Let’s face it, stress sucks. No one likes to constantly feel overwhelmed and powerless. Chronic stress is a destructive force that’s tough to deal with. Stress has been linked to numerous illnesses including cancer, fat gain and decreased sex drive, all super fun stuff. A character from Woody Allen’s movie once said, “Angry? I don’t get angry, I grow a tumor instead.” Funny but true!
Fortunately, you can make positive choices in your life to help reduce stress. If you’re looking to optimize your health and wellness, this is a vital and often overlooked area of important. Here are some tips to help reduce stress.
1. Acceptance - Things that are not within your power to control are not things worthy of worry.
2. Assertion - You are who you are and that is a wonderful thing. You can not and should not be ashamed of the person who you are.
“I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam”
3. Find the modifiable causes of stressors in your life and make changes accordingly - These can be things like a stressful job or a toxic relationship.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. - Reinhold Niebuhr
4. Figure out what you want to accomplish in your life and spend each day working towards that goal - Life tends to be much more enjoyable when you are working towards something that excites you.
5. Practice pleasure - Give yourself time to enjoy things you are interested in outside of work.
6. Surround yourself with people who share your own interests and passions in life - Build social networks with these people. Avoid those who have a negative influence on your life.
7. Don’t let your emotions control you - Try to think logically and rationally instead of emotional reacting to situations.
8. Get enough sleep at night - Usually somewhere between 7 and 9 hours. Find what works for you to wake up feeling energized and ready to tackle the day.
9. Exercise - Any type of exercise is fine, choosing what you enjoy most is best.
10. Manage your time efficiently - Practice tackling chores in priority of importance and keep a to do list. Entire books and courses have been devoted to this subject.
11. Avoid hurry - Slow down, take some time to smell the roses. Prepare for situations before hand so that they become more predictable and less rushed.
12. Make decisions and act on them - Being in a state of limbo between making decisions creates anxiety.
13. Use caution when accepting responsibility - Putting too much onto your plate all at once is a surefire cause of stress.
14. Love and Laugh more
15. Meditation - Practicing meditation can decrease stress both immediately and in the long term.
16. Spirituality - This is often a great source of peace for many.
I took this last piece directly from Robert Sapolsky. As is true in a lot of other cases the 80/20 rule applies to stress management. 80% of stress reduction can be attributed to the first 20% of effort. Choose the strategies here that most apply to you. Applying 20% of these strategies will most likely account for 80% of your stress reduction. I personally think the first few strategies are most powerful in your life but I’m sure it will differ from person to person.
For a more in depth look at stress’s affect on the body and more ways to deal with stress check out:
1. Full Catastrophe Living - Jon Kabat-Zinn
2. Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers - Robert Sapolsky
3. When the Body Says No - Gabor Mate
Take your health into your own hands!
1. Trivieri, Anderson (2002) Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts
2. Sapolsky R, (2004) Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping. New York: St. Martin's Griffin
3. Mate G. (2003) When The Body Says NO: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons Inc.