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Ways to Reduce Your Stress in 2019


Executive Director, Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program


New Year’s Resolutions have existed for thousands of years; the tradition is shared by people and religions around the world.  The similarity among all of them is a dedication, once a year, to better oneself (physically, morally/ethically, emotionally, and mentally).  Unfortunately, research suggests that only a small percentage of us keep our resolutions.  This sets us up for failure and disappointment at the beginning of the year rather than filling us with a sense of possibility and hope.  How can we keep with tradition, but also keep to our resolutions and feel proud of our accomplishment?

Research shows that one way to keep your resolution is to set broad intentions that you are truly interested in achieving for yourself, and then choose daily tasks that move you toward your intention.  For example, rather than setting the lofty goal of losing 10 lbs., set the intention of improving your physical health and then slowly add tasks such as drinking one extra glass of water or taking the stairs at work.  Or perhaps you have a financial goal of saving more money and start by putting a small percentage in your savings account or 401(K) every month.   If you make small steps to reach your intention and make it a fun journey rather than just a destination, there is a better chance of success!

You may want to improve your general attitude toward life.  Doctor and author Don Miguel Ruiz uses “The Four Agreements” as a template:

1.    Be impeccable with your word. Do you say what you mean?  Do you believe what you say?  How do you speak to others?  How do you speak to yourself?  Is it true?  Is it kind? To be impeccable with your word is to be truthful, to say things that have a positive influence on yourself and others, and to avoid treating others hurtfully.  This year, practice impeccability with your speech.

2.    Don't take anything personally.  When we take other people’s words, actions, or choices personally (meaning we react strongly to them), we miss the point that their words, actions, and choices are based on their own perspective.  This year, rather than reacting to what other people say or do, observe them with curiosity.

3.    Don't make assumptions. We often assume we know what other people are thinking, feeling, or the reasons they say or do something.   But those assumptions are based on our own perspective, or our own reality, and superimposing that onto another person.  It is also called narcissism.  This year, ask people about their motivations or rationales, rather than make assumptions.

4.    Always do your best. This does not mean being perfect.  This means that regardless of the circumstances, or our mood, we do our best to be present and mindful.  It also means that we accept our best as “good enough,” without criticizing or berating ourselves.  This year, do your best in your professional and personal life, and congratulate yourself on your accomplishments.

There’s another simple way to reduce your stress levels this year:  SLOW DOWN.  We activate executive functioning in the brain when we slow down our racing thoughts, helping us solve problems more effectively and improving our communication with others.  We reduce our chance of all types of accidents and careless mistakes when we mindfully slow down our actions.  In addition, by taking a few deep breaths slowly, we signal to the brain that we are safe.  This allows calming, pleasurable, and healing chemicals such as endorphins, dopamine and serotonin to flood the body instead of stress chemicals that cause illness, sleep deprivation, weight fluctuations, and feeling miserable (anxious/agitated or apathetic/depressed).  Since we tend to hold our breath when we are overwhelmed, taking a few deep breaths also gets much needed oxygen to our brain and body.  Getting to the gym, catching a yoga class, or staring a hobby are certainly ways we can reduce stress this year.  But you can also slow down your thoughts, actions, and breath throughout the day to experience positive change and quickly de-stress!

Sarah Myers, Esq., LMFT, LAC, is the Executive Director of the Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program (COLAP).  COLAP provides free and confidential services for judges, lawyers, and law students. If you need resources for personal or professional issue(s) compromising your career, wellbeing, or quality of life, contact COLAP at (303) 986-3345 or visit