Woman to Woman: How to Stay Positive in Stressful Times
By Kim Atkinson
When everyone in your family is down for the count with colds and the flu, you’re often the one who continues to be the family cheerleader. But keeping a positive perspective can be tough under some circumstances.
“Being upbeat during stressful times is difficult,” says Dr. Eva Ritvo, vice chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “To stay positive, you’ve got to work it.”
What’s the best way to maintain an upbeat attitude? Ritvo offers these useful suggestions for rising to the challenge, no matter what you’re up against.
1. Sleep on It
Busy moms know from experience -- observing their own children -- that getting enough shut-eye helps banish blue moods. So why not apply the same principles to yourself? “As adults, we forget about these things,” says Ritvo. “It’s difficult to stay upbeat when you’re working with a sleep deficit. For a positive outlook, getting a good night’s sleep of at least eight hours as many nights as you can is really important.”
2. Fuel up
The right diet is as crucial to keeping a positive perspective as getting enough sleep. If you’re not eating properly, you’re stressing your body, and when your body is doing all it can just to function, a happy-go-lucky attitude is hard to obtain, says Ritvo. “Avoid things that send your blood sugar rising, like alcohol, diet soda or candy. You’re not going to have a positive outlook if your basic nutrition is not attended to.”
3. Get Moving
Experts agree that regular exercise can boost mood thanks to the feel-good endorphins it releases. “Our bodies were designed for a lot of movement,” says Ritvo. “Exercise makes you feel good, helps circulate your blood, gets rid of toxins, maintains your weight and stimulates your brain.” It does so many things that are essential to everyday happy functioning. Try to work in at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, whether it’s a power walk, a bike ride or Pilates.
4. Try Something New
To keep a positive perspective, introduce variety into your daily routine. A study conducted at the National Institute on Aging found that the novelty of performing new activities has wide-ranging positive effects, including extending your life.
“Do something you haven’t done before, which is very stimulating for the brain,” says Ritvo. Make a new friend who doesn’t fit the mold of your old friends. Take a language class if you’ve never spoken a language. Take an art class if you’ve never done art. Give yourself the opportunity to grow in different ways. That’s very energizing.
5. Pair up
Looking to change your perspective? Surround yourself with positive people. “Everybody knows someone who is the life of the party and looks at things in fun ways, so put yourself near them,” suggests Ritvo. “Ask them out to dinner. I like going to a book signing where everyone is excited to be there, or a sporting event where people are excited to be. Be around positive energy.”
6. Set Aside Time for Yourself
“It’s very easy to attend to people all day or attend to work and neglect ourselves, but that doesn’t work for creating a positive outlook,” says Ritvo. “It doesn’t matter what you do, but be sure to honor yourself and allow yourself to be in a space that works for you.” Ritvo suggests setting aside time for a bath, reading for half an hour or meditating to pump up your attitude.
7. Talk About It
Sometimes, using positive language is all you need to shift your perspective. Ritvo suggests talking with a friend and making a pact to share with each other the things that you’re grateful for each day. “Tell each other two things, such as ‘I’m grateful for my health,’” she says. “Or ‘I’m grateful that I could walk up the nine flights of stairs today without being out of breath.’”
8. Put Your Best Face Forward
The old saying goes, When you look good, you feel good. “You don’t have to compete with a fashion model, but it’s a good idea to look your best whenever you can,” says Ritvo. “Pamper yourself -- if you like to have your nails done, take time to do them yourself. Beauty can be an instant boost and it matters.” Buy yourself a great handbag or a fabulous coat. It’s something you can carry or wear everyday and feel terrific.
9. Have Faith
Having confidence in yourself and your ability to tackle any challenge is key to keeping a positive perspective. “I like to call it a ‘faith lift,’” says Ritvo. “Tell yourself that you can survive these things, and it will come true. Having faith is very important. For some people, it might be a religion, for others it might be spirituality or just an inner confidence. Tell yourself you’re valuable, and the world will see it too.”
10. Practice Being Positive
To make a positive mood a part of your permanent psyche, try this experiment: Ritvo suggests challenging yourself to pinpoint one appealing thing about everyone you encounter in a day. “One person might have a beautiful smile, and another a kind word to say,” she says. “Train yourself to zero in on positive things (even if it’s just one day a week), and (in time) you’ll see a change in your overall perspective.”
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Woman to Woman: "How to Stay Positive in Stressful Times"