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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

11 Ways to Handle Stress Wisely

11 Ways to Handle Stress Wisely

As the number one killer of men and women, stress is the root cause of many diseases, from cancer to heart disease. Left unaddressed, stress has a crushing force that, over time, can lead to ugly repercussions. From frequent headaches to regular fatigue, symptoms will come pouring in if you don’t learn how to handle stress wisely. [1]

We can’t always prevent or avoid stress, but how you conduct your lifestyle can radically reduce it. Instead of viewing every problem as a massive explosive strapped to your body, it’s worth it to slow your thoughts down and recognize that nobody is a superhuman.

If your stress is coming from your job or career, try to find ways to appreciate the little things as opposed to viewing everything as a puzzle to solve. How you approach communication and problem solving will make an enormous difference.

It’s easy to be absent minded in tense moments and act or respond impulsively when issues arise. Stress accumulates because we allow things to fester and don’t effectively sort out various dilemmas in our daily lives.

Mindfulness is the key to successfully navigating stressful situations. While stress fogs our brains, an open mind leaves room for new insights we otherwise might not have considered, so it’s important to keep our minds free of unnecessary mental clutter.

Every system of the body responds to stress, so learning how to respond positively can have numerous benefits. With that in mind, here are eleven ways to handle stress wisely.

1. Ease Into Your Day

Before you even get out of bed in the morning, give yourself some time to meditate. Focus on your breath and get unnecessary thoughts out of your head to change the way you think and perceive situations or events.

Beginning your day by easing into it in utter silence will enhance your performance at work and keep you calm enough to adequately process chaotic or busy moments.

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Avoiding a muddled mind will improve your ability to accomplish tasks and execute them to completion at an optimal level. A clear mind promotes effective cognitive processing and assessing, so if you work in a hectic environment, it helps if your thoughts and actions naturally calm you down.

2. Consider Self-talk

Self-talk, when done correctly, can give you just the confidence you need to tackle any hardships you may encounter at work or home.

Affirmations are a form of self-talk and include reminding yourself that you are where you need to be, that you can handle anything that comes your way, and that you’re a fast learner. If everything feels difficult, remind yourself that, with time, what was once so challenging will become second nature.

Self-talk can serve you as a remedy for boosting your mood when you’re feeling low or like you just can’t cope. How you speak with and interact with yourself should align with how you interact and speak with others.

Anxiety is often self-induced by our thoughts and internal dialogue. What and how you think creates a ripple effect in your communications with others. Self-talk may be just what you need to overcome challenging obstacles in your day-to-day life.

3. Be Honest With Yourself

Being honest with your friends, peers, and colleagues is one thing, but being honest with yourself is quite another. Telling yourself the truth when you’ve goofed up or made an already difficult situation worse might be a tough hurdle to overcome, but doing so can help your mind handle stress more efficiently.

If you’re prone to worsening your own stress, be honest with yourself about it and determine to work on it. Using mindfulness and grounding techniques, you can overcome your tendencies toward stress before, during, and after life events and difficult situations.

4. Omit Unimportant Details

Unimportant details might include worrying that a friend, colleague, or boss has it in for you, that you could have done this or that better, or that you’re not exactly where you want to be in any given moment. All of these nagging thoughts are just your mind entertaining unimportant details that you don’t need to indulge.

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Our own thoughts have the power to completely inundate us with pointless or even silly concerns, so omitting them can be key when learning how to handle stress.

Have you ever found yourself in a stressful situation at work and later found yourself ruminating until your head ached? This needless mental torture is a surefire way to drain all of your energy. Instead, omit the ruminations and focus on the positive aspects of your day.

5. Become a Pro at Assessing Situations

When things get chaotic, it can be difficult to appropriately assess all that’s going on. One way individuals exacerbate their stress is by acting impulsively or doing something absentmindedly. It’s not uncommon to misinterpret rapidly unfolding situations, so moving and responding mindfully and slowly can be beneficial.

Even in the core of chaos, pull yourself together and create a system. Find ways to be skilled in assessing situations in the moment by slowing your mind and thoughts down with your breathing.

Being mindful not to throw fuel on an already raging fire will allow you to find the next best thing to do. If we can do that, we can drastically improve our ability to handle stress.

6. Learn How to Self-compromise

Practicing self-compromise means that you are willing to accept stress as an unavoidable part of life that you can work with without being overthrown or dictated by it. A wise mind knows that stress doesn’t have to hold the reigns.

Self-compromise is an empowering skill to acquire — you’re accepting something as is while deciding not to be controlled by it.

7. Visualize Scenarios to Apply in the Present and Future

Visualization is a great resource for those struggling with anxiety or stress. Before going to work, visualize yourself having a successful day and create a plan for yourself.

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Fear of failure often contributes to stress and anxiety, so visualizing situations of success has the ability to change how you function in your day-to-day life. It can be a weapon for combating stress before its onset.

Before you have to perform at work, visualize yourself reaching your desired outcome. [2]

8. Maintain a Problem-solving Mindset

In difficult matters at home or work, maintaining a problem-solving mindset will keep your creative juices flowing, and you’ll be quick and effective in your responses.

You will also set yourself up for success by not viewing issues or problems as if they are large mounds of tangled thread. Instead, when something comes up, imagine yourself solving the problem quickly. Maintaining this frame of mind will put you in the driver’s seat as opposed to stress driving over you.

9. Let Go of What You Can’t Control

Another way stress accumulates is through our desperation to steer the ship of our circumstances and outcomes. The only thing you have control over is your behavior, responses, and how you navigate life in the right direction.

Train yourself to let go of the things you have no control over. Instead of trying to make problems disappear, take control of how to handle stress when you face those problems. This will naturally point you in a better direction.

10. Seek Simplicity

Every aspect of life has its complications, from relationships to work to how we spend our free time. Our thoughts naturally spiral and blow everything out of proportion, causing us to over-analyze situations, so learning how to reign this in and handle the stress it causes is crucial.

The simplest thing to do when this happens is to breathe. Relaxed breathing can intervene and bring your thoughts back to a more concrete and accurate place from which to work. [3]

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11. Don’t Internalize Stressors

It’s not uncommon to take someone else’s worries, burdens, fears and make them our own. On the other hand, we regularly keep our own stressors locked away and baking on high temperatures, which creates a quick route to burnout.

If you notice yourself holding on to a stressful situation, try an activity such as writing in a journal or completing a “brain dump,” the act of emptying the mind of troublesome or recurring thoughts by putting them into a different medium.

Drawing boundaries with those around you can also help to avoid internalizing stressors. If you don’t want someone handing you their problems, create some distance or vocalize your concerns.

The Bottom Line

Stress can be far more destructive than we realize. More importantly, it can kill the joy in our work and hobbies and destroy our overall well-being if left unchecked. You have the power to take back control and not be consumed by stress. Maintaining a wise, open mind can eliminate stress from your life and allow you to take back control.

Learn to quiet obsessive or unnecessarily repeated thoughts using meditative breathing and grounding techniques. Focus on the present moment and do so with the goal of keeping things simple.

Instead of letting stress consume you, learn how to handle it wisely and experience the benefits of a life lived with less worry.

More Tips to Restore Energy and Reduce Stress

Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Tessa Koller

Author, Motivational Public Speaker and Artist

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Last Updated on February 17, 2021

15 Meditation Benefits That Will Make You Successful

15 Meditation Benefits That Will Make You Successful

What could be better than reaching your big goals? Well, it turns out that meditation—something you could be doing daily, at no cost and with little effort—offers benefits that success can’t bring. Meditation benefits can seep into every area of your life and improve your overall wellbeing in the long-term.

Meditation as Mindfulness

The studies on meditation generally focus on a broad type of meditation that could be called mindfulness. Mindfulness simply means keeping one’s thoughts focused on awareness of a single thing or moment. It could be your breath (a typical point of focus in meditation), or it could be a single image, word, or emotion.

It sounds simple, but when you try it, you realize how much your mind wants to jump around. That’s okay: “When a ‘stray’ thought arises, the practitioner must be quick to recognize it, and then turn back to the focus of their attention,” says George Dvorsky, writing about meditation[1]. “And it doesn’t just have to be the breath; any single thought, like a mantra, will do.”

Here are 15 ways meditation benefits can improve your life, whether or not you ever reach those big goals.

1. Handle Stress Better

According to one source, “When you meditate, you clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress.”[2]

Much of our stress comes from too much input and a lack of time or tools in handling the input. We take in information and build emotions, and we get overloaded. Our brains don’t know what to handle first, so they just keep cycling through all the information.

Meditation helps your brain to let things slide away by simply giving it time to rest and meander through the information, bit by bit, letting go of what is unimportant.

2. Improve How Your Brain Functions

A 2012 study showed a brain process called gyrification happening more in people who meditate[3].

Gyrification is “the ‘folding’ of the cerebral cortex as a result of growth, which in turn may allow the brain to process information faster. Though the research did not prove this directly, scientists suspect that gyrification is responsible for making the brain better at processing information, making decisions, forming memories, and improving attention.”

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If that’s not enough, there is also evidence from MRI scans that meditation can reinforce connections between brain cells. One study showed that meditation “may be associated with structural changes in areas of the brain that are important for sensory, cognitive and emotional processing. The data further suggest that meditation may impact age related declines in cortical structure.”[4]

In other words, meditation may not only make your brain work better, but it might also slow down the aging process within the brain.

3. Get in Touch With Yourself

The busyness of modern life, along with the perpetual onslaught of media that tells us how we ought to look, feel, and behave, can leave us feeling detached from ourselves. It can be difficult to connect with our own values and emotions. We see standards put into place, and we want to meet those standards, so we pretend to be a certain way even when, perhaps, we are not.

Meditation benefits can help us with that. According to researcher Erika Carlson,[5]

“Mindfulness helps us to see our authentic selves in two ways: nonjudgmental observation, and attention. Nonjudgmental observation enables people to really get to know themselves without feeling any negative feelings.”

4. Improve Your Grades

Whether you’re a part-time student, a full-time student, or someone who just likes to take tests for fun, meditation can help you learn and retain what you learn.

One study[6] showed that mindfulness training resulted in “improved accuracy on the GRE and higher working memory capacity.” The researchers concluded that “the improvement could be explained, at least in part, by reduced mind wandering during the task.”

The researchers estimated that mindfulness training resulted in the equivalent of a 16 percentile-point boost on the GRE, on average.

5. Increase Productivity in High-Performance Situations

A study done in 2012 set participants up in a real-world multitasking situation. They had to do several activities that required various forms of input in a typical office setting, and they had to complete them all within 20 minutes.

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Some of the participants received mindfulness training, and some didn’t. Then, they tested them all again. “The only participants to show improvement,” reported the researchers, “were those who had received the mindfulness training.”[7]

Another study showed that “daily meditation-like thought could shift frontal brain activity toward a pattern that is associated with what cognitive scientists call positive, approach-oriented emotional states — states that make us more likely to engage the world rather than to withdraw from it.”

Handling high-stress, high-performance situations like a pro could certainly be a handy skill to have, and it’s one that meditation benefits can help you cultivate. If you need more motivation to increase productivity, check out Lifehack’s free guide: Ultimate Worksheet for Instant Motivation Boost.

6. Appreciate Music More

Do you love but find yourself drifting off and missing out in the middle of a concert or show? Meditation can help you to stay tuned in and aware, one study showed[8].

The majority of the people in the “mindfulness groups” in the study said that the mindfulness task had “modified their listening experience by increasing their ability to focus on the music without distraction.”

7. Positive Effects Even When Not Meditating

Researchers have found that the way meditation helps your brain to work better is consistent, staying with you not just when you’re sitting on a cushion with your eyes closed, but all the time. According to the research, “the effects of meditation training on emotional processing might transfer to non-meditative states.”[9]

The researchers point out that this may mean that the benefits of meditation are not specific to a task or certain stimulus (such as that cushion or a mantra) but are process-specific, meaning that they “may result in enduring changes in mental function.”

8. Reduce Isolation and Feel Connected

It’s strange that in the age of constant connectivity, isolation and loneliness can feel even more poignant. But it happens, and when that sense of isolation descends, it can be overwhelming.

However, meditation was shown to reduce feelings of loneliness in a study on older adults[10], and those who have been practicing transcendental meditation, even for a very short time, say that the practice of meditation provides a feeling of being connected and whole, a “fundamental level of unity”[11].

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9. Reduce Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

Meditation can help you feel connected and handle stress, but what about an ongoing anxiety disorder? What about overwhelming negative feelings or that debilitating sense of depression?

Well, a study done on high school students showed that a mindfulness and meditation benefits could help a lot with both: students who stuck with a mindfulness program “exhibited decreased symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression both immediately after and six months after the program”[12].

10. Fight Disease and Stay Healthier

Meditation benefits can be useful for both the brain and body. Being able to handle stress better can reduce its impact on your body, which can decrease symptoms and physical aggravation of various health issues, including chronic pain.

A researcher at one of Harvard Medical School’s teaching hospitals[13] notes that “The kinds of things that happen when you meditate do have effects throughout the body, not just in the brain.” Health benefits abound when you devote yourself to meditation.

11. Sleep Better

Let’s do a quick review: meditation can help you cope with stress better, help you know (and like) yourself more, and help you lessen anxiety and depression.

With those meditation benefits alone, it seems pretty likely that you’d be able to get a better night’s sleep. After all, if you can stop your brain from racing and your emotions from raging, you’ll be much more likely to drift off into sweet dreams. Research concurs[14]:

“Meditation practices influence brain functions, induce various intrinsic neural plasticity events, modulate autonomic, metabolic, endocrine, and immune functions and thus mediate global regulatory changes in various behavioral states including sleep.”

Guided meditations, especially, can help lull you into sleep, so give it a try today.

12. Help With Weight Loss

When a group of psychologists were asked to recommend a few strategies for reaching weight-loss goals, 7 out of 10 said meditation, or mindfulness training, would be beneficial[15].

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The popular meditation app, Headspace, notes that meditation can help you focus on mindful eating, which encourages you to eat when you’re hungry, not when you are stressed or upset[16]. When you develop this skill, it can help you lose weight the natural way, which is one of the most useful meditation benefits for many.

13. Make You a Better Friend

It makes sense that being able to know and accept yourself better might help you to know and accept others, as well. Other studies have also shown that meditation increases the “mental expertise to cultivate positive emotion”[17].

In other words, people who meditate tend to respond with more positive emotions rather than negative ones. They have a stronger sense of empathy and compassion for others, making them an overall better friend to others.

14. Increase Your Attention Span

Studies show that mindfulness training helps the brain to connect better. What that means for you is that your brain, after meditating, finds it easier to access and process information. Along with that, mindfulness trains your brain to release the information that’s not important, and quickly[18].

Therefore, meditation benefits help you get better at collecting information, processing it quickly, and discarding the stuff you don’t need. Doing that well is what allows you to keep your attention focused on the information and tasks in front of you.

15. Generate More Ideas

If you wish you could access the creative, idea-making part of your brain more easily, it’s time to quit stalling and start meditating. The “catch-and-release” nature of mindfulness, that ability to let a thought in and let it go, turns out to be very helpful for what one study calls “divergent thinking”[19].

The meditative practice helps your brain to be less judgmental and more accepting, while exercising less “top-down control and local competition.” Your brain opens up to new ideas and inputs, which, say the researchers, “facilitates jumping from one thought to another – as required in divergent thinking.”

The Bottom Line

Meditation benefits are wide-ranging and can have a positive impact on many areas of your life. Whether you’re looking to increase your focus, develop more compassion, or get healthier, meditation can help with it all, especially if you become a long-term meditator. To get started with meditation, find a local or online meditation program, check out this simple 5-minute guide.

More on Meditation Benefits

Featured photo credit: Darius Bashar via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Gizmodo: The science behind meditation, and why it makes you feel better
[2] Mayo Clinic: Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress
[3] Science Daily: Evidence builds that meditation strengthens the brain
[4] Neuroreport.: Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness
[5] HuffPost: Mindfulness Helps Us Understand Our True Personalities, Study Says
[6] APS: Brief Mindfulness Training May Boost Test Scores, Working Memory
[7] The New York Times: The Power of Concentration
[8] Psychology of Music: Mindfulness, attention, and flow during music listening: An empirical investigation
[9] Frontiers in Human Neuroscience: Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-meditative state
[10] Brain, Behavior, and Immunity: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction training reduces loneliness and pro-inflammatory gene expression in older adults: A small randomized controlled trial
[11] Medical News Today: Does meditation have benefits for mind and body?
[12] HuffPost: Mindfulness Programs In Schools Reduce Symptoms Of Depression Among Adolescents: Study
[13] Bloomberg: Harvard Yoga Scientists Find Proof of Meditation Benefit
[14] Frontiers in Neurology: Meditation and its regulatory role on sleep
[15] Consumer Reports: Lose weight your way
[16] Headspace: Meditation for weight loss
[17] PLOS One: Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise
[18] The New York Times: Study Suggests Meditation Can Help Train Attention
[19] Frontiers in Psychology: Meditate to create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring training on convergent and divergent thinking

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