Shift Your Focus and Relieve Stress

In most situations, ignoring problems can only make them worse. However, sometimes not ignoring problems can be just as bad. Participating in rumination—the habit of focusing too heavily on stressors and wallowing in negative feelings that can sometimes creep in—can exacerbate stress without solving anything. 

The key is to be able to address problems when possible, but put them out of your mind when you're not in active problem-solving mode.

The ability to shift your focus can be a vital skill. If you’ve learned to shift your focus away from stress in your life to stave off rumination, here are some ways to go a little deeper with this skill.


Practice Cognitive Restructuring

blonde optimism
urbancow/ Getty Images

We all have the natural tendency to distort things in our minds to varying degrees, to shift focus to one thing or another. For example, some people jump to conclusions a little too often, others discount the positive in a situation, and others tend to overgeneralize. Some people do a lot of these things at once.

These largely unconscious mental habits are psychological defense mechanisms against stress that often create more stress than they relieve because they create other issues that can become problematic. When we are aware of these tendencies, we can consciously choose another path. 


Learn to Turn Around a Bad Day

fall trees happiness
Serg Myshkovsky/ Getty Images

Sometimes a difficult morning can turn into a bad day—or even a bad week. The thing is, one or two challenging events sometimes throw you off your game, and that can activate your stress response. 

When you are operating from a place of stress, you may not be thinking as clearly or handling new challenges as efficiently. This can create more stress and make it difficult to maintain a positive attitude, creating a downward spiral of stress. 


Enhance Your Optimism

goals optimism sunlight
Andy Ryan/ Getty Images

Research shows that optimists enjoy greater health, success, satisfaction, and even longevity in life. This doesn't mean that ignoring the negative things in life will make your dreams come true, but focusing more on the positive than the negative, and doing so in specific ways, can help you to maximize your ability to make the best of the challenges you face in life. 


Maintain a Gratitude Journal

thank you party gratitude
Carlina Teteris/Getty Images

Gratitude journaling is a simple stress reliever that carries multiple benefits. It provides you with a positive distraction from stress while you're writing. The practice also encourages you to notice the positive sides of a situation. And after a while, you have a nice record of some wonderful things in your life that you have to be grateful for, which can pick you up when you're feeling down. 

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.