Stress management is life management; if you take control of your stress, your life will thank you for it. “Shereka Dunston“
Stress is defined as the experience or anticipation of adversity in our goal-related efforts, a normal psychological and physical reaction to the ever-increasing demands of life. We experience stress when there is an imbalance between life demands being made on us and our resources to cope with those demands. Coping with life demands, and carrying the problems that may or may not belong to us can scratch away the little joy and happiness that we can carry once we head out that door.
The level and extent of stress a person may feel depends a great deal on their attitude to a particular situation. An event that may be extremely stressful for one person can be a mere hiccup in another person’s life.
So how can we reduce our stress? There are several ways to manage stress, and eventually remove it out of your life:
- Acknowledge stress is good
Make stress your friend! Based on the body’s natural “fight or flight” response, that burst of energy will enhance your performance at the right moment. I’ve yet to see a top sportsman totally relaxed before a big competition. Use stress wisely to push yourself that little bit harder when it counts most.
“How you think and act can transform your experience of stress. When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. When you choose to connect with others under stress you can create resilience. Now I wouldn’t necessarily ask for more stress in my life, but you can see it as another access to your compassionate heart and to your pounding physical heart to give you strength and energy.”
- Avoid stressed people
Overly stressed people are infected with stress germs and they spread them around indiscriminately. Soon, before you know it, you are infected too!
Protect yourself by recognizing stress in others and limiting your contact with them. Or if you’ve got the inclination, play stress doctor and teach them how to better manage themselves.
- Learn from the best
Try to make yourself into the type of person you want to be. So model calm people, people who seem to naturally handle stress well. When people around you are losing their head, who keeps calm? What are they doing differently? What is their attitude? What language do they use? What are they saying to themselves? Are they trained and experienced? You might observe them or, sit them down and have a chat with them. Ask them how they handle things that seem to stress others. Learn from the best and copy what they do.
- Practice Breathing, Really heavy breathing
This is something I’ve learned from a gym instructor: You can’t stay calm unless you control your breathing. You can trick your body into relaxing simply by using deep breathing techniques. Focus on bringing your breaths into the bottom of your stomach and then push the air out completely.
- Stop Obsessive Thinking
Take a few times throughout the day where you can sit comfortably and visualize your scary thoughts in a less threatening way. You can use humour to downplay those thoughts to less frightening thoughts. Use positive self-talk that reassures you that you would never carry out the thoughts you think. You have the power to DO or NOT DO anything you want. Remind yourself that it’s okay that those thoughts are there. Do not resist them…. accept them as just “thoughts” and nothing more. They cannot hurt you or make you do anything you don’t want to do. Most of these thoughts never happen, so why waste all that energy worrying needlessly?
- Identify Your True Sources of Stress
It’s easy to identify sources of stress following a major life event such as changing jobs, moving home, or losing a loved one, but pinpointing the sources of everyday stress can be more complicated. It’s all too easy to overlook your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that contribute to your stress levels. Sure, you may know that you’re constantly worried about work deadlines, but maybe it’s your procrastination, rather than the actual job demands, that is causing the stress. Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control. Knowing what causes you stress is powerful information, as you can take action to make it less stressful. Do you need to learn some new skills? Do you need extra resources?
- Be Smart About the Three Fundamentals of Energy
What are these three fundamentals? Getting enough sleep, eating healthy and exercising a couple of times a week.
Sleep deprivation, poor diet and no exercise affect your body both in the short term and over time leading to chronic health problems which can impact the quality of your life. Lack of sleep increases your appetite, affects your memory and ability to learn, and shortens your attention span. I know, these things are very obvious but worth mentioning as it’s often ignored as a stress management technique and when you manage these three areas in a good way in practice then that makes a huge difference for your mood, energy, outlook of life and how well you can handle stress. So listen to your mother and don’t burn the candle at both ends!
Having stress can be a total hardship, but that should not prevent you from finding the inner peace of mind that you have wanted for a long time. Connecting with others that share the desire to create more inner peace and give back to the world can increase your feelings of purpose, and in turn, inner peace. Consider enrolling for a prayer group, yoga or meditation class. There are number of online groups, for people that want to pray, meditate, or exercise their practice of choice in order to gain inner peace and focus on positive intentions to benefit others. Volunteering is another way to make you feeling more content and less stressed. By focusing your attention on others, your inner self will shift from being self-centred to becoming more giving and generous. Peace isn’t a passive state, but a state where the mind, heart and body are in balance as you’re actively living life.
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” Buddha