The Stress/Values Connection

How Your Values Can Decrease Stress

If you’re anything like me, then as time passes in the “new normal” of pandemic lockdown, you’re not experiencing less stress, you’re experiencing more stress. At least, I am.

I want to share with you a key tool for stress management, one that I’m leaning into during this time and one that research shows may be one of the most influential stress interventions ever. You may, in fact, be surprised when I tell you that dozens of experiments have confirmed its effectiveness.

The Tool is:

Thinking About and Writing About Your Values

Crazy, huh? But true!

WHY is this kind of values exercise so effective?

First, Reflecting on your values connects you to the deeper purpose and meaning you find in life. It reminds you WHY you are doing what you are doing

Second, research shows that when you are connected to your values, you are more likely to:

  • Take action
  • Connect with Others
  • Feel more in control of your situation.

The studies also show you are less likely to:

  • Feel like a victim
  • Cope using denial and procrastination
  • Feel like your situation is a never-ending trial
  • Feel stuck
  • Connect your trials and stress with personal deficiency

Third, when you reflect on your values the story you tell yourself about your stress actually CHANGES. You feel stronger–more confident–more in control, even in the midst of uncertainty.

Stress-Values Intervention Exercise

So, try the following exercise.

Take 10 minutes and think about, reflect on your values. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How does what you’re doing in your day; in your work, family, and personal life; how are these connected with and expressing your values?
  • If your activities are disconnected to your values, how could you re-connect them?
  • Is there anything you need to change to more fully express your values right now?

Remember, your values are not your goals. Your values are how you show up in any arena as you pursue your goals.

Two things will make this exercise more effective: (1) As you think about your values, write them down! And write down how they connect to what you are doing. (2) Make a values reminder: this can be anything from a sticky note to an artistic creation. Put the reminder somewhere will you will see it every day and it will spur you to use this intervention.

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