How to Reduce Stress
Stress is evident everywhere in our fast-paced world. It’s a mental, emotional, or physical strain caused by anxiety or overwork. We all feel stress and often suffer the results of it in some way or other. What you are about to read can have a significant impact on the levels of stress you experience. This post is not about how to deal with stress; it’s about how to reduce and avoid it. Most of the stress we experience can be broken down into three categories. 1. Stress we can’t control—such as the loss of a job, loss of a loved one, or encountering major health challenges. . Natural stress—such as what we feel when we set goals, push ourselves outside our comfort zones, and strive to get better. 3. Stress we can control—such as being late to an appointment, having a breakdown in a relationship, or getting upset sitting in traffic. When you identify and learn how to manage the things that create stress, you will experience improvements in every area of your life—from your relationships to your performance, from your health to your outlook on life. Let me encourage you to print these 33 points and highlight the ones that you are determined to work on.
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The realization that you are in control of your stress is the foundation of stress management. 1. Don’t over commit. Whether in your personal or professional life, learn your limits and set boundaries. Know when to say, “No! ” Don’t take on more than you can reasonably handle. 2. Avoid people who stress you out. If someone is a constant source of stress and you can’t turn the relationship around, limit the amount of time you spend with that person, or end the relationship entirely. 3. Avoid heated topics. You know the topics that cause your blood pressure to rise, so learn to avoid them. 4.
Practice relaxation techniques. Techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response—a state of restfulness opposite of the stress response. When practiced regularly, you will enjoy a reduction in your everyday stress levels, benefit by a boost in your feelings of peace and serenity, and increase your ability to stay calm under pressure. 5. Change how you view things. Practice viewing stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Rather than getting stressed out about sitting in traffic, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, to listen to your favorite usic or self-improvement CD, or to just enjoy some quiet time. 6. Practice positive thinking. How you think can have a profound effect on your emotional and physical well-being. People who maintain a positive attitude and practice positive thinking experience less stress than those who are pessimistic and negative. 7. Anticipate problems. When issues arise, address them head on before they escalate. The best way to avoid big problems is by addressing them when they are small. 8. Express your feelings. When something or someone is upsetting you, learn to communicate your concerns in an open and respectful manner.
Even if it’s just sharing what you are going through with a friend, you will likely feel better. 9. Practice good time management. Every improvement you make in how you spend your time gives you greater control of your life and plays a small role in reducing your everyday stress levels. 10. Don’t procrastinate. Putting things off until the last minute is a guaranteed way to increase your stress levels. Start doing what you know you should do when you know you should do it. Become a do-it-now person. 11. Stop striving for perfection.
We should push ourselves to improve and to always do our best, BUT we need to know when something is good enough. On a scale of 1-10, start shooting for 8’s and 9’s. 12. Look for the upside. When problems and challenges present themselves, look at them as opportunities for personal growth. The next time you are faced with a challenge remember this African proverb: “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors. ” 13. Set aside relaxation time. Block out time each day to rest, relax, and recharge your batteries. Look at your daily schedule and identify one or more periods of time when you can take a break.
Do something you enjoy during these blocks of time. 14. Keep your sense of humor. Smiling and laughing are great ways to reduce stress. 15. Exercise regularly. It is well documented that physical activity plays a key role in reducing the effects of stress on the body. Make time for at least 30 minutes of exercise, three times per week. A brisk walk can do wonders to reduce stress. 16. Consume healthy food and beverages. When we nourish our bodies with healthy foods and beverages our bodies are better prepared to cope with stress. 17. Get enough sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep allows you to rest your mind and body.
When you are tired and fatigued, you experience more stress than when you are fresh and full of energy. 18. Use a “To Do” list. Writing down everything you need to do in a prioritized sequence is a huge stress reducer. When you are doing exactly what you should be doing in the exact sequence in which things need to be completed, you will feel more at peace. 19. Don’t accept stress. Refuse to get stressed out. As an example, if you are feeling stress because of everything you have to do, but yet you are giving 100% of yourself and you are working on things in a prioritized sequence, say, “I’m doing all I can do. This is a conversation I have with myself several times each week as I consider all that I have to do. 20. Put together a debt-reduction plan. Putting together a plan to decrease your debt will do wonders to reduce financial stress. Much of the financial pressure people live with is a result of not having a budget or plan. 21. Build valued relationships. If you put an emphasis on building valued relationships, you will not only find greater enjoyment in life, but you will have fewer conflicts. Spending time with positive and encouraging people makes you feel better and reduces stress. 2. Stop stressing over little things. So much stress comes from getting worked up over petty little things—such as the person driving slowly in front of you, or listening to someone who has an opposing view on an insignificant subject. Use your self-control to ignore the little things that bug you. 23. Learn to respond, not react. When something upsets you, don’t react in haste. Instead pause and consider the best way to respond—a way that you will be proud of later. 24. Write things down. Stop trying to remember everything; start taking notes or making lists.
This frees the mind and, because you don’t need to remember things, you will feel a whole lot less stress. 25. Don’t pick fights. You know the types of things that cause conflict. Unless it is something really important to you, learn to let it go. 26. Plan ahead and arrive early. We have all experienced the stress of running late for an appointment. When you have to be somewhere at a specific time, plan ahead and arrive early. 27. Stop expecting people to live by your rules. Dealing with unmet expectations is a huge source of stress. Make sure you set proper expectations for yourself.
When you set expectations for others, make sure they understand them. Expecting people to fulfill your unspoken expectations is a sure fire way to get a dose of unwanted stress. 28. Get organized. How do you feel when your home, car, or workplace is a mess, or when you are working on a project and can’t find things? Take the time to get organized; then do the little things each day to stay organized. 29. Present yourself as being calm and in control. When you present yourself in this manner, you will feel less hurried and more confident, both of which will reduce the stress you feel. 30. Learn to estimate how long activities take.
Start tracking how long things take to complete. In most cases, the actual amount of time it takes to do something is more than you initially estimated. By clearly understanding how long an activity “really” takes, you can better control your schedule and commitments. 31. Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond our control, including the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control, such as how you should respond to them. 32. Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that we all make mistakes.
Let go of anger, resentment, and negative energy by forgiving those who have hurt you. 33. Be grateful. Take time each day to reflect on the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts. This will increase your happiness and help you keep things in perspective. Let me encourage you to take some time and make a list of the things that cause you to feel stressed. As you look at each point, determine what you can do to reduce the stress it causes you. As you go about each day, be aware of your stress levels and their sources.
If watching the news impacts your stress levels, then stop watching it. If some of your choices are creating stressful situations, then learn from them and avoid them in the future. Managing stress is all about taking control of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems. The ultimate goal is a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun. Learning healthier ways to manage stress If your methods of coping with stress aren’t contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it’s time to find healthier ones.
There are many healthy ways to manage and cope with stress, but they all require change. You can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose, it’s helpful to think of the four As: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept. Since everyone has a unique response to stress, there is no “one size fits all” solution to managing it. No single method works for everyone or in every situation, so experiment with different techniques and strategies. Focus on what makes you feel calm and in control. ————————————————- Dealing with Stressful Situations: The Four A’s
Change the situation: * Avoid the stressor * Alter the stressor| Change your reaction: * Adapt to the stressor * Accept the stressor| ————————————————- Stress management strategy #1: Avoid unnecessary stress Not all stress can be avoided, and it’s not healthy to avoid a situation that needs to be addressed. You may be surprised, however, by the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate. * Learn how to say “no” – Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, refuse to accept added responsibilities when you’re close to reaching them.
Taking on more than you can handle is a surefire recipe for stress. * Avoid people who stress you out – If someone consistently causes stress in your life and you can’t turn the relationship around, limit the amount of time you spend with that person or end the relationship entirely. * Take control of your environment – If the evening news makes you anxious, turn the TV off. If traffic’s got you tense, take a longer but less-traveled route. If going to the market is an unpleasant chore, do your grocery shopping online. * Avoid hot-button topics – If you get upset over religion or politics, cross them off your conversation list.
If you repeatedly argue about the same subject with the same people, stop bringing it up or excuse yourself when it’s the topic of discussion. * Pare down your to-do list – Analyze your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks. If you’ve got too much on your plate, distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts. ” Drop tasks that aren’t truly necessary to the bottom of the list or eliminate them entirely. ————————————————- Stress management strategy #2: Alter the situation If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it.
Figure out what you can do to change things so the problem doesn’t present itself in the future. Often, this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life. * Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or someone is bothering you, communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. If you don’t voice your feelings, resentment will build and the situation will likely remain the same. * Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to change their behavior, be willing to do the same. If you both are willing to bend at least a little, you’ll have a good chance of finding a happy middle ground. Be more assertive. Don’t take a backseat in your own life. Deal with problems head on, doing your best to anticipate and prevent them. If you’ve got an exam to study for and your chatty roommate just got home, say up front that you only have five minutes to talk. * Manage your time better. Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. When you’re stretched too thin and running behind, it’s hard to stay calm and focused. But if you plan ahead and make sure you don’t overextend yourself, you can alter the amount of stress you’re under. ————————————————-
Stress management strategy #3: Adapt to the stressor If you can’t change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude. * Reframe problems. Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Rather than fuming about a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, listen to your favorite radio station, or enjoy some alone time. * Look at the big picture. Take perspective of the stressful situation. Ask yourself how important it will be in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year?
Is it really worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere. * Adjust your standards. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others, and learn to be okay with “good enough. ” * Focus on the positive. When stress is getting you down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts. This simple strategy can help you keep things in perspective. ————————————————-
Adjusting Your Attitude How you think can have a profound effect on your emotional and physical well-being. Each time you think a negative thought about yourself, your body reacts as if it were in the throes of a tension-filled situation. If you see good things about yourself, you are more likely to feel good; the reverse is also true. Eliminate words such as “always,” “never,” “should,” and “must. ” These are telltale marks of self-defeating thoughts. ————————————————- Stress management strategy #4: Accept the things you can’t change Some sources of stress are unavoidable.
You can’t prevent or change stressors such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness, or a national recession. In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it’s easier than railing against a situation you can’t change. * Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond our control— particularly the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems. * Look for the upside.
As the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. ” When facing major challenges, try to look at them as opportunities for personal growth. If your own poor choices contributed to a stressful situation, reflect on them and learn from your mistakes. * Share your feelings. Talk to a trusted friend or make an appointment with a therapist. Expressing what you’re going through can be very cathartic, even if there’s nothing you can do to alter the stressful situation. * Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes. Let go of anger and resentments.
Free yourself from negative energy by forgiving and moving on. ————————————————- Stress management strategy #5: Make time for fun and relaxation Beyond a take-charge approach and a positive attitude, you can reduce stress in your life by nurturing yourself. If you regularly make time for fun and relaxation, you’ll be in a better place to handle life’s stressors when they inevitably come. ————————————————- Healthy ways to relax and recharge * Go for a walk. * Spend time in nature. * Call a good friend. * Sweat out tension with a good workout. Write in your journal. * Take a long bath. * Light scented candles. | * Savor a warm cup of coffee or tea. * Play with a pet. * Work in your garden. * Get a massage. * Curl up with a good book. * Listen to music. * Watch a comedy. | Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you forget to take care of your own needs. Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury. * Set aside relaxation time. Include rest and relaxation in your daily schedule. Don’t allow other obligations to encroach. This is your time to take a break from all responsibilities and recharge your batteries. Connect with others. Spend time with positive people who enhance your life. A strong support system will buffer you from the negative effects of stress. * Do something you enjoy every day. Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be stargazing, playing the piano, or working on your bike. * Keep your sense of humor. This includes the ability to laugh at yourself. The act of laughing helps your body fight stress in a number of ways. ————————————————- Stress management strategy #6: Adopt a healthy lifestyle
You can increase your resistance to stress by strengthening your physical health. * Exercise regularly. Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress. Make time for at least 30 minutes of exercise, three times per week. Nothing beats aerobic exercise for releasing pent-up stress and tension. * Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat. Start your day right with breakfast, and keep your energy up and your mind clear with balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day. * Reduce caffeine and sugar.
The temporary “highs” caffeine and sugar provide often end in with a crash in mood and energy. By reducing the amount of coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugar snacks in your diet, you’ll feel more relaxed and you’ll sleep better. * Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs may provide an easy escape from stress, but the relief is only temporary. Don’t avoid or mask the issue at hand; deal with problems head on and with a clear mind. * Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally.