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(NaturalNews) Shocking research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism suggests that chronic stress increases your chance of death five-fold. Beyond that, stress tends to spoil life along the way. So, we all owe it to ourselves to get it under control.
One of the best ways to manage stress is to stop causing it. Here are five common mental habits that contribute to chronic stress, including what you can do about each one.
1. Self-criticismSelf-criticism usually shows up in the form of an unrelenting inner voice. No matter what you think, say or do, this part of your psyche has some scathing remark to make about it. Even your best intentions can be drowned in a sea of criticism.
What to do: Listen. It's that simple. Listen to your critical voice as if it were a friend who had something important to say. It's amazing what happens when people stop resisting their inner critic and simply listen, then ask for more.
More? Absolutely. Hear yourself out. If you are going to make the effort to criticize yourself in the first place, you might as well make a full attempt to understand it. Tolerate the criticism long enough to comprehend the underlying intention. You know you understand it when you can genuinely appreciate it and take the intended message into account.
2. BlameThe mother of all relationship issues, blame miraculously keeps you from having to accept responsibility for mistakes or admit you are wrong. Alas, the price for such a miracle is steep - you end up miserable. Most chronic blamers see themselves as victims in a world of incompetent, unfriendly, idiotic ne'er-do-wells.
To notice when others are incompetent and unfriendly is one thing. To position yourself as their victim is another matter entirely. To hold others accountable is one thing. To resent them in blame is another.
What to do: Put yourself in the other's shoes before you make any conclusions. Hold others accountable with compassion, not blame.
3. Autopilot thinkingMedical researchers suggest that autopilot thinking associated with the brain's default mode network creates a ton of mental and physical stress. When your mind chatters on and on endlessly, it is not necessarily good for you. A fair amount of body tension usually accompanies autopilot thinking. Your body is not calm when your mind is not.
What to do: Engage your conscious mind. Write down all the autopilot thoughts for 60 seconds or so, then tune it to some white noise (the hum of the refrigerator, the sound of a fan blowing). You'll be amazed at how your mind and body calm down.
4. CatastrophizingCatastrophizing is taking a stressful thought and running with it to an extreme negative outcome. For example, you have the thought, I am late for work. Your mind gets a hold of this one and runs away with it. Oh no, I really am late! My boss is going to be so upset. He is really getting sick of me, I can tell. I'll probably get fired. Then, I'll have no money and no one will want to hang around me. I'll lose my home and end up living under a bridge!
What to do: Write it down. Rather than resist, just take out a pen and paper. Write down the catastrophe. This slows down the runaway thought train. Look at it objectively and acknowledge there is a part of you that is fearful. We all have fears - this is completely normal. Take a deep breath and move on.
5. WithholdingThis is common among men. Something bothers them and rather than express it, they suck it up and brood on it for a few hours to a few days....to a lifetime. Withholding your thoughts and feelings from others denies them the opportunity to work anything out with you. It's a passive aggressive punishment that keeps the withholder in a state of chronic resentment and stress.
What to do: Express it (maturely). Holding onto grudges and biting back your feelings requires a tremendous amount of energy. Emotions are physical and it takes muscle tension to hold them back. Have you ever noticed someone holding back an emotion? They stop breathing and tense their muscles, physically blocking the flow of emotional energy. The muscle tension required to hold back the emotion soon becomes chronic muscle tension. It's exhausting.
Learning to manage your mind is one of the best things you can do for your health!
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