Monday, April 22, 2013

One Dozen Simple Stress Busters

Stress is such a pervasive part of life anymore that some people exist in an ongoing state of "fight or flight." This is an extremely dangerous condition both emotionally and physically. Prolonged hyper adrenal activity will literally burn you out in a big way.

As much as I appreciate articles on ways to unwind and relax after a stressful day, I think there is another issue that should also be addressed. Instead of just dealing with stress it is also important to get to the source of the problem, and to look for ways to eliminate stress before it even happens.

How can we do that?

By careful editing of your life, and by changing certain habits, you can greatly reduce feelings of stressfulness in your life. First off though, let's forget about the concept of a totally stress free life. Why? Because some stress is unavoidable and must be dealt with, and because controlled amounts of stress can actually be very beneficial.

Stress is a response to challenges in life, and challenges create the environment for accomplishment and personal growth. In fact, a life without challenges is too boring to contemplate. However, I do believe that much of the stress we experience is unnecessary, and that it can be eliminated.

12 ways to cut unnecessary stress out of your life

1. Identify sources of stress. Identifying the things that leave you feeling stressed out unnecessarily is the first step toward eliminating them. Take a few minutes to think about what stresses you out during the day. What weekly occurrences create irritation or anxiety? What people or activities cause undo tension in your life? Make a Top 10 sources of stress list and see which of them can be eliminated, and start to weed them out. For those that can't be eliminated, look for ways to make them less stressful.

2. Eliminate unnecessary commitments. We all wear many different hats and have commitments in a variety of areas. But when we spread ourselves too thin because we've taken on too many commitments, feeling stressed is the inevitable result. We should view each commitment in relation to the level of value it provides compared to the amount of pressure it creates. If the stress outweighs the value then something needs to change. Why not review all of your commitments according to these criteria and take steps to eliminate the ones that score too high on the stress-o-meter?

3. Disorganization. We're all disorganized to some extent. Even if we've organized something, and created a great system for keeping it that way, things tend to move toward chaos over time. Eventually, disorganization happens and disorganization is stressful. For example, clutter makes it difficult to find the thing we need to be productive.  This is one that I struggle with, so I know firsthand that having to stop what I am doing to search for something can create loads of unnecessary stress. Taking the time to get things organized is always a better use of our energies.

4. Running late. Being late is always a source of internal tension. When we are late then we can't enjoy the process because we are too busy rushing around trying to catch up. Being early makes everything more enjoyable and completely eliminates this source of unnecessary tension. Being late is often the result of underestimating the amount of time required for some or all of the things we need to do. Try padding your schedule with an extra 10 minutes here and there to make it more realistic. One of the best places to gain the advantage is to go to bed earlier so you can get up earlier.

5. Multitasking. Having multiple tasks going on at the same time might seem productive, but in actuality it slows us down and destroys our ability to really focus. When we have to continually refocus our attention it disrupts the work flow and creates unnecessary pressure in our life. Wherever possible avoid the temptation to multitask.

6. Eliminate energy drains. As you analyzed your life to identify the things that stress you out, you probably also noticed some things that drain your energy. Let's face it, certain things in life just cause us to be more exhausted than others, often with less value. Identify them and cut them out. You'll have much more energy and feel much less stressed.

7. Avoid difficult people. You know who they are. If you take a minute to think about it, you can identify all the people in your life — bosses, coworkers, customers, friends, family, etc. — who make your life more difficult. Now, you could confront them and do battle with them, but it would probably just make things even worse. Circumstances may not allow you to cut them all out of your life, but do it where you can. Simply reducing the number of difficult people in your life will go a long way in your efforts to reduce stressful influences in your life.

8. Help others. It may sound contradictory to add more tasks to your life by trying to help other people, especially since you already have more than enough to do.  But if you were to add anything to your life, this should be it. Helping others, on any level not only gives you a very good feeling, it somehow lowers your stress level.

9. Pause to relax during the day. It's important to take mini-breaks during your work day. Stop what you're doing, get up and stretch, walk around, drink some water. Go outside and appreciate the fresh air and the beautiful sky. Talk to someone you like. Life doesn't have to be all about productivity. Avoid using online activity too much as a way to counteract your routine. It is much better to get away from the computer for a few minutes of active relaxation.

10. Get plenty of exercise. This is common advice for stress relief, and that's because it works. In addition to relieving stress, exercise also helps prevent it. A fit person is better equipped to handle stressful situations and can avoid many health related situations that create stress on several levels. Fitness is an excellent way to reduce stress and to raise your tolerance levels.

11. Eat healthy. Obviously, this goes hand-in-hand with exercise as a stress prevention method. The healthier you are the less stressful life will feel. Food has a direct influence on your ability to cope with challenges. Good nutrition has both a calming and an energizing effect. Mental clarity and cognitive function are also nutrition related. Think of good food and exercise as an anti-stress prescription.

12. Practice gratitude. This might not be as obvious as some of the others, but developing and maintaining the attitude of gratitude is an extremely powerful antidote to stress. By helping to eliminate negative thinking, gratitude and appreciation give you incredible leverage against negative influence of stressful thoughts and feelings. The more grateful you are, the more you will notice and appreciate the positive side of life. In the presence of a grateful heart stress gets swept away and replaced with joy.

Take action and enjoy the benefits

Implementing even one of these tips into your life can make a significant difference in your stress levels. Why not start with the one that seems easiest for you, and then gradually add the others. Remember, much of the stress in life can be eliminated or reduced. The benefits you receive will be well worth the effort required.

Thanks to Jonathan Wells / Advanced Life Skills


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