Life is stressful.
You have responsibilities, personal goals, relationships, and so on.
You know too much stress is not good for you but you can’t help it. There’s never enough time and stress never goes away.
So you accept the stress as it is. You stay stressed thinking that’s your fate.
No matter how busy you are, there are people who need to handle even bigger responsibilities, goals, busier schedule and more relationships. Most of them burn out. But some refuse to stay stressed.
The difference between the stressed and the calm is not the amount of load in life, it’s how they handle the load.
Suppose you have to lift and carry a heavy rock. You may pick it up in the wrong way with a poor form and injure yourself. Or you can learn to pick it up using the right form which will make it easier for you.
The rock is the stress and the way you carry it is the way you handle stress. Before thinking about reducing the load, it is wiser to work on your form first (the way you handle the stress).
It’s easy to relax when life is all good and you have the time.
Relaxing is the act of consciously taking time for yourself to recharge and lower your cortisol (stress hormone) level.
It could mean a good night’s sleep, a walk in nature, a long meditation session, taking a shower, watching Netflix or whichever way you wish to relax.
Relaxation is the cure for stress.
Keeping calm is the prevention. It is the skill of having peace of mind despite the chaos of life. It requires you to not let the environment affect your cortisol level.
While relaxing requires no skill, keeping calm requires you to increase your stress tolerance and doing small acts to stay calm under pressure.
All stress is not bad. Good, acute stress is okay and it should not bother you since it will help you perform better.
Chronic stress is the problem. Most of us know it’s not good for us but we accept it as a part of our lives.
Chronic stress harms the pre-frontal cortex of your brain which regulates memory, attention, behavior, emotions, thoughts including decision making and planning. All these are critical for high-performance.
When your cortisol levels stay high, you live in the survival mode. Your amygdala region of the brain stays activated which is responsible for the fight-or-flight response.
When you stay calm, you keep your cortisol under control and use your pre-frontal cortex to live proactively.
That’s only the mental consequence of chronic stress. The effect on your health is another story. I’m sure you don’t want to deal with heart disease, digestion problems, sleep disorder, weight gain, anxiety, and depression.
If you live a busy life, you know turning off stress is not easy. Even if you tackle a stressful situation, there are always more stressors waiting for you in the line.
So how do you handle all these stressors?
Before we talk about the tactics of tolerating and managing stress, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.
If you’re already having a stressful day, don’t take new tasks. Learn to say no and if you can, delegate a few tasks to someone else.
Remember that not all tasks are created equal. If there are some things you can do tomorrow (on a busy day), then postpone it. Do important things first.
You may also create systems to automate tasks so you can free up time and reduce mental clutter. Keep things as simple as possible.
The first step to deal with the stress is to accept it. Recognize each stressor in your life. Make a list of all the things stressing you out and be honest with yourself.
A study has shown that recognizing and naming can reduce activity in your amygdala region of the brain.
Some of the biggest stressors include a broken relationship, a job you hate, money problems, risk, fear, responsibility, and so on. Confront the stressors in your life and look them in the eye.
Every situation is an opportunity if you look for it. When life is hectic, it is an opportunity for you to train your mind to stay calm.
Stressing about being stressed is worse. Accept the stress and tell yourself — this is just the practice. Even bigger stresses will come in your life and you’ll handle them like a boss. So this training is necessary. Embrace it.
The simple mental shift eliminates the meta-stress that comes with stressors.
You can’t stress about other’s opinion.
If you’re sensitive to other people’s comments, practice getting rejected or doing absurd things in public (while not breaking the laws).
Here’s a picture of me doing a famous comfort zone challenge:
Although physical exercise is a stressful activity, it provides the good stress needed for growth. Over the long run, exercising improves your ability to handle stress.
High-intensity workouts are especially good for improving stress tolerance. If you have a busy life, they are perfect since they won’t take much of your time.
When life is crazy busy and you don’t have time, take every opportunity to move your body like taking the stairs and standing up when you can.
Doing a few stretches relaxes your muscles and in turn, it relaxes your mind.
You can also massage your head, temple, hands, and neck with your fingers to relieve stress. Keep a tennis or golf ball under your desk and roll your foot over to get an instant foot massage.
If you make it a habit, you’ll de-stress without even realizing it.
Sleeping significantly reduces stress, so it is important you have enough good quality sleep.
In a busy life, it’s easier said than done. When you can’t get enough sleep during the night, take short naps to instantly recharge yourself and reduce your cortisol levels.
Afternoon naps can kill stress like magic.
Music can instantly change your state of mind. If you’re working, you can listen to relaxing or nature music in the background.
When you’re doing work where it’s not possible to listen to background music, take a quick break to listen to a song to change your mental state.
We all know the importance of eating well. But did you know you can significantly lower your stress response by eating anti-inflammatory foods? Even certain smells like the smell of lavender oil can lower stress.
Nutrient deficiencies, processed foods, and toxic air can induce stress. So if you take care of what you eat, you’ll do yourself a big favor especially when life is tough.
This is why your health comes before your work. When you take care of the basics, you perform better and feel less stressed.
During stress, we automatically take short breaths. If you take deep breaths during stress, your body will understand that it’s not in a stressful situation.
Breathing does not take time. Taking only a few deep breaths are enough to control stress.
Few of the common ways to de-stress using breathing are:
People in a working environment often go for a smoke break. That’s how they handle stress, which is an unhealthy way to do it. You can reduce stress in a short time without a smoke.
Have a quick chat with someone which doesn’t involve talking about work or take a solitude break for a quiet time.
Talking with someone will help you focus your attention on something else or it will let you express whatever is stressing you out.
A solitude break can help you regulate your thoughts and emotions. Be mindful of everything you’re feeling without judging the sensation. Don’t control your thoughts — let them come and go.
To further relieve stress, write down and dump everything out of your mind.
As your mind puts you in a fight-or-flight response, it will tell you how serious things are. But most things are not that serious.
Take things lightly and bring humor to the situation. Laugh in your own mind or better yet, share the laugh with someone.
Another way to remind yourself to not take things seriously is to do something for someone else. Doing a random act of kindness takes the pressure away from your life and problems. You view the world through a different lens.
We often stress about something we had done in the past or about the outcome we can’t control.
Practice letting go. Understand when you can do something about a situation and when you can’t.
When you love others, yourself and your life, you stress less. You focus on being kind instead of stressing about your problems.
Kindness lets you forgive yourself and others.
A lot of stress comes from self-doubt and feeling insignificant. Maintain a good posture and develop confidence by taking action and improving continually.
The more action you take, the more clarity you get. The clearer you are, the less you worry.
Focusing on the positive and being grateful reduces stress as it shifts your focus and changes your view of the world.
Act in congruence with your guiding principles and values. If you don’t, you’ll feel stressed and betrayed by yourself.
When you act with congruency, you’ll worry less about the outcome because you’ve taken your reasoned action. You did your deed.
What happens when the outcome is bad or when you lose a golden opportunity? You feel destroyed. You feel as if all is lost.
You don’t have to feel that way if you simply believe.
Believe that you will figure things out.
Believe that better days will come.
Believe that everything is happening for you.
If you believe enough, you’ll not only banish stress, you’ll connect the dots and create a better future.
If you’re an ambitious person, your life will have stress. There’s no getting around it. But you can change your attitude and response towards it. Use it to fuel your performance and let it go when you don’t need it.
No matter how busy life gets, there’s always time for peace. Even when you don’t have a second to take time off, you can find peace within you. All you need to do is shift your attitude and look things differently.
You don’t need to become a monk to keep calm. You can do the hard things and still keep your peace if you practice tolerating stress. Once you’ve learned to handle stress like a boss, you’ll stay calm even when life is a mess.
Originally published at DesignEpicLife.com