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Ten Ways to Beat Stress and Anxiety

Ten Ways to Beat Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are a part of modern life and there is no way to avoid it. Therefore it pays to know how to reduce stress and anxiety in order to function as well as possible without buckling under the strain. Once you know how to manage stress, it becomes a lot easier to live with. Here are fantastic ways to alleviate stress and enjoy a more carefree existence

1. Exercise

Exercise has proven time and time again to reduce the effects of stress. The psychological benefits of exercise have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol and stimulates the production of endorphins which are the body’s natural painkillers and mood enhancers.

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2. Maintain a sense of humor/laugh a lot

Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress and anxiety. Nothing works faster lighten the load and help you feel more lighthearted. Humor lightens your load, inspires hope, connects you to others and keeps you grounded. Laughter boosts the immune system, relaxes the body and allows the body to release hormones known as endorphins that promote an overall sense of physical and emotional well-being. Laugh every day and stress will be minimized.

3. Watch your thinking

Thoughts lead to emotions which in turn lead to behavior. When you monitor your thinking, you alter the associated emotions and behavior. Think thoughts that work for you and you will automatically reduce stress and anxiety. We all have a tendency to work ourselves up by worrying and thinking of the worst possible scenario. This only adds to stress. Ensure that you challenge your thinking regularly. Ask yourself where the evidence is – just because you feel a certain way does not mean that it is real.

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4. Take time out – balance in life is essential

All work and no play leads to a life that is out of kilter. A lopsided life will inevitably lead to stress and anxiety. It’s important to maintain a balance and keep your eye on the bigger picture. I often remind my clients that there is only one of them yet the company that they work for will still carry on. People feel such loyalty to almost kill themselves for their employers. There is a lack of balance and perspective and it is often only once physical health problems kick in that people sit and take notice. Take preventative measures and introduce balance into your life before your health is affected.

5. Express yourself. Be assertive

When you stifle your needs and allow others to take over, this suppression can lead to increased stress and anxiety. Learn to say “no” and stop pleasing others. The more you stand up for yourself the easier it is to keep stress and anxiety in check.

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6. Maintain Perspective

When we are stressed, we tend to exaggerate the possible consequences of our situations which only makes stress and anxiety worse. Try to detach from the situation by asking yourself whether this current problem will still matter six months from now. Sometimes it helps to imagine yourself on a balcony looking down on yourself. From this detached position it is often easier to maintain perspective and remove yourself emotionally from the situation. Once you have detached, it is easier to think clearly and reduce stress and anxiety effectively.

7. Stop trying to please others

If you live your life for others, you ignore your own needs at your own peril. It is never a good idea to put other people’s needs constantly ahead of your own. This can lead to resentment and inner tension. It’s almost as if an inner toxin develops when we do not honor our own needs. This does not mean you have to be selfish but when we try to be martyrs for too long this inevitably ends up being counterproductive.

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8. Follow your own path

In order to be truly happy, it is important to know what it is that gives you that pleasant buzz. That feeling when time flies and you feel alive. Make time for those activities in life that inspire you and fill you with positive energy. Energy awareness is vital in managing stress levels. When we spend time with emotional vampires, they suck positive energy out of us. Limit your time with these people and be aware of where you get your positive energy. Fill up those coffers!

9. Love what you do

Quality of life is important if you want to reduce stress and anxiety. Common sense suggests that if you spend a large amount of your life doing things you really don’t enjoy, this will influence your mood and increase your stress levels. As far as possible, engineer a life that is full of activities that you love. Find your passion and incorporate it into your life as much as possible. Watch your self limiting beliefs and believe that “where there’s a will, there’s a way”.

10. Be selective about the news you watch or listen to

We are receptive beings and we are constantly influenced by our surroundings. Be aware of your environment and what you are exposing yourself to in terms of positive and negative energy. Often, the news can be a source of negative energy and can lead to a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness. Of course, it is a good thing to be informed about the world but be aware of the effect this has on you and if you find that you are easily influenced by others and your surroundings, limit your time watching informative programs of a negative nature.

It is a good idea to figure out what works for you and have an anti-stress strategy. Whether that’s regular exercise, achieving more of a work/leisure balance or making time to follow your passion, it’s vital to prepare a system that you can call upon when you feel frazzled. Energy awareness is key in order to reduce stress and anxiety. Limit negative energy sources (difficult people, negative media stories etc) and increase  positive energy sources (fun music, inspirational people, exercise etc) to maintain a relatively stress and anxiety free life.

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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 January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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