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Last Updated on November 14, 2017

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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