How to Reduce Stress and Anxiety by Changing Your Mindset

Woman relaxing against tree, anxiety-free.

This post is written by a guest writer. Cyndi Harvell Lee is the founder of Loud Motherhood, a blog that gives moms tools to eliminate stress and maintain their sense of identity throughout motherhood.

Today, Cyndi asks, can mindset reduce stress? The answer is resoundingly YES: there is a huge correlation between our mindset and stress and these can have a major impact on our overall health and well-being. Having a positive mindset and utilizing positive thinking are essential in our quest to reduce stress, but they aren’t always intuitive. Cyndi walks us through the steps to changing our mindset in order to relieve our anxiety.

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Can Mindset Reduce Stress?

We often attribute our stress and anxiety to external circumstances. And why wouldn’t we? A global crisis is bound to cause stress. Financial troubles make us worry. When our kids are going through a tough time, we feel the strain.

But unfortunately, this way of thinking means that we are leaving our mental wellbeing in the hands of everyone but ourselves. And we don’t have to. We simply have to learn how to reduce stress and anxiety by changing our mindset. 

You can’t change what other people do or what’s happening in the world around you. But you can take ownership of yourself and how you respond. You can inch your perspective over to a new angle and suddenly feel the pressure alleviate. It’s actually quite an empowering thought.

If you don’t acknowledge your own power, then you will be overrun by the negative effects of stress — poor sleep, high blood pressure, loss of joy, anxiety attacks, and unhealthy coping mechanisms that cause more damage than good.

Just think, if you could simply make a choice that could eliminate those things, wouldn’t it be worth it to at least try?

6 Ways to Reduce Stress and Anxiety by Changing Your Mindset

Here are six practices you can implement that will help you change your mindset and ultimately reduce your stress and anxiety.

1. Lead with gratitude.

It’s hard to break out of a cycle of negativity. Once we start thinking about everything that is wrong, it seems to snowball into a mountain of self-pity. Our brains are working so hard to seek out who or what to blame.

In these moments, you have to make the choice to flip the switch. Move from blame to grace. From what is lacking to what is abundant. It’s even more effective if you are proactive instead of reactive. (Like when you wear a helmet to ride a bike or wear a seat belt in the car.) Guard yourself against stress by building a regular practice of gratitude.

Perhaps you start your day naming one thing you are grateful for. Or even better, you incorporate it into your family’s dinner routine by having each person share one thing they are grateful for. Get in the habit of noticing the little things that bring joy. Right now, I’m grateful for the window above my desk, where I can see the morning sunlight glow through the trees.

2. Use a positive affirmation.

In the moments of your day that fuel stress, it’s easy to slip into a negative space and let that stress overtake you. That’s why it’s helpful to have a pre-written affirmation ready to recite. Words have power. (If they didn’t, you wouldn’t be here reading this now.)

A positive affirmation is a sentence or statement that you can say to yourself to get back on track. In the same way that you can use gratitude proactively, you can also use the affirmation proactively. Recite it every morning. Maybe five times a day, throughout the day. Use it when times are tough to remind yourself of your own strength. There is a lot of information out there on how to write your own (and it can be anything that empowers you), but an example would be: “I am a light in the world, and I give that light to others. I am strong, capable, and in control of my thoughts.” Think it up. Write it down. Say it often.

RELATED: Guide to Affirmations: What are Affirmations and How do they Work?

3. Use visualization.

Woman floating in the Caribbean, using a positive mindset to reduce stress

When you visualize something clearly in your mind, it changes the connections in your brain. Visualization is an effective tool for taking control of your mindset for many things. It’s used by athletes, stage performers, business professionals, surgeons, and, yes, anyone who wants to calm anxiety.

Think about a place you like to go that brings you complete peace. (I think of the ocean.) Then close your eyes, and transport yourself there.

Hear the sounds. Are there waves crashing? Birds? Smell the salty air. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin and the sand between your toes.

The more details you can experience the better. When you tap into all of your senses, your body can start to feel the positive effects of where your mind is imagining itself. You can visualize on your own, or there are also many guided visualizations available within meditation apps, on YouTube, or various other websites online. This is a practice perfect for when you have a few minutes of quiet time. 

4. Be your own best friend.

Before you roll your eyes and skip on to the next one, hear me out.

We are often harder on ourselves than anyone else. (I know I am!) We have high expectations and beat ourselves up for the smallest of things.

So imagine your best friend is coming to you and sharing with you all the things causing her stress. She needs your support. How would you talk to her? What would you say to support her? Or perhaps you can imagine you are a teacher or mentor guiding a student or client.

I imagine you would be encouraging, constructive, and compassionate. You might let them know it’s okay to feel how they are feeling. And then you would probably tell them they are doing a great job. And then you would probably look for constructive solutions to their challenges, with a clear head. Treat yourself with that same encouragement and compassion.

5. Focus on where you have control.

The victim mindset is devoid of power. It might be easier. But it doesn’t make you feel good. It lets all the external stuff out there have control over you. And that directly results in the stress and anxiety that is ruling you.

So stop putting all the focus on those things you can’t control. Instead, shift to what you can control. You have choices about how you react and respond. You have ownership of the voice inside your head. It’s YOURS.

Take back your power. 

RELATED: Learn How to Let Go

6. Zoom out.

When I’m feeling completely overwhelmed, I notice that I’m usually “zoomed in.” I’m so up close and personal with the details of everything that I’ve forgotten all about the bigger picture.

Does this sound familiar?

Try zooming out. When you’re in a circumstance of life that is hard, remember it is but one chapter. All things are temporary. (This was my mantra during the first year of my second son’s life. It was such a hard year. But then we got through it. It was temporary.) We get caught up in the day-to-day. We get caught up in numbers and spreadsheets and forms and lists. Try stripping it all away to remember you are a small part of a UNIVERSE of life. The good stuff is temporary, too. But that simply means immerse yourself in those good things. Soak them up and celebrate them. 

Conclusion

Stress and anxiety.

It’s peeking in our windows and knocking on the door. But you don’t have to let it in! It takes conscious effort to say no-thank-you-and-goodbye to it, but it’s so very much worth it.

When you take action to reduce stress and anxiety by changing your mindset, you benefit. Big time. And so do all the people around you. 

(P.S. I’ve also got some wonderful tips you can take action on to stop feeling overwhelmed. Your future self will thank you.)

–Cyndi Harvell Lee

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More about Cyndi–As mom to 2 young, energetic boys and wife to performer Bronkar Lee, Cyndi is also never ever bored. Before blogging and kids, she wrote original music for TV, movies, and audiences world-wide. She also paints and sketches dreamy pictures, hikes outdoors with her family, and every year tries (and fails) to keep an herb garden alive. She’s also pretty stubborn. So she’ll keep trying.

Make sure you check out Cyndi’s posts! She has some great articles that readers of my blog will truly love!

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