“Not everything that is face can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” James Baldwin (American author)
The concept of biological stress is a fairly recent study. Anxiety has been around for millenniums, but stress is a recent conception. In the late 1950’s Hans Selye began to identify and document stress. His discovery has exploded into multiple sub studies on how to combat this debilitating menace. Stress will always be with us, but there are proactive ways of dealing with it. Overcoming stress is possible, but understand that it will not eliminate it. It always shows up.
Try these tips for starters.
1. Create Stress Buddies. This does a couple of things. First you acknowledge that everybody has it. Second you will discover the amazement of how sharing your problems with a trusted friend(s) can bring relief. We know that good relationships with friends and loved ones is important to health. It’s also a great stress-reliever. Of course this must be cultivated before the stressor-event. A broader perspective, or reassuring word does wonders for putting things in perspective.
But don’t stop there.
2. Have A Conversation With Yourself. I recommend doing this with a pen and paper in front of you. Write down what you hear. Answer your own questions. Why am I stressed? What can I do about it? What tasks do I have to complete to reduce the stress? Who do I need to call ? Identify the issue using “casual analysis”. Be honest. Remind yourself that everything will be okay. You can even trust where you cannot trace. It will be okay. Talk to yourself, and listen.
3. Don’t Disrupt Your Nutritional Routine. If you don’t have a routine, get one. Research has shown that stress levels and diet are related under normal conditions. Here’s the irony. When we come under stress the tendency to get involved in counter productive behaviors sky rockets. We stop the healthy eating and hit the vending machines. After all—time is of the essence and I’ll save time on the nutritional end. “Bring on those sugary, fatty snack foods. I need a pick-me-up!” While you’re at it, go ahead and nail your foot to the floor and see how far you get. It’s been shown by experts that stress is reduced by fruits, vegetables, fish, and other nutritional foods. Have a tuna wrap!
4. Get Physical. Exercise doesn’t have to be an ironman competition. Short walks or light workouts are appropriate. If you are prone to working out vigorously, then by all means do not skip this because of all the things you feel stressful about. This is not only a stress reliever, but you also feel good about doing something positive for your body.
5. Don’t Underestimate Humor. Find the humorous connection in your stress. If there isn’t one that emerges, be humorous with your co-workers or friends. Laugh off the stress. The increased endorphins will decrease your stress level. The endorphins counteract the cortisol and adrenaline hormones that cause stress.
6. Meditate. On what? On what’s important in the long run. Know the real issues of life and death. I like to mediate on Scripture. The Wall Street Journal tells me what’s happening today—and that’s important. But the Scripture tells me how things have always been and how things are always going to be—and that’s even more important. Some will say, “But I don’t know how to meditate.” Don’t make it difficult. Can you worry? If you can worry (thinking negative thoughts over and over), then you can meditate (thinking positive thoughts over and over). There is a lot more positive going on in our lives than most people will ever realize. The perspective will reduce your stress.
7. Go To Sleep. It’s a double whammy. Stress can cause you to lose sleep, which in turn creates more stress. Sleepless nights are “stress factories.” They magnify and multiply the perceived stress. Stress becomes a key lever in getting our brain and body out of whack. Tip: Turn off the TV and get to bed. This is not only a great time management principle, but it’s also a reliever of stress. Everybody is a little different in their sleep needs. You know how many hours you need—so get them.
Stress is unavoidable. If you are alive, you will experience stress. But just like other areas of our life, we must also manage stress. Too much stress—untreated—can cause physical problems and mental issues. These tips will not eliminate stress, but they will definitely help you manage and reduce stress.
What stresses you out? How do you handle it? It would be a help to our readers if you would let them know. We aren’t that different.
(Mick Ukleja is the co-author of the book Who Are You? What Do You Want?: Four Questions That Will Change Your Life)