We’re no strangers to stress. It creeps in on us from all corners of life. Some brandish it as a symbol of success, believing that stress means progress. Some have gotten so used to being stressed out that they actually get addicted to it. Some just accept it as an inevitable side effect of life.
But that’s not how it’s supposed to be. You don’t have to live like this, constantly bogged down by a mountain of stress. Start taking charge of your life now. Here’s how:
Action step 1: Avoid the stress
1. Learn how to say no
Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, refuse to accept added responsibilities when you’re already close to reaching your limit. Taking on more than you can handle is a sure-fire recipe for unnecessary stress.
2. Avoid people who stress you out
If someone consistently causes stress in your life and you can’t turn the relationship around, limit the amount of time you spend with that person or end the relationship entirely.
3. Take control of your environment
If the evening news makes you anxious, turn the TV off. If traffic’s got you tense, take a longer but less-travelled route. If going to the market is an unpleasant chore, do your grocery shopping online.
4. Avoid hot button topics
If you get upset over religion or politics, cross them off your conversation list. If you find yourself repeatedly arguing about the same subject with the same people, stop bringing it up or excuse yourself when it’s the topic of discussion.
5. Pare down your to-do list
Analyse your schedule, responsibilities and daily tasks. If you’ve got too much on your plate, distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts.” Drop tasks that aren’t truly necessary to the bottom of the list or eliminate them entirely.
Action Step 2: Alter it
Sometimes stressful situations can’t be avoided. But it can be altered. Figure out what you can do to change things so the problem doesn’t present itself again in the future. Often, this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life.
6. Express your feelings instead of bottling them up
If something or someone is bothering you, communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. If you don’t voice your feelings, resentment will build and the situation will likely remain the same.
7. Be willing to compromise
When you ask someone to change their behaviour, be willing to do the same. If you both are willing to bend at least a little, you’ll have a good chance of finding a happy middle ground.
8. Be more assertive
Don’t take a backseat in your own life. Deal with problems head on, doing your best to anticipate and prevent them. If you’ve got an exam to study for and your chatty roommate just got home, say up front that you only have five minutes to talk.
9. Manage your time better
Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. When you’re stretched too thin and running behind, it’s hard to stay calm and focused. But if you plan ahead and make sure you don’t overextend yourself, you can alter the amount of stress you’re under.
Action Step 3: Adapt to it
If you can’t change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude.
10. Reframe problems
Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Rather than fuming about a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, listen to your favourite radio station or enjoy some alone time.
11. Look at the big picture
Take perspective of the stressful situation. Ask yourself how important it will be in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it really worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.
12. Adjust your standards
Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others, and learn to be okay with “good enough.”
13. Focus on the positive
When stress is getting you down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts. This simple strategy can help you keep things in perspective.
Action Step 4: Adjust your attitude
How you think can have a profound effect on your emotional and physical well-being. Each time you think a negative thought about yourself, your body reacts as if it were in the throes of a tension-filled situation.
14. Eliminate words like “always,” “never,” “should” and “must”
If you see good things about yourself, you are more likely to feel good; the reverse is also true. Words like “always”, “never” etc. are telltale marks of self-defeating thoughts.
15. Accept the things you can’t change
Some sources of stress are unavoidable. You can’t prevent or change stressors such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness or a national recession. In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult but in the long run, it’s easier than railing against a situation you can’t change.
16. Don’t try to control the uncontrollable
Many things in life are beyond our control – particularly the behaviour of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems.
17. Look for the upside
As the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” When facing major challenges, try to look at them as opportunities for personal growth. If your own poor choices contributed to a stressful situation, reflect on them and learn from your mistakes.
18. Share your feelings
Talk to a trusted friend or make an appointment with a therapist. Expressing what you’re going through can be very healthy, even if there’s nothing you can do to alter the stressful situation.
19. Learn to forgive
Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes. Let go of anger and resentments. Free yourself from negative energy by forgiving and moving on.
Action Step 5: Make time for fun and relaxation
Beyond a take-charge approach and a positive attitude, you can reduce stress in your life by nurturing yourself. If you regularly make time for fun and relaxation, you’ll be in a better place to handle life’s stressors when they inevitably come.
As the saying goes, “Just let it go” if worries are prolonged and can be distorted into stress. We got to learn to let things go and live in the moment and forget at times the worries and anxieties that are buried deep with us.
What are your favourite ways to relax? Do you enjoy mindless watching TV shows, hitting the gym, or some plain simple shopping therapy? Share them with us!