Discover smart ways to manage stress before it becomes toxic and adversely affects your health and life. Let’s take a look at the causes of stress that we overlook most of the time, and how to beat them.
“If the grass looks greener on the other side, stop complaining and start watering the grass you’re standing on” – Angel Charnoff.
Why do you get stressed?
Stress is our bodies’ natural response to potential threats. Though the concept of stress is modern, this fight or flight response called “stress” is as old as mankind.
What, then, makes stress the all-important cause for concern, with the World Health Organisation referring to stress as the health epidemic of the twenty-first century? Stress is also known to be one of the common factors that play a role in most of the health issues today ranging from obesity to heart disease.
Amanda Enayati, a CNN Contributor, in her book, “Seeking Serenity” says the difference between us and our ancestors as far as stress is concerned, is that we endure the ‘stressors’ all the time. Constantly. With access to information and news that reach us within minutes of incidents happening around the world, we react in the same way our ancestors used to when faced with a life-or-death situation. Not to mention that human mind, in an adaptive way, is drawn towards negative information like economic meltdowns, mindless killings, Government instability, terrorism, global warming, to name a few worst-case scenarios.
Why is stress bad for your health?
Even if we assume there is no bad news, there are still stress triggers in everyday living – traffic congestion, having to deal with people you don’t like or constant multitasking. Amanda says it’s not actually the stress that’s of concern but how we look at it and respond to it. Research shows that short spurts of stress boosts brain capacity, memory, and learning, and enhances the body’s immune response.
How we think about stress is the key to unlocking its power. When we perceive stress to be unrelenting and traumatic, it becomes toxic. Stress can be recast as an amazing gift, one that sharpens our mind and heightens our focus.
So how do you manage stress in a smart, easy way?
Apply breaks and buffers to moderate, transient stress before it becomes toxic or chronic. It’s easier said than done, but not impossible. Let’s look at some of the controlling factors:
1. Slow down
You can’t play too many roles at the same time. Accept that you are, afterall, a human who has limitations. Prioritize and focus only on the worthy. Motivational speaker Robin Sharma says, “the real secret to getting things done is knowing what things need to be left undone.”
2. Go on an intermittent “technology fast”
Try to go without technology and gadgets for a few minutes intermittently through the course of the day. Resist the urge to look up your messages. Instead, watching, talking, listening and spending time with people will make a world of difference.
3. Take off on a mini-vacation
When you are too overwhelmed with work or find yourself in a stressful situation, instantly drop whatever you have been doing. Sitting wherever you are, close your eyes and visualize yourself at your favorite vacation spot or any favorite location for a few minutes. It would take as little as 15 minutes to de-stress and improve your mood.
You just have to ensure you are alone and undisturbed, even if it means locking yourself in a room. Can’t find a quiet place? Use the restroom!
4. Accept failure and discomfort
Every successful person will tell you that failures are part of life. We’ve heard so many real-life success stories that started with failures. Without challenges and failures, you wouldn’t be the person you are today. It’s the stress created by that deadline that pushed you to complete the project so efficiently. So don’t be too hard on yourself. Just try your best to move on and things will settle down.
5. Experience gratitude
We don’t need to meet a physically or mentally challenged person to feel blessed. Gratitude can be felt for things as simple as those that made you smile. Maintaining a gratitude journal is a great way to feel contented and happy. A contented person hardly feels stressed.
6. Live mindfully
This means going about our daily routine by enjoying every moment, rather than doing them absent-mindedly. For example, while eating, be aware of how the food looks, smells, tastes rather than watch TV or scan emails. This is true for anything from showering or cooking to walking, even breathing (that’s what meditation is all about.) Once you start living in the moment, where’s the question of stress?
Reaching out to people is a sure-fire way to control chronic stress. Psychotherapists say that volunteering always makes you feel good because it promotes the feeling of being part of a community and being useful and valuable to fellow beings. You are never too old or too young, or too busy to help fellow beings.
8. Avoid toxic people/ situations
Negative people have a greater rub-off effect than positive ones. So staying away from negative people is more important to manage stress effectively. If you can’t avoid, at least try to remain disconnected. Be determined not to let anyone or anything spoil your day. Don’t carry others’ emotional baggage on yourself, you already have enough. On the other hand, try to be a positive influence on others. These tips will help you get over negative emotions and be a STRESS-BUSTER!
9. Have fun
Intentionally make time to laugh more, go for a walk, enjoy nature. You don’t have to go too far, it is possible to have fun right at home. Play with kids – they give you a wonderful opportunity to be a child all over again.
10. Spend time rather than money
To keep your loved ones happy, prefer to spend more time with them rather than buying expensive stuff. Time is a rare commodity these days so they are sure to appreciate it. Once you make someone you love happy, you’re happy too and whatever stress you were feeling, just melts away.
11. Find and embrace your creativity
Science shows that stress triggers are lesser for creative people. Finding out areas where you are creative and developing them (or just appreciating creativity in others) can act as a buffer against toxic stress. Start a hobby, if you don’t already have one.
You are not into art, cooking, baking, singing, dancing? No problem, try learning a new language. Anybody can do it, it is real fun, and it sharpens your cognitive skills. Don’t think it is a good investment? Enroll for free online courses. See, I can be quite persuasive!
12. Eat healthy food
Eating a well-balanced whole-food diet goes a long way in beating stress, as any health enthusiast would swear by. It’s a proven fact that processed and sugary foods increase stress levels. Improve your eating habits and your relationship with food and feel your stress levels drop.
13. Make time for physical exercise
Physical activity is one of the factors that feature first when you google anything about stress relief. And rightly so. Most successful people cite exercise as the single most effective stress-busting factor.
When you’re too stressed to focus, pause and start cleaning up your desk, house, or your wardrobe. Anything that needs cleaning. Decluttering your environment, your home and your desk really helps in relaxing your mind. In fact, the process of cleaning up itself has been suggested as a stress-relieving activity. That is a win-win situation for you. At the end of all that cleaning, you are less stressed and you get to live in a cleaner environment.
Got inspired to do some or all of these tips to de-stress? Great!
Which ones out of these do you prefer? Love to hear from you!