regular basis. You don’t necessarily need to transform your entire lifestyle in a matter of days but try to make at least one healthy choice every day and build on those choices in the days that follow.
In addition to taking care of your physical health, make time for self-care to protect your mental health. Spend at least 30 minutes a day doing an activity you enjoy or something that helps you feel relaxed. Cuddle up on the couch with a good book, soak in a hot bath, or spend time on the phone with a close friend. There are no rules when it comes to self-care – just do something that you enjoy.
Get professional help when you need it
Hard as you may try, it’s difficult to overcome negative self-talk and to address harmful habits on your own. If you’re struggling with anxiety and depression or simply looking to learn some helpful coping mechanisms, it may be time to seek professional help. Fortunately, help is just a click away with free telepsychiatry consultations online. There’s nothing stopping you from getting the help you need.
There’s no magic potion that will turn your lemons into lemonade, but you have a superpower of your own – the power to choose positivity over negativity. Take some of the tips above and put them into practice in your own life to see the transformation for yourself. Learning to cultivate a positive attitude can help you conquer stress and fight through the tough times to rise victorious on the other side.
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Kairi Kuuskor is the co-founder and designer of Bold Tuesday - a company that aims to help you live a better life. To do that they create vision boards, motivational cards, notebooks and other self-development tools with an emphasis on high quality and great design.