Advertising
Advertising

Take It Easy: 12 Ways to Kill Stress Before Stress Kills You!

Take It Easy: 12 Ways to Kill Stress Before Stress Kills You!

There’s been a lot of fuss around the blogs about the New York Time’s silly article about bloggers killing themselves. It’s clear to anyone who reads it — and should have been clear to the reporter, Matt Richtel, even before he wrote it — that blogging isn’t killing anyone. Writers don’t blog ’til they drop.

Rather, Richtel offers a picture of several driven bloggers who, quite simply, worked too hard. Not all bloggers work too hard. Not even most bloggers work too hard. But some do — just as some engineers, politicians, landscape designers, pet groomers, phone psychics, agricultural product marketing specialists, computer technicians, telephone sanitizers, and vampire hunters work too hard.

Advertising

I can see the headline now: “In World of 24/7 Politicking, Vice Presidents Hold Secret Meetings Till They Drop”.

Bloggers working themselves to death is not a trend. The fact that it was notable enough for the deaths and illnesses reported in the story to pop up on the reporter’s radar is proof of that. Dozens of corporate executives will have heart attacks while I’m writing this post — a trend the media won’t even notice.

Advertising

But working too hard, that is a trend. Working too hard until your health begins to suffer, that too is a trend. Allowing your life to be driven by stress, driven so hard that it kills you — that is a trend, and an unfortunate one indeed.

Stress Kills

Researchers suggest that as much as 60-90% of illnesses are directly caused by or exacerbated by stress. Stress is related to major illnesses like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, but can also cause back pain, headaches, tooth grinding, upset stomach and digestive problems, sleep loss and exhaustion, skin problems, unhealthy weight gain or loss, and of course, loss of sex drive. And that’s just the bodily symptoms: stress is linked to depression, anxiety, mood swings, confusion, restlessness, irritability, insecurity, forgetfulness, and a host of other negative mental and behavioral symptoms.

Advertising

For all that, stress is often worn as a badge of accomplishment in our society. It’s not enough that we compete to see who can do the most, but we compete to see who can handle the most stress doing it. With such an unhealthy attitude towards stress, it’s no wonder that stress-related illnesses are so common.

Kill Stress

The only way to minimize the negative effects of stress is to minimize the stress itself — to identify the sources of stress in your life and either a) eliminate them, or b) rethink them to reduce the stress they cause. Note that this doesn’t include only the things we hate in our lives; stress can be caused just as easily by positive, life-affirming events as it can by negative events. Getting married, having a baby, getting a promotion, planning a kids’ birthday party, or taking a vacation can be just as stressful as dealing with your overbearing boss for 8 hours a day or coming up on a big deadline.

Advertising

Since the big positive changes in our lives can be just as stressful as the negative ones, dealing with stress can’t be simply a matter of getting rid of everything that stresses you out. Instead, you need to develop practices and a mindset that dissipate and reduce the inevitable stress of life itself.

For starters:

  1. Make quiet time: Whether you meditate daily, go to the gym three times a week, practice yoga, go hiking on the weekends, or just spend an hour a night with a book, you need to create a space where you can clear your mind of everything that’s dragging at you.
  2. Stop procrastinating: You can put off important tasks, but you can’t put off worrying about them — and the stress that causes.
  3. Write everything down: If forgetting something would cause you stress, make sure you’ve got it written down in a trusted system so you know you won’t forget.
  4. Eat better: A good diet can help your body better deal with the effects of stress. A healthy diet isn’t all that complicated; as Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, puts it, Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. As a general rule, eat as much as you can from the “edges” of your supermarket — produce, bakery, butcher counter, dairy case — and save the stuff in the “middle” for once-in-a-while — Twinkies, Pop Tarts, potato chips, canned foods, instant meals, etc.
  5. Make family time: Try to eat at least one meal a day with your family (or with friends if you’re single). Better yet, eat at least one homecooked meal a day with your family/friends.
  6. Talk it out: Bottling up your frustrations, even the little ones, leads to stress. Learn to express dissatisfaction (in a constructive, non-hurtful way) and to voice your worries and fears to someone close to you.
  7. Prioritize: Figure out what in your life actually needs attention and what doesn’t. Know what you can easily let slide — and what you can drop entirely — and focus your energy on things that will actually make a difference in your life.
  8. Have routines: Having a set routine means you don’t have to worry about what comes next; after a while, it becomes second nature.
  9. Accept interruptions gracefully: Don’t let your rituals become so rigid that you can’t function if they’re interrupted. Leave yourself enough wiggle room to adapt to changing conditions.
  10. Know when to quit: Don’t stand for employers, friends, or lovers who treat you badly. Decide how much of yourself you’re willing to put into a relationship, job, or activity; when you cross that line, walk away and don’t look back. This applies to the little things (“At 5 pm, I go home”) and the big things (“If things aren’t better after 6 months of marriage therapy, I want a divorce”).
  11. Pay attention to yourself: Notice when you feel stressed, and determine the cause. Notice when your body hurts or you feel unhappy, and determine why — or see a doctor. Figure out whether the things you’re doing are fulfilling your own definition of a good, productive life — or somebody else’s. Give up unnecessary competition (you need to make a better product than your competitor does; you don’t need to have a prettier girlfriend or a faster car than he does).
  12. Love: Build relationships. Share yourself. Feel human warmth.

What do you do to beat stress in your life? How do you maintain balance between the stressful and the not-so-stressful? Let us know!

More by this author

Back to Basics: Your Calendar Learn Something New Every Day 10 Tips for More Effective PowerPoint Presentations How to Improve Your Spelling Skills 11 Ways to Think Outside the Box

Trending in Lifestyle

1How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind 212 Best Brain Foods that Improve Memory 3How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine 48 Things to Watch for If You’re Considering Being Vegetarian 510 Amazing Health Benefits Of Beer

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality.

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser. He is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

He is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would he abuse you? And since “he” is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

He is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it.

Occasionally, he is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

Advertising

3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

He is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

He can be set off by words or feelings. He can even be set off by sounds and smells.

He has no real motivation; he has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

His motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

Advertising

You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • He riles up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • He is often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • He is a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • He is the destroyer of self-esteem. He convinces you that you’re not worthy. He’s a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get him out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace him with your new best friend who supports, encourages, and enhances your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

Advertising

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

Advertising

One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(He’s made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

Becoming the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Read Next