We live in a stressful world and being able to manage stress effectively can have a huge impact upon our quality of life. Stress affects each of us in different ways, and it is important to be aware of your unique stress “signals”. Stress signals fall into four categories: thoughts (intolerant, self critical), feelings (anxiety,irritability) behaviors (tearful,addictive behavior), and physical symptoms (fatigue, sleep disturbances,tension in body). Here are clever tricks to minimize stress levels and reduce its negative effects.

1. Acceptance

Instead of resisting what life throws at you and feeling sorry for yourself with statements like “Why me?” and “It’s so unfair”, it pays to accept what has happened. This doesn’t mean you have to become passive and give up though. When you accept the situation and stop wasting energy on “why” you can begin to deal with finding solutions. Acceptance can minimize stress and frees up positive energy for finding resolution and looking forwards instead of staying stuck in the past that cannot be undone.

2. Mindfulness

When we consider all our troubles together, they can seem insurmountable. Break your issues down into smaller chunks and deal with one at a time. Focus on the task at hand and be present in the moment. How often have you caught yourself worrying about the past (it can’t be changed) or obsessing over the future (it’s not here yet)? When you do this, you steal the joy and power away from the present moment. Stay in the moment as much as possible. Engage your senses and be involved with your immediate surroundings.

3. Unhook from your thoughts

Together with mindfulness, unhooking from your thoughts can help minimize stress immensely. When we pay attention to a fearful thought it can rapidly ‘spiral’ into a catastrophe in our mind. Thoughts are not facts, they are merely our perception of reality. How many times have you become anxious thinking about an upcoming event only to find it wasn’t half as scary as you imagined? Remind yourself of this regularly and try not to take your thoughts too seriously.

4. Laugh lots

A sense of humor can carry you a long way when the going gets tough.Try not to take life too seriously. Make an effort to see the funny side of life and add perspective to the situation by asking yourself if you will still feel this stressed tomorrow, next week…next month. Laughing releases endorphins. Two hormones – beta-endorphins (the family of chemicals that alleviates depression) and human growth hormone (HGH; which helps with immunity) increase when we laugh. Minimise stress by laughing more.

5. Get enough sleep

When your body is sleep deficient, it goes into a state of stress. The body’s functions are put on high alert which causes an increase in blood pressure and a production of stress hormones. When you don’t get enough sleep, you hinder your body’s natural restorative process. In a study in Prevention Magazine, young, healthy sleep-deprived subjects had the hormonal profiles of much older people. It’s clear – spend more time in bed.

 

6. Bounce on a trampoline

Trampolining can help combat depression, anxiety and minimize stress by increasing the amount of endorphins released by the brain. Regular  sessions on a trampoline can help you relax, promote better sleeping patterns and give your more energy. Exercising on a trampoline increases the circulation of oxygen around your body, making you more alert and improving mental performance. If you don’t have access to a trampoline, any form of exercise will help to minimize stress.

7. Play with a pet

Animals are great stress relievers. Studies show that animals can minimize stress and improve mood.Research has found that owning a dog can lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, and boost levels of feel-good chemicals in the brain. One study of Chinese women found that dog owners exercised more often, slept better, reported better fitness levels and fewer sick days, and saw their doctors less often than people without dogs.

8.Talk to someone

Bottling up your stress and the associated emotions can make the problem worse. Talking to someone you trust about what you are experiencing can make a big difference. Often, we get caught up in erroneous patterns of thinking that keep us in the same negative cycle thereby maintaining stress levels. Talking to someone and gaining a new perspective can often help minimize stress.

9. Remind yourself you’re not alone

Stress is increasing worldwide. You are certainly not alone in experiencing stress. Be a forward thinker though and you’ll be one step ahead of the crowd. Know your stress triggers and find positive strategies to curb stress levels. A common side effect of modern life is stress, anxiety and tension. Instead of trying to ignore it, accepting and being aware of your stress levels (rate yourself daily of it helps from 0 (no stress) -10 (extremely stressed) can help you prevent burn out. If you reach a 6 or higher, it is time for a break or a different strategy.As a Psychologist in private practice, I can honestly say I have never met anyone professionally (or personally) that doesn’t experience stress on some level.

10. Make something

Occupational therapy can be soothing and take your mind off your worries. It can also be satisfying to create something. Making something provides a welcome distraction from your worries and the accompanying stress.

11. Identify the source

Identifying what exactly is stressing you out is a step in the right direction. Once you have figured out what causes the most stress in your life, decide what is within your control and get to work changing what is possible to change. If there is absolutely nothing you can do refer to any of the above points.

12. Learn to say “no”

Being assertive can minimize stress by cutting down on responsibilities and pressures from others. It is up to you to manage your time effectively and to be assertive when necessary. If you don’t learn to say “no”, you will be stressing yourself out unnecessarily and will end up resentful.

 

When we feel stressed, our bodies experience the fight/flight/freeze response. Modern society results in many of us remaining in this stressful state indefinitely. This causes certain chemical responses and keeps us on ‘high alert’ constantly. This exhausts the body and stops us from functioning optimally. Learn to manage stress and you will also age well and in all likelihood – live longer.

Featured photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zoetnet/4851436544/ via flickr.com

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