How to Train Your Brain to Leave Stress Behind — for Good



When was the last time you felt stressed out? Five hours ago? Five minutes? For most of us, stress is such a normal part of our day-to-day life we don't even recognize it anymore — and that's a problem. With the quality of your life at stake (and your mental health) wouldn't it be nice if you could train your gray matter to diss stress for good? I know, it sounds too good to be true, but if you pick up just a handful of jedi mind tricks, you could find yourself floating through Fashion Week, finals, or any other busy time as if you're on cloud nine.

The Power of Knowledge

Jon Wortmann, author of "Mastering Communication at Work: How to Lead, Manage, and Influence," told an interesting tidbit of information about the human brain. The amygdala, which is responsible for creating stress reactions, will calm its alarm if stress is simply paid attention to. Its job (to let you know something's up) is satisfied when your conscious brain acknowledges the problem. To do this, get in the habit of monitoring stress levels throughout the day. No equipment needed. Just stop, take a minute, and ask yourself what your level of calm is. That act alone will help keep you that way.


Let's say you're at a meeting or picking your kids up from school and the atmosphere is sheer chaos. Voices and noises everywhere, confusion is reigning supreme. This can cause minor to major levels of stress. This is the time to remind your brain of your priorities in a given situation. Just find little Johnny, get him strapped in the car seat and get out of the playground. Or find a way to get the attention of the right person in that meeting and get the presentation started already. Staying true to your priorities is akin to focusing. And staying focused reduces stress.

Concentrate on the Little Things

I don't mean focusing on the little pleasures in life that remind you of the bigger picture (though nothing's wrong with that), I mean literally find concentration in mundane tasks you normally take for granted. Once this habit is established, you'll find your levels of stress reduced as you're brain gets rid of its urge to wander into dangerous "what if" territory. Try this trick: when you're brushing your teeth in the morning, use your non-dominant hand. You'll have a slightly new experience that will hold your attention. Another way to build attention is to try and leave a room exactly the way you entered it. OCD notwithstanding, you'll be taking control of your thoughts.

Adopt Complimentary Behavior

Don't you just love it when a stranger tells you she's into your shoes? And you probably tell yourself you should do that more often when it happens to you, too. So do it! It's another form of positivity, mindfulness and concentration that keeps stressful thoughts and feelings at bay. You don't need to compliment on clothing, only. Try giving a customer service rep a boost for being extra helpful; they need it. It's also helpful to remember a compliment you've received that really made you feel confident and beautiful. Try to make it a daily habit.

Remind Yourself Your Options are Open

The more responsibility we take on in life, the more we tend to feel hemmed in. But you should remind yourself there are always options to improve or change a situation. In stressful moments, remind yourself of your options. It may take time, but you can find a better job. You can start that blog you've always dreamed of. You can get some time to yourself (wait for Monday night football, and get a babysitter — two birds with one stone).