In This Post
- 5 stress lessons to learn so you can reduce how stressed you feel
- Techniques and habits to help you manage your stress
- Recommendations on how to prevent future stress
Our modern day lives are full of stress, a fastened pace and a chronic lack of down-time. It is no wonder in such a connected and fast-paced world that more people than ever before are dealing with high levels of stress.
Stress is an uncomfortable emotion that affects our physical and mental wellbeing. It is also a sign that our safety might be being compromised by a threat. Whether that is a bear outside our home, or a text from our boss, we all want to avoid or at least manage stress levels in our lives.
Stress can impact our whole life. Our social relationships, weight, cognitive performance, lifespan, etc. There really is no area in our life that stress doesn’t impact. This is why it is so important to understand and manage our relationship with it.
Stress Lesson 1: Stop the Fear
The first stress lesson to learn is that you do not need to view it as a bad thing, or something to avoid. Your first thought of a stress-free life might be, “that sounds great!”. But in reality, a life filled by complete ease is a life without challenge, growth, fulfilment or fun. Avoiding stress completely severely limits your life options. Limiting yourself to your comfort zone doesn’t allow you to explore and develop as an individual. Stress is a sign of challenge and an opportunity for growth. It is not your enemy!
Stress Lesson 2: Identify
So, we’ve acknowledged that stress isn’t always something to run from. But, at the same time, you don’t want too much of it. You need a balance. In order to figure out what stress you can get rid of, you should consider your own relationship with stress. What it is that brings you stress in the first place?
It might be helpful here to differentiate between surface level stressors and deeper stressors. An example of a surface level stressor might be your job. You may have difficult tasks to complete and unhelpful staff to work alongside. But this isn’t truly the cause of your stress.
The underlying reason for that stress is the deeper stressor. This is the actual root cause of the issue. It could be a core issue you have, perhaps your need for approval and validation. Your job is simply an environment in which you are constantly confronted with your own desire to be liked. The pressure you face by constantly being presented with this core-level insecurity may be appearing as the typical ‘job stress’ that so many of us experience.
You can use this approach to help you understand your stress by identifying common patterns and themes. What is the underlying connection between the things that on the surface level stress you out? If you find out that there’s a common theme between them all, how can you go about addressing it? This will allow you to truly tackle the root of the stress.
Stress Lesson 3: Remove
Now we’ve come to understand that stress shouldn’t be totally avoided, and that we need to understand the real reason behind our stress, what now? It’s finally time to actually get rid of some of that stress. The first step is to remove any responsibilities, things, people, etc. that actively add stress to your life.
A key thing to remember here is that some stress is worthwhile; some things in your life may bring you stress, but also a large amount of fulfilment and joy. By eliminating what doesn’t add value to your life, or rather what doesn’t add worthwhile stress, you can keep more emotional bandwidth for meaningful things.
Some examples of non-meaningful stressors that you might want to remove are physical belongings or clutter that no longer serve you. Detaching from everything in life that doesn’t bring joy or doesn’t serve you will help you to be less stressed. Disengaging from people and responsibilities that you do not find meaning in is a sure way to live a more minimal and therefore more stress-free life.
Stress Lesson 4: Reframe
A question now remains: what to do with the stress that remains in our lives? The meaningful stress that is worth it. For these meaningful stressors, it is key to change your understanding of stress – to reframe it. How you understand stress in relation to these important things needs to adapt. By adjusting your mindset, to accept and embrace the stress, you will be less resistant to facing the challenges head on. If you cannot control a situation, you can control how you respond to it.
Accepting that stress is normal, expected and is simply an indicator of challenge and an opportunity for learning and growth, helps us view challenges as something we can cope with, rather than a catastrophe, leading to better outcomes. Good things can come from stress and the scenarios that cause it – periods of growth and challenge generally lead us to becoming more enlightened, competent individuals. Keeping some meaningful stress in your life, is an indicator that you are continuing to grow.
Stress Lesson 5: Manage, Maintain & Prevent
Changing your understanding, approach and mindset towards stress in your life is key, and so is building a baseline level of habits, routines and behaviours to help you manage your meaningful stress. The following methods for maintaining healthy levels of stress should be used consistently throughout your day-to-day life, but it is also a great idea to return to these practices during particularly stressful periods in your life as a preventative measure.
Socialise With Those You Love
Connecting with others, especially people who care for us and we care about is great for our mental wellbeing and can be a huge source of stress-relief. Spending time with others can be an excellent way to emotionally connect and get some support from your network, as well as a good time to switch off and focus on something other than what is causing you stress.
Move Your Body!
Exercise is great for us physically and mentally. The endorphins released during exercise directly help to reduce the stress we experience. Take your pick of what type of movement you like – boxing and contact sports can be a healthy way to release stress and frustration, and so can more soothing methods like yoga and walking. Whatever works for you is the path you should follow!
Getting your worries, anxieties, and frustrations out of your system is an important first step in dealing with your stress. Try writing out everything you have in your head, without judgement, and see how you feel after. ‘Brain dumping’ can be very cathartic and can help to allow you to release your emotions and thoughts without there being any concern over how someone else will respond. Journaling often is a good way to maintain good levels of calm in your day to day life.
Meditate the Stress Away
Meditation has both an immediate effect on stress, as it is particularly good at grounding your mind, as well as a preventative effect – allowing you to react more calmly when stressful situations occur in the future, therefore allowing you to more easily stay in control of how you respond and behave in challenging situations.
Sleep (As Well as You Can)
It can be difficult to fall asleep if you are worrying about something in your life, but poor sleep itself can cause poorer cognitive functioning – preventing you from handling stress in the most effective way. Having good sleeping habits and good sleep hygiene is a sure way to help manage your stress levels.
Do Something You Genuinely Enjoy
As useful as all the tips above are, something that can easily be forgotten is doing something that truly brings you joy. Something that isn’t focused on what is good for you, or what you should do. We are not suggesting you give in to bad habits, but setting aside the time to do something that truly brings you joy, happiness or relaxation is important in order to live a stress-balanced life. Whether that’s your favourite video game or trashy TV, it is okay to have true down-time, where you completely switch off.
To Put it Minimally
- Stress is an unavoidable emotion, but you can manage it so it doesn’t take over your life
- Understanding that you will probably have stressful moments in your life can help prepare you for when the time comes, so you don’t run in fear, but view it as a hurdle to pass
- Identify the real, core element of your stress – is it a superficial stress, or is it something deeper?
- Remove anythign that is stressful in your life that doesn’t serve you – many things in life are good for your growth, but are stressful (keep these and remove the others)
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