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12 Clever Ways to Minimize Stress

12 Clever Ways to Minimize Stress

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Mandy Kloppers

Mandy is a Psychologist/CBT therapist who believes getting through life is easier with a robust sense of humour.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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