Stress may affect individuals in many ways, and these may pose an effect on their personal and professional life. Regardless of the things or event that stresses you, it is more important to have the willingness and determination to overcome them. It is essential to understand what stresses you because it is only then that you will be able to move forward and avoid these stressful things or events completely. You can avoid many problems by taking action instead of letting stress get you down. Now is the time to plan your way to stress less and live more!
With a good stress relief plan you will be able to manage stress. Sometimes there are easy things that you can do routinely to keep bad stress away. Here are some basic Stress Management Techniques and fundamentals that you can incorporate right away. Make these anti-stress strategies a part of your life. Putting them into practice can help you effectively manage stress.
Here is the breakdown of what we’ll cover:
- Effects of Stress
- What is Stress?
- Identifying Stress
- Adapt a Stress Reducing Lifestyle
- Replace Bad Habits
- How to React to Stress
- Routines to Reduce Stress
- Learning to Live with Stress
How is Stress Affecting You?
Before we dive right in, let’s first look at what stress actually is, how widespread it is, what factors create stress and what are the signals of stress.
Biologically, stress is actually a healthy and normal response to any ‘stressor’ (defined as a trigger that causes stress, so that’s a bit of a circular explanation).
The purpose of stress is to prime our body for action in the face of a physical threat. In other words, this is a kind of ‘action mode’ that our body kicks into and the more difficult stressors would have been things like, predators, fires or aggressive members of our own species.
What is Stress?
Let’s begin by defining Stress. It has been defined in several different ways and each definition has relevance, but we shall shortly speak about the definition that should matter to us the most.
A popular medical website defines stress as:
“The physical and emotional strain which is caused by our response to the pressure from the outside world.”
This definition is good and seems correct. But there is something very important missing. Let’s see some other definition and the missing element will become apparent. The definition of stress according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is as follows:
“The physical, chemical or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and which may be a factor in the cause of disease.”
All of these definitions again have the same element missing, and that makes them inadequate. Now, here are the definitions that we really like:-
“Stress is the response that the human body provides when it is met with circumstances that induce it to behave, alter or modify in some manner to maintain their comfortable state of balance.”
“Stress is the body’s way of reacting to a challenge and getting prepared to face with tough situations with concentration, determination and strength with a state of total alertness.”
Did you realize already why we like the last two definitions and not the ones mentioned before? Here is what worked for us… and what should work for you as well.
With the previous definitions, the problem is that stress is defined just as the influence of outside negative factors on the body. These definitions consider the body as a latent object, which can be easily manipulated by outside forces.
But, with the last two definitions, the big difference is that stress is called as a ‘reaction’ or a ‘response’. These definitions consider the body as an actionable force; and it considers humans as beings who can do something about negative situations that they encounter in life.
Most people have the whole idea of stress pegged on wrong. They think that stress just happens, and they can do nothing about it, except complain and brood. They think that they simply are meant to wallow in stress and do nothing about it.
That is hardly the case. The truth is that our bodies are very well capable of dealing with the negative situations that will inevitably crop up in our life. And it is these reactions that are termed as stress.
What we see here is the overall lack of knowledge people have about stress. Maybe you have the completely wrong idea as well. You are thinking about ‘being stressed’ as a situation where you do nothing and are simply worried about the circumstances in your life.
The truth is that ‘being stressed’ means being NOT DEFEATED from the various negative situations that present themselves in your life. Being stressed means fighting those challenges. Being stressed means coming up a winner whenever you indulge in these fights.
And that is what we are going to tell you… how to fight against the stressful situations in your life. Let’s first look at some statistics, how widespread it is, what creates stress, it’s symptoms and who it affects.
Just how widespread is this stress related problem?
According to The American Institute of Stress:
- About 33 percent of people feel like they are living with extreme stress.
- 73 percent of people experience mental stress.
- 48 percent lie awake at night due to stress.
- 72 percent feeling stressed about money most of the time.
- 77 percent of people experience physical stress symptoms that affects their physical health.
- Those that experience physical stress experience the following symptoms.
|Irritability or anger||50 %|
|Feeling nervous||45 %|
|Lack of energy||45 %|
Unfortunately, for most Americans, the levels of stress are increasing getting worse.
The Global Organization for Stress reports that:
- 75 percent of Americans experienced moderate to high stress levels in the past month.
- Stress is the number one health concern of high school students.
- 80 percent of people feel stress at work.
- Well, to highlight the severity of stress, it’s worth noting that work-related stress causes 10% of strokes (via raised blood pressure). 3 out of 4 doctors’ visits are related to stress and stress can raise your risk of heart disease by 40%.
- Stress is also ruining our diets. We eat for comfort but also when our body uses up blood sugar (which it does when we’re stressed). Cortisol makes us store more fat and as such, 40% of stressed people will overeat or eat unhealthily. Another 44% of people lose sleep due to stress.
- And if you thought stress was making you more productive think again: stress blunts creativity and even physically shrinks the brain. It’s thought that stress related problems cost the US a whopping $300 billion every year. That’s $100 billion more than obesity.
- 44% of Americans say they are feeling more stressed year on year and 1 in 5 say they experience ‘extreme stress’.
So where is all this stress coming from?
The top causes according to Statistic Brain Research Institute are:
- Job pressure
- Poor nutrition
- Media overload
- Sleep deprivation
- Global disaster such as the coronavirus
Biologically, stress is a healthy and normal response to any ‘stressor’ (defined as a trigger that causes stress.) The purpose of stress is to prime our body for action in the face of a physical threat. In other words, this is a kind of ‘action mode’ that our body kicks into and the more difficult stressors would have been things like predators, fires or aggressive members of our own species.
What happens to us physically then is that our sympathetic nervous system kicks in and triggers the pituitary glands to release several hormones and neurotransmitters such as adrenaline, nor-epinephrine, dopamine and cortisol. These chemicals in turn trigger our bodies to direct blood away from less immediately necessary functions (such as our immune system and our digestive system) and to our brains and muscles. Meanwhile, they increase focus, awareness and bring on feelings of anxiety and danger. Our heartrates also increase and ultimately, we end up far more on-edge and ‘wired’. Even our feeling of pain is reduced, and our blood thickens to encourage clotting in case of injury. This is what is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response.
Factors that Create Stress
Now that you have a better idea of what stress is, it is a good time to understand what causes stress. What are these factors that should precipitate you into taking a particular action?
These factors are called stressors. You may already have some idea about the things that can cause stress, but you should know that there are a lot more factors out there.
Stressors are not so simple that they can be fitted into a single category. In comparison with that, you can see that stressors aren’t something that you can have a uniform fight with. Each of these factors have a different way of dealing with them.
Overall, we can classify these stress-inducing factors as external stressors and internal stressors. Both are equally dangerous if they are left to be as they are. And both need to be fought against with equal fervor if we want to ensure a happier life for ourselves.
These are the changes happening in the environment around us that pose adverse situations for us. These things are happening in our external environment, and hence we call them as external stressors. When these changes happen, our body begins to react in a way. We get a feeling of being threatened.
External stressors can confront us anywhere. They may come up at work… a looming deadline is a good example. They may relate to financial matters. A bill that must be paid, some payment that has not yet come, tax that is overcharged, a wrong credit card score, etc. are so many different things that can disorient your living.
There can also be such factors in relationships. In fact, most of the stress-inducing factors happen in relationships. This is because two people are involved… two people with two different ways of thinking. Things are going to make noise when opinions clash.
There can be so many other kinds of external stressors. The current political situation could be a stress-causing factor for you. If your home needs to be renovated, it could cause stress even if you have money. Someone close to you leaves you and goes away. The fact, that we must deal with unfortunate circumstances like this worldwide pandemic of the Corona virus. Again, that can cause a lot of mental, physical and spiritual stress.
Stress happens in joyful situations also. If there is a wedding in the family, the stress that is caused there is indescribable. Why just wedding, anything that you have to organize in your house can cause stress, even a small kids party! Also, something like an impending pregnancy can cause stress. You are happy about the little one coming to live with you soon, but maybe the anticipation is taking its toll on you.
Now, there are so many ways in which stress can meet you in your house itself. We have already pointed out some such factors above. Bills to be paid, pregnancy, etc. are stress-causing factors that happen in the home itself. Something in your house doesn’t work when you want it too… that can cause stress as well.
At the same time, you shouldn’t think that stress has to be caused by monumental, life-changing factors. There are so many trivial matters over which we can get so worked up. Don’t some people get stressed just because children playing outside make too much noise? Or that the dogs bark so loudly? Or that the vehicles honk incessantly outside their house, even if they really don’t? Or simply that the water for their bath isn’t hot enough? Or that they have missed their bus?
All these are external factors that can cause stress. The list is endless, but these examples are more than adequate to help you understand what they are like.
Some of the stress-causing factors come from within. Mostly these are the mental problems that we so often face in today’s world. These may manifest themselves in the form of depression, insomnia, ADD, and even more physical forms such as allergies, nausea and vomiting and digestive disorders, etc.
Internal stressors are usually more difficult to handle because they are working inside the body. They are related to your constitution and have a medical ground. Chronic diseases can also cause internal stress. People who suffer from heart-related problems or diabetes, for instance, are usually under a large amount of internal stress. Usually, the stress due to these factors also becomes chronic.
But the situation is not all that bleak. There is very little we can do about chronic ailments, but not all internal stressors are related to chronic problems. Some of these can be easily managed, and even eliminated.
A lot of internal stress stems from the way you look at yourself, or the way you deal with things. For instance, if you have high beliefs or hopes about something and then it doesn’t go your way, it can lead to stress. The solution here would be not to expect anything irrationally.
If you cannot focus on your work, that is internal stress as well. You can solve that by improving your concentration and finding new ways to motivate yourself. Other forms of internal stress come in the form of low self-esteem, low self-perception, lack of confidence and other similar personality traits.
Sometimes, too much of a good thing is also bad. Just as high expectations can lead to stress, perfectionism can also lead to stress.
If you always seek perfection in everything, especially to a point of obsession, then it is going to hurt you at one time or the other. At the same time, if you are too eager to please people, then that could be a big problem as well, because you are not going to be able to do that all the time.
If you have habits that are not quite accepted socially, then those could be a problem as well. For instance, if you try to put people on, or if you are dishonest with people, then sooner or later, this could cause your balance to get disturbed.
Some internal stressors are rooted in the past. These are very difficult to get rid of. A childhood-related phobia, for instance, is difficult to shake off. If you have had a bad childhood or an abusive relationship, then it could leave a scar on you for a long time and could become an internal stressor as well. Also, the habit of worrying too much, which could also have its origins in your past, can cause stress.
These are the various factors that can lead you to stress. Most of them are possible to control, though the going may not always be easy. You must take stock of the situation. As we shall see in further on, you must first come out of denial if you want to conquer your stress.
Your body will react to stress-causing factors in different ways. What you must do is to channelize this response of your body so that it brings about positive results for you.
You must target the response so that it eliminates the stress-causing factor.
Whether externally or internally produced, it is possible to combat stress, however difficult. It all starts with how much in acceptance you are, and then depends on how much effort you want to put in.
One of the most deterring factors in any stress solution is that the person suffering from stress is in denial. They don’t accept that they are going through any stress. Due to that, they do not want to react. This keeps them from finding the right respite for their problem and the problem keeps on aggravating.
Since we are talking about conquering your stress here, one of the most crucial things that you must keep in mind is that you must come out of your denial. You must understand the fact that there are situations that are disorienting you, and only then can you start to think what you can do about them.Understanding the stress signals is a very vital aspect of the stress-busting game. If you want your stress to react in the right manner, i.e. to remove the stressor, then first you must know that you are stressed.
The most significant aspect of combatting stress is that you must accept it. There are people who think that if they speak about their stress, their near and dear ones will begin to worry. There are also those stubborn people who believe that they can do everything needed to eliminate their stress factor all by themselves and hence they do not think they need to tell anyone about it.
Whatever be the situation, keeping your stress to yourself is highly counterproductive. Not only are you not going to come out of your stressful situation, but you are going to aggravate it.
To understand what you can do to remove your stress, the first and most important thing is to accept that you are stressed. You can do this by looking out for the signals. Here are the signals that you have watch out for.
Are any of the following things happening to you?
Here, we are going to classify the stress signals as indicators of short-term and long-term stress. Short-term signals of stress usually manifest themselves when the stress-causing factor has been recent, or if something has happened recently that has aggravated the factor. Long-term stress is chronic. This happens mostly due to internal stressors, though even external stressors that have tormented you for a long time can cause such responses.
Signals of Short-Term Stress
The following is a list of the bodily symptoms of short-term stress.
- Your heartbeat becomes quicker.
- You sweat more profusely.
- You experience sweat on the palms of your hands and the undersides of your feet. There is also a cold sensation there.
- You find different sets of muscles in your body suddenly go tight despite your attempts to control them.
- Your breath becomes heavier.
- Your mouth runs drier.
- You have a sick feeling in the stomach.
- You have to go to the bathroom repeatedly.
- Things like muscular spasms, extreme fatigue, headaches and shortness of breath happen to you.
Here are some ways in which short-term stress can affect your productivity.
- You are not able to think clearly.
- You find it difficult to make choices.
- You find it difficult to build strategies.
- You become disinterested in things that previously used to interest you.
- You feel guilty about entertaining yourself.
- You feel bad about the simplest and the most necessary things in life too; like, you may want to feel bad about eating your food.
- You become either very dejected or very short-tempered.
- You feel worried when you laugh.
If any of these signs start appearing, then it means that you are facing some stressful situation. But that situation is solvable; only you have to put in the right efforts once you have detected what it is.
Signals of Long-Term Stress
The signs of long-term stress are often quite radical. You need to be more worried about them, because it is possible that you have long forgotten what caused the stress in the first place.
People suffering from long-terms are usually prone to the following signs and signals:
- Several of your habits change. This refers mainly to food and sleep. If you are eating differently than before, or sleeping in any way that is different, then it might mean that you are suffering from stress, which may not be quite apparent at that moment.
- Mood changes happen within you. You feel disoriented and confused. You act in a very emotionally driven manner.
- Vices take hold of you. You start smoking and alcoholism, maybe even drugs.
- You neglect work and relationships, and spend more time doing nothing.
- You become careless of your looks.
- You become uncaring for the people around you.
- You talk more gloomy things as the days pass by.
These signals indicate that there is some long-standing stress within you. Something has snapped, and you must take stock of the situation as soon as you can.
8 Successful Coping with Stress Strategies
1. Identify Where Stress is Coming From
As I mentioned before some of the common causes of stress include work, money, health, and relationships. Stress can also be caused by even more abstract things such as feeling like you lack purpose, or feeling uncertain about whether you’re doing the right thing. Stress can come from loneliness, from boredom and sometimes it can even seem to have no cause at all.
The first thing you need to do to start combating stress then is to identify where it is coming from. A lot of the most popular treatments for stress seem to focus on dealing with the symptoms but this is ignoring the bigger problem and the more straightforward answer.
If you are stressed, then 9 times out of 10, something is causing that stress.
Stress is unacceptable.
You need to remove that source of stress.
It’s simple math and it starts with identifying the problem.
2. Find the Cause of Your Stress?
How do you find the cause of your stress and identify what needs to change in your life?In some cases, it will be obvious. For instance, if you are stressed about work then you will likely know this. If it’s your debt, then that might also be obvious.
But perhaps you’re overlooking some of the smaller things too? Maybe you’re so focused on the stress of that wedding planning, that you’ve missed the fact that you’re also stressed about work? Maybe you’re missing the amount of stress that is coming from other things – like your back pain. Sometimes focusing on the small things can give us better idea for dealing with the things and that can ultimately lead to us being much more able to cope with stress and really being able to make headway.
- Something to consider doing then is keeping a list. Some people have a notebook, stress diary or stress journal.
- Write down everything you can think of that is causing you any amount of stress. Even if it’s a small thing, add it to the list.
- Sign up for our Free Daily Stress Journal below.
- Furthermore, make sure that you are constantly adding to the list. Keep your stress log with you and every time something else comes up that is stressful note it down.
Further Things to Add to your Stress Journal
Stress is very closely linked to time so listing all your jobs and things here makes sense too. Think about your routine too – is your commute causing you stress? Is the queue at Starbucks for your morning coffee causing you stress? Is your spouse or children stressing you out? Is in your relationship with your spouse, children or friends? Write every detail down.
Another trick is to break down the large things that are causing you stress into multiple smaller items. So, don’t just write down for example, Work, Relationship or Children’ BUT BREAK it down into lots of small things under that broad heading. For example, stress can occur because you don’t have time for your partner like you use too, the stress of caring for an infant, stress of not having time for yourself, or stress of meeting deadlines. Even if you can’t change the biggest items on that list, changing those smaller items can do you a world of good.
3. Figure Out What Stressors You Can Fix
Once you have listed your stress causes, grade them for severity and grade them for how easily fixed they are. You can sign up for your free stress journal that will assist you in this.
You will then make a massive commitment to removing as many items as you can – and especially the biggest stressors.
Remember: your health and happiness are the priority here. There is no circumstance under which you should be making yourself miserable every single day.
If your job is making you that unhappy, address that which is making you feel that way. Refer to your stress diary… is it your boss, is it too much work and long hours. If you are having financial trouble, create a budget see where you can save or perhaps seek a financial consultant. Set some time out to be with your spouse. Whatever it is, you need to break it down and clearly identify what is causing you stress, and once you see what the stress is you can develop a plan of action to resolve them. Sometimes all it requires is a shift in your thinking but it’s well worth doing.
That might sound overly simplistic but it really is that simple.
Of course you might need to put some things in place first – you might need to make some changes that will relieve some of your stress and make you happier and if you’re happier, you’re happier. That’s success.
This all requires a shift in your thinking but it’s well worth doing. Likewise, you can also pick and choose other elements of your lifestyle to remove or add to change your stress levels. Are you constantly having arguments with your partner? Then consider taking a break, seeing a counselor or breaking up. Are you stressed because you have no money? Then try moving into a smaller house. Or even moving back in with your parents if you’re single! Stressed about the commute? Move nearer to work.
Find the things that are causing you stress and then remove them by making some changes with a plan of action.
Once you’ve ticked off all the ‘big things’ you can tick off, you can also look at the smaller things.
So, for instance, you might find that you’re stressed because you have that commute. Well would life be better if you cycled instead. Or how about moving your working day an hour forward or back if your boss will allow? Maybe you could look into a lift share. Maybe you could even work from home a couple of days! The options are there you just need to make the time to figure it out.
4. Learn How to Eliminate Stress Constructively and React Positively
If you have been following along, then you will have understood one very important point… you can do something about your stress and use your stress to eliminate your stress. Take the stress constructively and then react positively in order to remove the stress. This is the approach that works. And, the one thing that you must keep in mind is that it is always possible to eliminate the stressful condition.
However difficult it may seem; stress can never be permanent. This is not just positive thinking; it is a fact. You can become the master of your stress.
Take the stress constructively and then react positively in order to remove the stress. This is the approach that works. And, the one thing that you must keep in mind is that it is always possible to eliminate the stressful condition.
Stressed Can be Worked Out!
One of the most important things we have mentioned—which is also the most unorthodox concept MENTIONED here—is that stress can be used to kill stress.
To reiterate… when a stressful condition presents itself before you, it is going to trigger some kind of response in you. You are going to react. Now, most people react negatively when they are faced with a stressful situation. However, you should learn how NOT to do that. Instead of behaving negatively and succumbing to all those unappealing behavior, you must channelize all your energies and try to remove the stress itself. You must work in such a way that your stress is removed, and you can do that by directing your stress-influenced response in the right manner.
We will attempt to tell you what these methods are; how this can be done. You do not need any special tools or implements for that. You can do it just by making minor adjustments in your personality and in your way of thinking. Once you have these pat downs, you will almost see your stress melting away.
Stress is a response of hormones within the body. It is hormones that create all kinds of sensations within us. Instead of allowing these hormones to react negatively and take us into the abyss of depression, we should focus these hormones to react positively. It is within us to build this high amount of enthusiasm and positive energy within us, energy that can move mountains!
So, the most important thing for you to keep in mind now is that stress is something quite transient. Do not make it a mainstay in your life. Target your stress-induced responses towards the removal of the factors that caused stress. And, always keep your hopes switched on . Be optimistic. That works like a shot in the arm when the going gets tough!
5. Make Lifestyle Changes for Less Stress
If you have taken all the advice in the above sections to heart, you should now be living with a lot less stress – or at least you should be on your way to living less stressfully.
Basically, you now have an idea of all the things both big and small that are causing you stress and you’ve started to remove those stressors from your daily routine. While there will likely still be some causes of stress in your life, even knocking just a few off the list will make life that much more enjoyable and that much more bearable.
But this is only one piece of the puzzle. Equally important for instance is the way you look after yourself and your health. If you have bad health then not only is this a source of stress in itself but it also makes you much more likely to experience stress as your body will be less capable of dealing with problems. When you have tons of energy, a healthy body and a well-rested mind, then life becomes much easier.
In this section then, we will look at some holistic lifestyle changes you can start doing to significantly improve the stress in your life.
Cutting Out Caffeine
The first thing you’re going to do to start experiencing less stress is to cut out caffeine. This is something that won’t sit easily with a lot of people reading this but it’s actually one of the biggest and easiest things you can do to drastically improve your stress levels.
Why? Well the first thing to recognize is that caffeine is essentially stress in a mug. This is what it is designed to do. That’s because caffeine increases many of the same neurotransmitters as stress. When you drink coffee, the caffeine will block the adenosine receptors in your brain. Adenosine is responsible for making us sleepy and as such, this simple change will make you feel much more awake and alert – which is why so many of us rely on coffee to start our day.
But what not everyone knows is that this then leans to a chain reaction where your brain realizes it’s now more wide awake and assumes that something very important must be happening. As a result, you begin to produce more dopamine, more cortisol and more norepinephrine. In other words, your brain floods itself with stress hormones and this is why caffeine increases your heart-rate, makes you feel jittery and can bring on anxiety.
So if you’re heading to work and you’re stressed about work already, drinking a cup of very strong coffee is like adding fuel to the flame.
And what’s more, caffeine can prevent you from sleeping properly and it’s addictive in nature. Many of us will experience withdrawal symptoms, even if we go through the night without getting more coffee. This is one of the reasons you wake up feeling groggy and maybe with a headache. So if you want to start feeling less stressed and more energetic, one of the first things to do is to cut back on caffeine or even kick that habit completely!
Sleep to Combat Stress
Another thing you can do to combat stress highly effectively is to improve the quality and quantity of sleep you’re getting. The more you sleep, the more refreshed you’ll feel in the morning, the more you will have dispensed with stress hormones and the easier everything is going to seem.
Of course this is something of a catch 22 however, seeing as it’s hard to sleep if you’re already stressed.
The first thing to do then is to try and make the environment you’re sleeping in more conducive to a good night’s rest.
- One way to do this is to make the room darker. Another trick is to make the room quieter. Try to keep your bedroom tidier too and reserve it only for sleeping and for sex – so that when you head to bed your brain will associate the space and that action with going to sleep. This will also help you to keep your room less cluttered and the less cluttered it is, the less ‘busy’ your mind will feel when you try and nod off.
- Another tip for ensuring your sleeping environment is right is to try and keep it a little cooler. Leave your window ajar and this will help your body to better regulate its temperature while you sleep.
- A hot shower can also help you to regulate your temperature and has the added benefit of releasing more melatonin and relaxing your muscles.
- But most important of all is to take half an hour before bed to decompress. Of all the actionable tips for combating stress in this article, consider this to be one of the most valuable.
If you head to bed right after watching TV, tidying, washing up, arguing with your partner… then you are still going to be stressed and this will greatly impact on how well rested you feel in the morning.
Instead then, make a concerted effort to ensure that you get proper recovery by just sitting in bed for half an hour reading. This also means you won’t be looking at any kind of screen, which can be responsible for upsetting your body clock and stimulating the production of cortisol.
And finally, knowing that you have half an hour to decompress at the end of the day is also incredibly beneficial. It means that no matter how busy and how hectic life gets, you will have at least half an hour in order to relax and let your stress subside.
Learn How to Drift Off When you’re Stressed
If your mind is racing with all the stresses of the day though, then you might find that it’s difficult to switch off and fall asleep. As mentioned, this creates something of a catch 22. The thing to remember here then, is not to try and force it.
What happens for too many people is that they try and fall asleep only to feel their mind racing and then they get frustrated. They’re tired, they’re low on energy and they need to get to sleep. Thus they start trying to force themselves to drift off which actually only ends up making them upset and raising their heartrate further. The more you try and force yourself to fall asleep, the more stressed you become and the harder it is to actually sleep.
Instead, if you allow yourself to just enjoy lying there – which is still highly beneficial – and if you focus on how comfortable it is and how nice it is not to have to do anything; that’s when you’ll find you drift off.
Getting Rid of Alarm Clocks
One more tip for the bedroom is to get rid of your traditional alarm clock. If you’re currently being woken out of deep sleep by a blaring alarm then this is about the worst thing you can be doing for your overall stress levels.
Why? Because you’re going from being deeply asleep top being startled awake.
When we sleep, our body and mind are getting restored. We are then designed to wake up only once we have fully recovered from all the trials of the previous day and only once we have gradually come around.
However, our brain is smart and leaves some of our senses untouched. The reason for this is that in theory it allows us to stay aware of threats and dangers. In the wild, this would mean that you wouldn’t sleep straight through an attack by a predator.
Our brain ignores sounds we’re used to for the most part, which is why the traffic outside doesn’t wake you up. But an unusual and unexpected sound – such as an alarm which would never have been heard in a natural setting – is enough to jolt us awake.
Thus you wake up, thinking on a primal level that you are being attacked. And again, this leads to the sudden flood of stress hormones. You are startled awake and for the whole rest of the day you’ll be stressed.
Replace this instead with a daylight alarm such as one of the natural sound alarm clocks and sunrise stimulators. These are designed to wake you up with a light that gradually gets brighter and that has the same wavelength as the sun. In other words, your brain thinks it’s waking up naturally because the sun is rising and this gradually brings you out of the deepest levels of sleep ready to be nudged into wakefulness. This is a much less stressful way to start the day.
Implement a Healthy Diet and Exercise
Finally, you should also make sure that you are eating a good diet and getting plenty of exercise.
Exercise happens to be one of the best natural treatments for stress, depression and low mood there is. When we work out, this triggers the release of serotonin and other endorphins, putting us in a good mood and helping us to feel generally much better.
What’s more, exercise in the long run has positive effects on brain structure, it provides us with more mental and physical energy and it helps us sleep better. Exercise can also combat some of the other causes of stress indirectly. For instance, it makes us much more confident which can make social stressors seemingly less serious and easier to cope with.
Diet wise, the objective is to lighten the load on your systems and to provide more energy.
Avoiding sugary foods can help for starters as these only cause a sudden spike in blood sugar, followed by a sudden insulin response, followed by a slump as we feel low in energy. Sugar also causes inflammation in the body and can lead to various health problems.
Meanwhile, you should try and make sure your diet contains lots of nutrients and is high in vitamins and minerals. These can have all kinds of positive effects on your overall health. For instance, getting more tryptophan from food sources such as poultry can improve your mood as this is the precursor to serotonin – in other words, it’s the raw ingredient that the brain uses to create the ‘happiness hormone’.
Meanwhile, there is some evidence that a zinc deficiency can lead to cognitive problems, while not getting enough energy from food can also cause depression. Omega 3 fatty acid may improve mood by helping neurons to communicate with one another through the process of increasing cell membrane permeability.
You could go into the science of improving energy through diet in a lot of detail – and there’d be enough there to fill a whole book. But really the key just to focus on eating nutrient dense foods while trying to avoid processed sugars. You know this really – but eating a healthy diet that is comprised of freshly cooked ingredients will ensure you’re getting everything you need and not placing a strain on your body unnecessarily
Holistic Wellness Strategies
When you are mentally, physically and spiritually healthy, it can help you deal with stress in a more effective way. Below you will find wellness strategies that will improve your mental, physical, spiritual and emotional health.
Enhance a sense of well-being. Improve concentration and self-discipline. Reduce anxiety, stress, and overcome depression.
Learn how to feel energized and physically fit to improve performance. To attain restful sleep, and what are the essential nutrients to help maintain good health.
Promote mental health with spiritual practices to create a state of balance with your actions, thoughts and emotions.
Your emotional state plays an important role to relieving stress and creating mental wellness. Learn our techniques to make a desirable emotional change.
Natural Alternative for Wellness
I recommend various stress relief tips that include natural alternative techniques, such as homeopathy, acupuncture, hypnosis, massage therapy, aromatherapy, psychotherapy, relationship support, spiritual therapy and more. It may seem like a lot, but you can follow the steps recommended in this article and develop plan of to fit your specific needs. You can start out with small goals and once you achieve those you can move on to the next.
6. Replace Bad Stress Habits with Good Ones
What’s also important to consider is the way that you manage your stress and the way that you manage stressful tasks. In other words, if you have a large list of things to do: how do you go about tackling them? What are your stress habits?
Closing Open Loops
One example of a bad stress habit is leaving ‘open loops. This essentially amounts to the tendency for someone to put off doing the things they find stressful.
Let’s say for instance that you’re someone’s best man. It’s now your job to organize the weekend of a lifetime for them and for all their friends who you don’t know. This is of course an inherently stressful job and something that you might be dreading doing.
So what do you do?
The tendency a lot of people would have is simply to put it off for a long time until they eventually have to do it.
Another example would be calling someone you’re stressed about calling. Say you’ve been invited out by friends and you don’t want to go or can’t go. Turning down invitations can be a stressful experience, so you might be tempted to put off that conversation for as long as possible. Again, you’d eventually have to contact them and at this point it would be much more stressful – as you’d now also be guilty of having ignore them for so long making you feel extra awkward.
What’s more, leaving open loops in this way will mean you now have an additional stressor in the back of your mind. These things will now be hovering over you as you go through all your other activities. When you’re stressed at work, you’ll also be stressed about the fact you have that call to make. When you’re stressed about your relationship, you’ll be aware that you also have to plan a stag.
In other words, it makes much more sense to close these ‘open loops’ as soon as possible. If you have annoying tasks that are causing stress, then do them at the first opportunity. This way you’ll have less burden going forward. Below is a free ebook that can help you to reduce stress by learning how to develop habits and strategies to get you organize and becoming more productive in your day!
The Pomodoro Technique
What’s also important is the way that you’re working through your to-do list. Here the big problem a lot of us have is not knowing when to switch off and of working solidly until we eventually collapse.
Or worse, until we start slowing down to the point where it becomes a waste of time.
In other words, we work until we end up procrastinating for hours. You’ve probably been there – when you must work on a project, or you have to tidy your house. You don’t have the energy to work, you find you keep getting distracted, but you have to. So, you persevere. And what you end up doing. Is everything else but what you need to do.
You’re feeling stressed because you’re half working. You’re not being fully productive but nor are you getting the benefits of rest either.
One way to solve this problem is with the ‘Pomodoro’ technique. Here, you simply segregate the time you have into short bursts of productivity and then short bursts of rest. Normally you do this using a timer.
So, for instance, if you had 10 hours to complete a project, you might break this down into 25 minute working periods with 10 minute rests. This way, you accept that there are going to be points when you stop working but instead of fighting them and becoming exhausted, you embrace them and use them to properly recover. This is a much more efficient use of your time and while it can feel odd peeling yourself away it’s also very good training. Over time you need to teach yourself that sometimes taking a step back is okay – it’s the only way to get over an addiction to stress.
The Pomodoro technique is very popular, and a lot of people swear by it. However, it’s not suitable for every type of work. For instance, if you’re a writer or programmer then you might need to get into a ‘flow state’ in order to get your best work done. This means being completely focused on the work you’re doing and when you reach that point you will find you even end up putting off toilet trips.
Flow states are you at your most productive but once they’re interrupted, they’re incredibly hard to get back into. So, if you’re in that kind of job, the Pomodoro technique may not be a good fit.
Instead, break your work up into tasks that you can complete. For instance, you might say that one ‘chunk’ of work is to complete 1,000 words. After that, you then give yourself a ‘reward’ in the form of a cup of tea, or ten minutes to sit and read. Whatever your reward, you will find that this not only breaks your work into periods of productivity and relaxation but also gives you more incentive to keep working and to keep being productive.
The key to getting this right though is to make anything that isn’t work a reward. Want to make a cup of tea? Well you can’t do it until you’ve checked your e-mail. Want to check Facebook? Not until you’ve finished writing that subroutine.
Where normally you might come into work, check Facebook, make a tea and have a chat before getting anything done, you’ll now have completely a ton of work even before your first cup. This completely changes the feel of the day and leads to much more work getting done.
7. Interrupting Your Usual Stress Reactions
Hopefully, you’ve found that all the tips in this article so far have made a lot of sense. And hopefully you’ll be confident that you can start reducing the stressors in your life and living a slightly easier routine. But no matter how well you follow all this advice, it’s not going to help if a ton of paperwork suddenly lands on your desk.
Or if your boss flies off the handle at you.
Or if your teen not doing their chores or homework.
Or if your partner yells at you for leaving the stove on.
These are acute causes of stress and they can all completely undermine all your good work. What you need is a strategy for dealing with acute stress.
When the fight or flight response kicks in with full force, how do you shut it back down?
CBT and Mindfulness
If you were to go and see a doctor about stress, one of the things they would recommend is CBT. CBT is ‘cognitive behavioral therapy’, a type of therapy that looks at breaking down our experiences, emotions and behaviors into thoughts and then reconstructing those thoughts.
In the case of stress, CBT offers two powerful tools that can have a massive impact on your ability to manage and cope.
The first is mindfulness. This is a form of meditation, the objective of which is to learn more about your own mind and the thoughts you are having. At the same time, it teaches you to be less of a slave to your thoughts and to live more in the now.
So, if you’re stressed, you’ll probably find that you have a lot of anxious thoughts like ‘my partner is going to leave me’ or ‘I’m going to lose my job’. These are what are making you feel anxious and the key to recognize here is that it’s not the stressor that is responsible for your emotional state but rather your perception of that stressor.
Mindfulness means using meditation to rise above those thoughts so that you can live in the now. So that you can ‘just be’ instead of feeling like a slave to the whims of your mind.
So, for instance, you can rise above stress by simply focusing on your breathing. When you’re focusing on your breathing, you aren’t thinking about all the bad that can happen. Likewise, focus on your body and try to feel it in space. Feel your weight on the ground and the wind against your skin. Listen to the sounds in the distance. In mindfulness practice this is called the ‘body scan’ and it’s a great way to ensure you are living in the present and not inside your own head.
The next step in mindfulness is to expand this newfound awareness to incorporate your surroundings and then to incorporate your own thoughts. In other words, you are going to simply watch your thoughts come and go. Watch them pass ‘like clouds.
Don’t engage with the thoughts and don’t judge them, just watch them and then focus back on your breathing.
This is useful because it helps you to stop being a slave to your thoughts. Recognizing that you’re stressed and that you are likely having stressed thoughts is a very good way to stop those thoughts from having power over you. Recognize the impermanence of all mental states.
At the same time, this practice can help you to overcome some of the symptoms of stress in the short term. By using controlled breathing for instance, you can engage your parasympathetic nervous system and get your heart-rate back down. By stopping ruminations and by not fearing the stress itself, you allow your body the best chance to return to normal.
This can also be used in conjunction with visualization Imagining yourself in a happy place for instance can help you to bring your heart-rate back down and to relax your muscles.
The other powerful aspect of CBT for combating stress is cognitive restructuring. This is a tool that can be used to change the way you think about stressful situations and to remove the negative thoughts entirely. Here an article about cognitive restructuring that can help.
For instance, if you’re stressed about work, you might have specific thoughts causing that such as ‘I’m going to get fired’ or ‘I’ll never finish it all on time’. Using cognitive restructuring, you’re going to remove these thoughts.
How? One tool is thought challenging. In other words, you’re going to challenge these beliefs. Would you get fired for getting something wrong? Or would that be illegal? If you’ve had no warnings and if you’re trying your best, it’s incredibly unlikely you’d be fired for making mistakes or not completing your work.
And are you not going to finish your work? Haven’t you been in this exact position countless times before? Doesn’t it always work out? And if you really aren’t going to finish, is it your fault? What’s the worst repercussion?
How could you manage that problem (telling your boss/client and asking someone for help for instance).
Suddenly when you realize the worst-case scenario is a) unlikely and b) not actually that bad, it robs it of its power over you. The other part of cognitive restructuring is hypothesis testing. Here you simply try that thing you’re really afraid of. Stressed about stuttering in public? Try it. Stutter in public and you’ll notice no one laughs and no one even notices. It’s actually very normal. Again, that fear isn’t so bad once you’ve looked at it objectively is it?
8. Conclusion & Learning to Live a Stress-Free Life
The last piece of this puzzle is then to learn how to make these changes stick and how to live a stress-free life.
The most important thing here is learning how to cope with a quieter existence. If you’re someone who is used to a fast pace of living, then slowing down can actually be quite jarring and hard at first. What’s more, things can easily creep back up and get on top of you again – so you need to be strict when it comes to keeping your new lifestyle the way it is.
Is Your New Lifestyle Sustainable?
One important thing to consider this point is whether your new lifestyle is going to be sustainable. In other words, there’s no point in making all these changes if you can’t stick to them. Reducing your lifestyle to be easier to manage and to be less stressful, will only work if you also ensure that the changes aren’t so drastic that you can’t keep up with them. Make sure you aren’t inadvertently increasing your workload and make sure that you aren’t impacting negatively on other areas.
For instance, if you’re taking up a new training program to try and increase your energy levels and combat stress, then you need to ensure that this new workout routine isn’t going to be so tiring that it takes up all your available energy.
Likewise, if you’re cutting back on your clients, make sure that you aren’t putting yourself at risk by having all your eggs in one basket. And ensure that you are looking at how this is going to impact on your income. In short, if the change you’re making isn’t realistically sustainable, then you should reconsider making it and probably forget it.
Enjoying Your Free Time
Finally, you also need to make sure that you are properly enjoying all that new free time. Overcoming your stress addiction and making lasting changes means knowing how to make the most of the time you have off. In turn, this will mean taking on new hobbies and throwing yourself into them and it should mean knowing how to completely let go and sometimes just rest. This is a skill in itself and if you’ve been working too hard for years, then it’s one you will have to relearn.
And with that, we part ways. Using all the tips and tricks in this article you should now have the skills and the knowledge necessary to start reducing the stress in your life and to begin dealing with the stress that’s left a little better.
To recap on everything, we’ve learned and condense it into a bite-sized format, here’s what you will be doing going forward:
- Understand what stress is and what are the long- or short-term signals that tell you that you are stressed.
- Identify where stress is coming from.
- Create a list of all the sources of stress in your life
- Break the big causes of stress down into their small constituents. What about your relationships or work do you find stressful?
- Find ways to tick off each of the different sources of stress where possible.
- Do this by ‘finding an alternative solution to you stress.’
- Use Pareto’s law, the Pomodoro technique and rewards to better organize your remaining workload
- Create a better lifestyle: Eat a healthy diet, look after your sleep, get exercise.
- Learn CBT and meditation and use these to reduce acute stress responses.
- Learn how to switch off and enjoy your free time
Ultimately the goal should be to look at your happiness and your peace of mind as the key objective for all your hard work.
Remember that you work to live and not vice versa – if your job or anything else is getting in the way of that, then you need to look at changing it and you need to find ways to help yourself cope better.
And begin looking at stressful situation objectively and finding ways to cope better and resolving these issues.
And the reward for all your hard work and all these changes? You’ll be happier, more relaxed, more productive, more creative… and even your relationships will benefit.
Remove all your stress and what’s left? Relaxation, fun and happiness.
So, what are you waiting for? Act Now!