When you’re a young adult, school and life (!) can be super stressful. You have to juggle homework, extracurricular activities, as well as family, friend, or relationship drama. Life can feel overwhelmingly wonderful at times — or just plain overwhelming at other times.
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Luckily, a recent study from the University of Royal Holloway London found one simple thing you can do to help deal with any stressful situation. All it takes is telling yourself these four simple words:
This too shall pass.
In the study, researchers asked young people between the ages of 12 and 22 to think about both negative scenarios (i.e. failing a test) and neutral ones (i.e. watching a room get painted).
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While imagining the negative scenarios, young people who projected themselves into the distant future (up to 10 years away), were better able to reduce their stress levels than those who put themselves into the immediate future (days, weeks, or months ahead).
Think of it like this: Let’s say you find out that you flunked a test. In the moment, you feel bummed out. If you continue on that negative train of thought and think of how this one exam will affect your progress report a month from now, it’s going to stress you out even more.
However, if you think of how that one grade will affect your life one, two, or even five years from now, you’ll probably realize how little it matters in the long run. With a “this too shall pass” attitude, it’s also easier to remind yourself that no matter what happens, your current situation is only temporary.
“Thoughts control our feelings,” Stacy Kaiser, licensed psychotherapist and editor-at-large at Live Happy tells AwesomenessTV. “If we think calming and happy thoughts, we’ll feel better and less stressed. ‘This too shall pass’ is a statement that tells us that we’ll be okay, so we can relax and trust that we will.”
But mentally projecting yourself into the future might not help everyone. According to Kaiser, a person’s belief system can impact whether or not this coping technique will work for them.
“If they don’t believe that difficult things will pass, or if they tend toward negative thinking styles, they’ll be less likely to find this method effective,” she says. So it’s great for some, but maybe not so great for others.
If you would like more options for how to handle stressful situations, here are three other things you could try:
1. Distract Yourself With Positive Experiences
Do something you really like: listening to your favorite song; going out for a run; or just hanging out with a few of your close friends. Distracting yourself from your troubles with positive experiences is a great way to cope with stressful situations. While the problem will still be there, you’ll be better able to tackle it after taking a much-needed time out. These acts can also help put things in perspective.
2. Journal It Out
Writing can give you an opportunity to express your feels without having to deal with anybody else’s reaction. You can be as honest and real as you like. These days, you don’t even need a pen and paper to keep a journal. There are some great apps out there, such as Happier, that have a gratitude journal feature. You can write about the positive aspects of your life to counteract those annoying negatives.
If you’re not into apps, you can type out your feels in your phone’s “Notes” feature. That way, you can get all your frustrations out whenever and wherever.
3. Practice Self-Care Daily
Engaging in self-care is super important to prevent stress in the first place. Make sure you get plenty of sleep, eat well, and do activities that make you feel positive and ready to tackle any problems.
“These activities provide the fuel that you’ll need to get through the stressful times,” Casey Tallent, national collegiate outreach director at the Eating Recovery Center, tells ATV. “We are all better equipped to respond to stress when we are well-rested, nourished, and joyful.”
Whatever problems you’re dealing with might feel super stressful right now, but life is full of ups and downs. So try to stay positive and find mini solutions to daily problems. Learning to take the bad with the good is part of the being-a-human-on-planet-earth process.