When we are under an immense amount of pressure and feeling stressed our minds are often preoccupied and racing with thoughts and our body and muscles may ache from the tension of holding them tight. Stress is inevitable. We may have some stressors we can take off our plates, but for the most part we all have responsibilities; family, work, school, and friends. These responsibilities pile up and can become overwhelming and unmanageable. When I talk to kids I often compare mounting stressors to a soda bottle. Every stressor is a shake to the soda bottle. The more shakes the closer you are to blowing your top. We all must find ways to slowly relieve the pressure so that we don’t blow. How do you slowly unscrew the cap to that soda and you control the pressure being released?
How about a mantra? You may suddenly have an image of Stuart Smalley in your head from Saturday night live and be rolling your eyes, but stick with me and hear me out. A mantra literally means a “tool for the mind”. A mantra can remind you to slow down, step back, and create space in your mind to sort out those racing thoughts so you can prioritize and act in a healthy, effective way. A mantra can be a word or a phrase. Match your mantra to your mood and personality. Don’t choose something that seems like a foreign concept or idea to you, such as the Stuart Smalley “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me”. Or maybe you are a humorous person and this is just the mantra you need to distract yourself, smile, and move forward. Others of you may want a calming, centering mantra such as “Breathe”, “Peace”, and “Relax”. Maybe you want an encouraging mantra “I can ride this out and not let it get to me”, “This situation won’t last forever”. How about an affirming mantra “Each day I do the best I can”, “I’m a good person, not a mistake”? Possibly, there was something a mentor, role model, or someone you admire said to you at one time that got you through a difficult time. Visualize that person and say to yourself what they would say to you.
Whatever the mantra you choose, this strategy is about self-compassion and reminding yourself that underneath your sometimes overwhelming emotions is a caring loving person who is capable of handling stress and distress in a healthier way. Choose to be in control of releasing the pressure in your life, don’t allow it to get the best of you and lead to you blowing your top.
Resources – The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion by Christopher Germer and The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Workbook by McKay, Wood, & Brantley