It doesn't take much these days for stress to rise. There may be multiple things out of your control causing stress, but how you respond to stress is actually in your control.
Gratitude is one way to respond and can be a powerful practice for wellness. It is also a gr eat tool to lower stress for all ages. Here are seven steps how:
START SMALL - If at first you think there can't possibly be anything to be happy about or thankful for, think of "the little things." This is often all about shifting your focus. Even on the most stressful of days, there is at least one person, place or thing to be grateful for. For example, where is somewhere you've been in nature that you'll never forget? Who has been there for you or offers you support right now? Is there an item that brings you comfort in your home? These - and the very breath you breathe - are reasons to invite gratitude into your day.
VALIDATE - It can be helpful to validate your own emotions, especially when it comes to stress. Practicing gratitude isn't about pretending everything is okay or being in denial about the tough stuff. It is important to validate what's causing stress and that you are experiencing it. But don't stop there. Also open up your perspective to recognize the things that are not causing stress to see what is going well in your life. This in and of itself can be enough to lower stress to the point where we are rational and grounded enough to make positive choices to then handle our stressors effectively.
SET THE TONE - Think of beginning and ending your day with gratitude as an invitation to pause. Life can be fast paced, even when you are mainly at home, and the weeks can get especially draining when "the new normal" has worn us down. We have a choice to change our routines and our mindset. Whether you think, say or write even on expression of gratitude when you wake up and before you go to sleep, this can set the tone for an entire day, quality of nights sleep, and even your entire week and so on.
NO JUDGMENT - What you include in your gratitude practice is your business. It may seem silly or petty at first, particularly if this isn't something you're comfortable with. But the more you try it, the more you'll feel confident in what you express gratitude for as well as the importance of doing so for yourself. If anything, one person's gratitude can be another's inspiration to appreciate life, not in spite of difficulties, but in the face of them. So be kind to yourself with your gratitude and try not to be critical of this process.
BE OPEN TO GROWTH - No one likes stress and we often wish it didn't exist. If we can soften our aversion to stress enough then we can see it as an opportunity for growth, which can at times prevent stress from escalating. When we can see the lessons within obstacles, it can reframe our struggle into something that is constructive, rather than destructive. Gratitude for stress can be contradictory; it can be more about being grateful for the resiliency we develop in response to stress. To know that we can after all, overcome stress.
Next time you feel stressed or someone in your life is stressed out, give gratitude a chance as a way to calm down, shift perspective, and direct you towards an intentional response. Gratitude isn't going to solve all problems, but it can be a step towards positive chance, resolution, and well-being.
Stephanie McCulley, M.A., Registered Associate Professional Clinical Counselor (APCC #4425), is a psychotherapist at Empire Therapy & Family Services. She provides counseling to support kids and teens with change, growth, and self-expression.
Stephanie can be reached at (805) 633-0962 or firstname.lastname@example.org.