USA Wellness Café
Stress Management Take-Out Course:
Self Improvement Strategies

Written by Staff Writers of USA Wellness Café ™

Do you feel stressed a good deal of the time? Multiple issues in all areas of life can cause you to experience enormous pressure. You may toss and turn at night, or you may feel a gnawing anxiety in the pit of your stomach.

You may feel confused, overwhelmed, and angry. If so, implement this useful tactic: Go over options to help you change something about yourself. This is where your true power lies. If you practice self-improvement, you will find more control on a daily basis.

Here are the areas of self-change that can help:

  1. Find ways to slowly implement good decisions.
  2. Work hard to acquire productive habits.
  3. Examine how to act out excellent behaviors.

Key Point

Improving your ability to get things done and take charge of your life depends totally on your ability to make good decisions. Reflect on this: Your life largely consists of the sum total of all the decisions you’ve ever made. How those choices come together will create a mental movie, scene by scene, of your life.

Taking just a few small steps of change can help you regain overall balance. Doing things differently can help you focus and conserve personal energy.

Here’s an example of making a good decision: If you actively voice a boundary with someone, this can significantly lower your stress. Maybe you need to set a limit on how much you can give or do.

Or, maybe you need to define a clear, workable solution for a problem at hand. You might, for instance, tell your boss this: “I will be glad to work on the PR materials, but I want to do it this weekend from home. This way, I can cut off ringing phones and ensure I do a great job. Is that okay with you?”

All of us want to feel confident that we can accomplish our goals. Stress can make us feel we can’t do anything right!

Questions Are Critical

Imagine you’re watching a movie about you. You might think: This person is confused, overworked and in need of help! Picture standing back and seeing yourself at work, at home and interacting with others. Are you happy with yourself? Are you feeling sorry for yourself?

If you can’t think of major ways to change things right away, look for a very small change you could enact. There’s always something you can do better or differently.

Look hard for simple decisions you could make. You could get up 15 minutes early to eat breakfast or write a to-do list for the day. You could ask your parents if they would drive to your house on Friday nights for dinner, which might be take-out pizza, saving you travel time to their house. Or, you could take college courses online instead of driving to the local university two nights per week.

If you need to change a friendship, improve your schedule, or get control of your finances, ask: How can I begin? How will I take some kind of small, positive action? What choice will work and stress me out the least?

Everyone in your circle might not like your new changes. In fact, some people may criticize you openly for making a specific choice. But, if it’s right for you, take a risk and do it.

Self improvement involves positive behavioral changes and practicing good habits. These strategies are enjoyable to learn. Why? Because self improvement helps you stop wasting a lot of mental and physical energy. Life becomes a smoother ride when you do what works.

New Options Facilitate Change

Key Point

If results aren’t coming fast enough, you always have other options to try. Invest time in looking for those options. Could you ask for a small bit of help from your spouse? Could you hire a small amount of help? Ask: What small thing could I improve here?

By proactively making new decisions to change something, you’ll soon figure out this truth: You can reverse a lot of stress. You have the power to enact lots of small, cumulative choices slowly and methodically. You can gradually turn the tide and get into a new groove.

Keep in mind that small changes are easier to do. You can make a small change stick, whereas a major change can be difficult to implement.

“I walked off 10 pounds by changing my walking pattern,” says a nurse we’ll call Sharon. “My slow 30-minute walk around the school track in the evenings was not yielding results. A friend told me to walk rapidly for 20 counts and moderately fast for 20 counts. It was like gunning my metabolism engine. The weight started coming off.”

Changing something and sticking to it over time is what ensures results. It’s what you do consistently that will make a big difference down the road.

In reality, you have lots of control over your own decisions. You have control over how you act, react, and interact. Ever notice that it’s almost impossible to change other people? They just dig their heels in more, if you point out why they need to shape up. However, when you change yourself, you’ll feel your stress levels go down as your ability to control things goes up.

Habits and Behaviors Do Matter

Key Point

The good news is this: When you behave differently, everyone around you will be forced to change. When you decide to make better choices, this requires other people to pay attention. They can’t continue to take advantage of you, ask too much of you, or dump their problems on you--if you’re moving in a brand new direction.

If life is getting tough, remember that a new behavior or habit can help you get problems under control. It can be difficult to change situations, people, or events. However, if you work on becoming the best person you can be (strong, determined, disciplined), this will help you to manage everything around you.

Positive change happens faster when you don’t have to depend upon your spouse, child, sister or neighbor to do something differently. Instead, you will depend upon your own plan of action.

For example, if you know how to give clear directions to other people, you can get cooperation a lot faster. This is a behavior that’s certainly worth learning. Or, if you learn to gracefully say “no” to others, you can maintain friendships--instead of dodging and hiding from certain people.

You won’t need to dodge calls and avoid seeing a needy person--who does ask a lot from you--if you figure out how much you can give. Or, you might figure out how to enjoy just a single activity with this individual. This way, you can offer support to him or her without hurting yourself.

Self improvement can ensure you lose weight, get in shape, manage finances better, or land a new job. It all starts with how you think, plan and act.

Furthermore, self-management and self-change are central to feeling empowered and less stressed because of the negative actions of other people. Pushing your own power buttons, versus reacting to everyone else‘s actions, will give you newfound energy.

Deeper Questions Reveal Better Answers

Altering your lifestyle comes much easier if you acquire critical thinking skills. Make a list of thought-provoking questions to set up a new thought process for every problem you have.

To give yourself the best chance of forming new habits or making better decisions, ask yourself questions along these lines:

  • How would my life change if I felt better physically?
  • How would my relationships improve if I could ask for what I want?
  • Which of my habits are really defeating me?

Key Point

Start with a small habit or behavior to improve yourself. Don’t take on too many changes at once. It takes practice to learn how to do something differently.

The purpose of asking probing questions is to help you design an action list. Taking action will help you reduce stress. Doing something, not just thinking about what you might do, is the ticket for positive change.

A woman we’ll refer to as Sarah wanted to change her lifestyle altogether. She never got enough sleep. She was always late in getting home from work. She felt her life was out of control.

Here is a list of changes Sarah enacted with a personal life coach:

  1. She informed her husband she was going to hire the house cleaned every other Saturday. Sarah was tired of “fearing my husband’s disapproval about hiring help.”
  2. She asked her husband to do laundry one night each week.
  3. She asked her husband to make a list of three errands she could do for him on weekends.
  4. Sarah and her husband set the family bedtime at 10 p.m. every weekday night.
  5. Sarah taught her two sons, 12 and 13, to make dinner two nights per week.

“These few changes were tough to make at first,” says Sarah. “I had to speak up boldly and hold my ground, which nice girls from the South are not necessarily taught to do.”

New Systems Bring Change

All of us, regardless of our position in life, can actually empower our friends and families by changing our own behaviors. We can teach by example as we set up productive systems that work.

Try some of these changes to improve your overall happiness and productivity:

  1. Ask for a tiny bit of help from at least three people this week.
  2. Tackle something you’ve been putting off by working on it 15 minutes per day.
  3. Tell your family members how they can make you a little happier--by pitching in or changing a behavior.

We stand the chance of becoming our best selves when we adopt these beliefs:

  • When I’m happy and healthy, I can help others much more productively. When I can control my schedule, lifestyle, finances, household, and life goals, I am creating a power system to serve others.
  • When I stop a bad behavior, this will affect a lot of people. For example, if I go to sleep by 10:30, I can wake up refreshed and ready to tackle my responsibilities. Staying up late will only hurt everything around me.
  • I don’t have to say yes to everything. I can refuse a dinner invitation with friends or tell my child’s teacher I cannot help with the school play.

To become a better version of yourself, you have to risk making a few people angry. Yes, people will get upset if you don’t return all of their calls or dance to their music. However, if you become self-focused in a productive and empowered way, you can make your life work with much less stress.