Stress is evident everywhere in our fast-paced world. It’s a mental, emotional, or physical strain caused by anxiety or overwork. We all feel stress and often suffer the results of it in some way or other.
What you are about to read can have a significant impact on the levels of stress you experience. This post is not about how to deal with stress; it’s about how to reduce and avoid it.
Most of the stress we experience can be broken down into three categories.
1. Stress we can’t control—such as the loss of a job, loss of a loved one, or encountering major health challenges.
2. Natural stress—such as what we feel when we set goals, push ourselves outside our comfort zones, and strive to get better.
3. Stress we can control—such as being late to an appointment, having a breakdown in a relationship, or getting upset sitting in traffic.
When you identify and learn how to manage the things that create stress, you will experience improvements in every area of your life from your health to your outlook on life.
We encourage you to print these points and highlight the ones that you are determined to work on. The realization that you are in control of your stress is the foundation of stress management.
1. Avoid heated topics. You know the topics that cause your blood pressure to rise, so learn to avoid them.
2. Practice relaxation techniques. Techniques such as meditation and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response—a state of restfulness opposite of the stress response. When practiced regularly, you will enjoy a reduction in your everyday stress levels, benefit by a boost in your feelings of peace and serenity, and increase your ability to stay calm under pressure.
3. Change how you view things. Practice viewing stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Rather than getting stressed out about sitting in traffic, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, to listen to your favorite music or self-improvement CD, or to just enjoy some quiet time.
4. Practice positive thinking. How you think can have a profound effect on your emotional and physical well-being. People who maintain a positive attitude and practice positive thinking experience less stress than those who are pessimistic and negative.
5. Anticipate problems. When issues arise, address them head on before they escalate. The best way to avoid big problems is by addressing them when they are small.
6. Express your feelings. When something or someone is upsetting you, learn to communicate your concerns in an open and respectful manner. Even if it’s just sharing what you are going through with a friend, you will likely feel better.
7. Practice good time management. Every improvement you make in how you spend your time gives you greater control of your life and plays a small role in reducing your everyday stress levels.
8. Don’t procrastinate. Putting things off until the last minute is a guaranteed way to increase your stress levels. Start doing what you know you should do. Become a do-it-now person.
9. Look for the upside. When problems and challenges present themselves, look at them as opportunities for personal growth. The next time you are faced with a challenge remember this African proverb: “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”
10. Keep your sense of humor. Smiling and laughing are great ways to reduce stress. Visit our Laughing Corner page to laugh out your stress.
11. Exercise regularly. It is well documented that physical activity plays a key role in reducing the effects of stress on the body. Make time for at least 30 minutes of exercise, three times per week. A brisk walk can do wonders to reduce stress.
12. Eat healthy food and beverages. When we nourish our bodies with healthy foods and beverages our bodies are better prepared to cope with stress.
13. Get a good night sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep allows you to rest your mind and body. When you are tired and fatigued, you experience more stress than when you are fresh and full of energy.
14. Use a “To Do” list. Writing down everything you need to do in a prioritized sequence is a huge stress reducer. When you are doing exactly what you should be doing in the exact sequence in which things need to be completed, you will feel more at peace.
15. Don’t accept stress. Refuse to get stressed out. As an example, if you are feeling stress because of everything you have to do, but yet you are giving 100% of yourself and you are working on things in a prioritized sequence, say, “I’m doing all I can do.”
16. Put together a debt-reduction plan. Putting together a plan to decrease your debt will do wonders to reduce financial stress. Much of the financial pressure people live with is a result of not having a budget or plan.
17. Build valued friendships. Spending time with positive and encouraging people makes you feel better and reduces stress.
18. Stop stressing over little things. So much stress comes from getting worked up over petty little things—such as the person driving slowly in front of you, or listening to someone who has an opposing view on an insignificant subject. Use your self-control to ignore the little things that bug you.
19. Learn to respond, not react. When something upsets you, don’t react in haste. Instead pause and consider the best way to respond—a way that you will be proud of later.
20. Write things down. Stop trying to remember everything; start taking notes or making lists. This frees the mind and because you don’t need to remember everything that matters to you, you will feel a whole lot less stress.
21. Plan ahead and arrive early. We have all experienced the stress of running late for an appointment. When you have to be somewhere at a specific time, plan ahead and arrive early.
22. Get organized. How do you feel when your home, car, or workplace is a mess, or when you are working on a project and can’t find things? Take the time to get organized; then do the little things (organizing your stuff) each day to stay organized.
23. Present yourself as being calm and in control. When you present yourself in this manner, you will feel less hurried and more confident, both of which will reduce the stress you feel.
24. Learn to estimate how long activities take. Start tracking how long things take to complete. In most cases, the actual amount of time it takes to do something is more than you initially estimated. By clearly understanding how long an activity “really” takes, you can better control your schedule and commitments.
25. Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that we all make mistakes. Let go of anger, resentment, and negative energy by forgiving those who have hurt you.
26. Be grateful. Take time each day to reflect on the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts. This will increase your happiness and help you keep things in perspective.
Managing stress is all about taking control of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems. The ultimate goal is a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun.
Learning how to avoid and reduce stress is one of the most important skills you can master, not only for your own health and happiness but also because of how your stress levels impact those close to you.