Managing Stress Differently with Dr Tim Sharp aka Dr Happy

Stress is part of life whether we like it or not. But approaching it with a different attitude can make that inevitability more manageable and less disruptive and even enjoyable. Here, Dr Sharp aka Dr Happy shares some oft overlooked ways to better manage your stress. 

It’s been written and said many times over the last few years, so I suppose one more time won’t hurt; the last few years have been an unprecedented and difficult period for most of us. With disruptions to work and schooling and life in general, the period since March 2020 has led to higher-than-normal levels of stress and anxiety.

Even without pandemics, and all the associated issues, life will always involve some form and some level of stress (hey, if you think about it, life would be pretty damn boring if everything went perfectly!). As such, it’s important to state what might be obvious to some, but what is a very important message, that “it’s OK not to be OK all the time”.

In this article, I’m not going to focus on the more common stress management strategies, even though they can be mightily effective, like relaxation and meditation, taking time out and using distraction, exercise and reaching out to talk to or ask for help from others (to name just a few). Instead, I want to bring your attention to some overlooked and perhaps unexpected ways to help manage your stress.

1.Accepting negative emotions

Accepting at least some negative emotions in our lives is crucial because expecting to be happy all the time is just plain unrealistic, and unrealistic expectations just create more negative emotions in the form of frustration and disappointment. It’s like setting yourself up to fail. That’s just stressful!

But acceptance doesn’t mean giving in; it doesn’t mean allowing the distress to overwhelm you or to overtake everything else that’s good in your life. Acceptance just means facing up to the realities so you can then, and this is the important bit, do what you can to control what you can, to enjoy more positive emotions where and when you can.

2.Laughing in the face of stress

There’s a famous saying that goes something like … if you can laugh in the face of adversity, you’ve won! And there’s no doubt that humour and playfulness can be powerful forces for good.

But this is often understood, in my humble opinion, in too narrow terms. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not just about laughing at stress or difficulties but more so, approaching them with a mindset that’s playful and most notably, helpful (or constructive). Ultimately, it’s about finding what works for you, and that will often mean different things to different people. Which leads right to my next point…

3.Explore something different

Different strategies may work differently for different people, or even the same person at different times in their lives. What worked yesterday or last year might not work, or might not work as well, today, or tomorrow. Which is why it can be useful, and fun, to try different approaches because as another saying goes, variety is the spice of life.

This doesn’t mean you need to do anything big or drastically change up your lifestyle, it might just be finding peace in the little things – take a few extra minutes to sit in your local park, find a track in your existing music collection you find calming or relaxing, or even….

4.Try an ‘unconventional’ therapy 

Although many people think about happiness and wellbeing in individual terms, the most significant contributors to living a good life are about connection and positive relationships. One great way to foster this kind of social interaction is by getting out in the world in shared spaces.

While it may seem a little out of left field, shopping centres are one of these key gathering spaces and therefore “retail therapy”, when practised correctly, can actually provide very real benefits. In addition to building social connections with friends, loved ones, and even strangers, it can also enhance a sense of control, provide a healthy distraction, and boost positive emotions such as joy and happiness.

A new campaign in the Sydney CBD that I’ve been involved with has combined retail therapy with three other multisensory therapies, in an effort to create a larger wellness experience for as many people as possible. It’s really bringing principles of wellbeing, wellness and psychology, which are sometimes only accessible in clinical settings, to the real world.

Three iconic Sydney shopping centres – The QVB, The Strand Arcade and The Galeries – are each hosting an installation inspired by a different form of ‘retail therapy’ that anyone can try for free (no purchase necessary!) until 7 May. A chromotherapy-based light tunnel at The Galeries; fractal therapy-based animations at The QVB; and specially produced sound therapy tracks at The Strand Arcade provide a beautiful wellness experience while you browse.

Here’s a taste of the therapies on offer at each location:

  • At the Galeries, visitors will find Chromotherapy or Colour Therapy: research has shown that different light colours can induce different effects – green light, for example, has been found to reduce anxiety while blue light exposure has been found to enhance attention and alertness.
  • At the QVB, there is a fractal therapy-inspired experience that uses animated geometric patterns called “fractals”. Exposure to fractal therapy, which mimics naturally occurring fractals found in nature, could reduce stress levels by up to 60%. 
  • And at The Strand Arcade, visitors can enjoy several specially produced sound therapy tracks that can help promote calm, experience focus, and more, and look up to see a visual installation that mimics the soothing audio waveforms. 

So, there you have it, – a few more ‘alternative’ tips for managing stress and living better. We, as a society, have become far better at prioritising wellbeing over the past few years. It’s great to see how many conversations we’re having now about wellness and mental health. Let’s keep having those discussions and I hope I’ve added something positive to the soundtrack and background of your lives!

About Dr Tim Sharp

Dr. Happy has three degrees in psychology (including a Ph.D.) and is the founder & CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) of The Happiness Institute, Australia’s first organisation devoted solely to enhancing happiness in all individuals. He’s able to offer practical tips and expert advice on how to manage stress and generally live a happier life. Would this be of interest? 

Dr Happy has partnered with Vicinity Centres to offer three unique and multisensory wellness therapies to the public, that are currently exclusively available at the QVB, The Galeries, and The Strand Arcade throughout the month of April. – Fractal Therapy, Chromotherapy and Sound Therapy.

Disclaimer: This article provides general information only, and does not constitute health or medical advice. If you have any concerns regarding your physical or mental health, seek immediate medical attention.