Stress isn’t something that only affects some of us – or that we can immunize ourselves from. Stress is always going to be a fact of life – in fact we need a some stress to stay focused and functioning.
Stress becomes a problem when it gets out of hand, or we have too much of it. Fortunately there is a lot we can do to overcome stress and live a calmer, more chilled out existence.
Here are 15 ideas to get you started:
- Exercise. Exercise has many positive impacts on stress and well being. Exercise releases endorphins, which are happy chemicals in your brain and are linked to good mood and a relaxed state of mind. You don’t have to go over the top either – whilst it’s common to talk of ‘runners high’ (a feeling of euphoria some people get after vigorous exercise,) even moderate exercise can have real beneficial effects. Try walking 30 minutes a day – even spread into 3 x 10 minute blocks.
- Breathe deeply. Learning to breath effectively can have a marked impact on your stress and anxiety levels. Many of us don’t breath using our full lung capacity. To know if you’re breathing properly check how your body responds when you take a breath. If you’re doing it effectively, your belly should go out on the in breath and in on the out breath. If your lungs move up and out instead when you breathe in, you’re probably not breathing as effectively as you could be.
- Shift your focus. When you’re feeling particularly stressed out something you can fixate on it and it becomes even larger. Instead do something to take your mind off things – mix with friends, go to the movies, play with your kids – shifting your attention away from whatever’s stressing you not only gives you a break but also helps to keep things in perspective.
- Reach out. Research shows that people who reach out for support from others when they’re feeling under pressure have more resilience and can bounce back more quickly to life’s stresses and strains than those who cut themselves off when they’re troubled. So talk to your friends and family about your worries and let them help you find support and perspective.
- Take control. When you’re stressed you can feel out of control. But you can actively manage your stress and anxiety – by taking some positive steps like relaxation, getting support and taking time to nurture yourself. Just knowing that you have the ability to make improvements to how you feel can improve your confidence and reduce anxiety.
- Learn to relax. When you’re feeling stressed you can sometimes feel like you’re operative in overdrive. Take some time out to relax – whether it be through prayer, meditation, exercise, a massage, yoga, a walk or any of the millions of other ways there are to switch off. Relaxation isn’t rocket science and you will know which things you’ve found relaxing in the past.
- Slow down. Give yourself a break and slow down if you’re feeling stressed out. Feeling stressed makes your brains and your adrenaline system work faster, making decision making more difficult and giving you that always in a hurry feeling. To counter act this you need to consciously SLOW your body and your brain – rushing around only makes things worse.
- Ask yourself ‘What do I want?’ when stress leaves you feeling out of control you can lose sight of what you would like to happen instead of the current situation. Of course, this doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get what you want, but it will help you to develop a plan to get you closer to your goal, giving you back a sense of control and confidence.
- Let the past go. If you’re good at beating yourself up and feeling bad about things that have already happened, take a minute to realize that there’s nothing you can do to change these things now. Use these past experiences as lessons to learn from and take positive choices towards the future.
- Choose to be optimistic. Not all of us are natural optimists – but we can learn to become optimists. It’s a choice. When you catch yourself fearing the worst, consciously imagine what things might be like if they turned out well. Neither outcomes have actually happened yet but life is so much nicer if you don’t expect the worst.
- Let go of control. Whilst you can take control of your stress, you can’t control external events – so stop wasting energy trying. Even the most carefully planned things in life can take unexpected turns.
- Look at the big picture. One of my favorite questions to ask myself when I’m in the midst of a stressful event is ‘on a scale of 1-10, 10 being death, how important is this?’ usually it turns out the things I’m tearing my hair out about are a 2 or 3!
- Deal with it. A lot of the time, it’s not events themselves that stress us but the fear and the ‘what ifs’ about it that keep us locked in anxiety. Sometimes grasping the nettle and facing your fears is the only way to overcome your stress about it. So open the letter from the bank, call the doctor back, or speak to the neighbor you’ve had the argument with. Knowing the full facts is empowering and gives you chance to take positive steps to improve the situation.
- Give yourself a break. Feeling stressed can lead to a vicious cycle of self blame, feelings of weakness, self recrimination and an generally beating yourself up. Give yourself a break and take it easy on yourself. Your human, you make mistakes and you’re allowed to not feel on top of things all of the time. Let go of the need to be perfect.
- Tell yourself This Too Shall Pass when all else fails, when you really don’t know how you will cope, remind yourself that nothing in life is permanent. Just as night follows day, life will change again. Whatever stressful situation you may be in won’t last forever.