More and more you hear people talking about their stress. One-upping each other, talking about who had a more difficult day or situation. We see stress in the news every day. Every day we get the messages that everyone is stressed, and that is normal or even admirable to be stressed. We all know that prolonged stress has countless bad side effects. A short list of those side effects includes how it increases belly fat, hunger, and insulin, while decreasing immune function.

So, what can you do to ease the negative impact of long-term stress? First remember that perceived stress is stress. If you think you are stressed then you are. You could have two stories about the same life situation that could cause two very different stress responses for different individuals. If two people were given the same medical diagnosis, and one said “It’s good to have this information so I can begin to heal.” and the other said “I don’t have time to get sick! Why is this happening to me?” How do you think their bodies will react to the same information? How do you think their bodies might handle the treatments? Might the support from their communities change? 

It is easy to make it normal to brag about the stress in our lives. Sometimes we don’t recognize that by doing this, we reinforce and give power to the stress we are trying to escape. It can be easy to give power to stress by speaking about it as an accomplishment. The good news is that it is possible to change your relationship to stress with a few mindfulness tricks. 

Try playing with your thoughts about stress over the next week. How can you reformat a stressful thought and make it into something positive? The difference between the statements “I have to eat broccoli to be healthy?” and “Broccoli will nourish my body with its calcium and fiber and I love it with my favorite seasoning.” seem small, but can be transformative. Which of these statements would make you eat more broccoli? 

Ask yourself if you can incorporate self-care into some of the more stressful situations in your life? If you don’t like to clean, can you put on your favorite music and sing like you are in the shower while you clean? Could you practice mindful cleaning and say thanks to each thing in your home as you dust? Maybe you just need to be excited about how nice the house will feel when you are done, instead of dreading the task at hand?

Try asking yourself if you can you find a positive twist to the things you’re so stressed about? After all, why are you putting yourself in the position to have stress? The reward must be worth it. Right? See if you can remember why you are where you are. Try giving thanks for the opportunity to have that stress. Simply reformatting the way we think about, and even speak of stress might be a game changer. The goal is not to get rid of all stress. Stress can be a wonderful tool. But becoming more aware of your response to everyday stress can help you feel balanced and greatly improve your health.