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Fifteen Simple Strategies for Kicking Stress

Creating a stress survival plan will help you calm down when anxiety strikes. We spoke to three experts to help you design yours.

7. Put It on Paper: Stress is usually future-oriented (think: “what if”), and involves thoughts of uncontrolability and unpredictability, according to Chapman. “When we experience stress and the negative emotions associated with it, we typically stay in our own heads and do little to address our thinking. But a process called ‘objective recording’ forces us to view our circumstances and thoughts from an outsider’s perspective,” he says. Rather than focusing on how horrible a situation is, Chapman suggests writing down your thoughts to evaluate whether or not they’re accurate. Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. At the top of the left column, write down “Negative things I am saying to myself.” In the right column, write “Alternatives.” Fill out both columns. “When we simply acknowledge what we’re saying to ourselves out of stress, we often realize how silly we are being.” This process will help put your stress into perspective—or at least provide a good laugh.

8. Turn in Early: Research shows that most adults need about eight hours of sleep per night. Sleep deprivation reduces stress tolerance and can make you behave more impulsively—and become more irritable. So when you feel like pulling an all-nighter will help you get things done, think again.

9. Record Hot/Cold Thoughts: Create two columns on a piece of paper. Place “Hot Thoughts” at the top of the left column and “Cold Thoughts” at the top of the right column. Write down all of your stress-induced negative thoughts under the Hot Thoughts column. “Typically there is one hot thought that seems to be driving the negative emotion,” Chapman points out. Circle this thought. Then in the right column, write alternative or Cold Thoughts—things that take the sting out of the one hot thought that is fueling the fire. “The cold thoughts will be different, more realistic ways to view the situation. We feel better immediately if we’re honest with ourselves.”

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