By Elizabeth Shields
Had it up to here? Got a lot on your plate, or feel at the end of your tether? However, you choose to dress it up, express it, describe it, stress is a fact of modern life. Fast-paced, permanently connected, 21st Century living can leave us frazzled and wrought. The World Health Organization has called stress the “Health Epidemic of the 21st Century”. Yet, it is not inevitable that we must accept stress as a permanent condition. There’s plenty of simple steps that turn the heat down on stress. In this blog, we’ll journey through 10 effective ways to reduce and combat stress. So, sit back, relax and read.
#1 Get Realistic about Resources
Stress is that feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure. The mental assessment where we know our resources do not match the requirements of the to-do list. A simple way to redress the lack of balance is to review that list, with our resources in mind. Any more than 10 items on a to-do list for a given day is likely to feel overwhelming. Accept the reality that you may need to say no if your resources don’t allow for it. Practice the word “no”, remembering it is a complete sentence!
That to do list? What can you delegate to help share the load a little? Whether it’s finding ways to upskill a junior employee by delegating a creative or interesting project, hiring some home at help, or getting the kids involved in household tasks, delegating can be a great stress buster. Try to avoid the guilt-trip mindset that says you are simply passing your stressful tasks onto someone else. In the case of children, delegation of some tasks teaches responsibility and models healthy work-life balance for your kids. Junior employees can learn a great deal and gain experience and hiring in some home help supports the local economy.
#3 Remember the Rule of “Good Enough”
Some stress is caused by a sense we aren’t measuring up to expectations. Remember how it felt to have a teacher write on our report we “must try harder”. Stressful. Yet, sometimes we place unrealistic expectations upon ourselves, in other words we fall foul to perfectionism. When it comes to your own expectations, “good enough” is a stress-busting maxim. Aim for a good-enough job most of the time, and you’ll soon feel the weight of stress slipping away.
#4 Whose Judgement Counts?
Connected with the idea of self-expectation is the idea of others’ views on our performance and worth. You’ll never please everyone in life. No matter how hard you try, or how successful you are, there’s always a critic on the side-lines offering judgmental comments. Decide now, once and for all, whose judgment matters to you. It makes it a lot easier to trust your own decisions, actions and feel content with your choices.
#5 Choose the Middle Path
Ancient Buddhism teaches us that extremes can be stressful. Think of a modern example, permanent downtime under the duvet all the time would become dull and depressing. Yet working every hour of the week sucks. The middle path is a balance between extremes: building rest and productivity into our life. The next time you notice you are veering towards one extreme or the other, consider the middle way.
#6 Learn from the Recovery Community
Ever spoken to someone who has conquered the demon of addiction? Often, they possess a wisdom and a tranquility that is the envy of people outside of the recovery community. One secret to such inner peace may well be the “Serenity Prayer”, a simple statement of intent about managing the stress and strains of life:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.
This motto helps to sift through and separate the wheat from the chaff: that which is within our control and that which is not. Too often, we can find ourselves getting stressed about things that are resolutely outside of our control. In this case, the path to serenity is acceptance, freeing us up to work on the things we can change.
#7 Try Worry Time
Some people find that they end up worrying and ruminating as a response to stress, as if somehow, they can worry themselves out of the stressful situation. Yet, being told to “chill out” or “quit worrying” rarely works. If that’s you, consider implementing a daily worry time. Set aside a 15-minute boundaried chunk of time each day when you give yourself permission to worry as much as you like. At the end of the time, any worries that pop into your head can be meat with a firm but kind––“it’s not worry time now, I’ll deal with that in worry time tomorrow”. This technique offers some boundaries and containment around worry and can stop it impinging on your day, and night.
#8 Using Scents in the Home
Odor molecules make their way to the brain’s limbic system and can affect how we process feelings, moods and emotions. Look for ways you can keep your home smelling fresh so the smells are contributing to your sense of wellbeing rather than making you feel worse after a hard day.
#9 Stroke a Pet
Research shows that dog owners who interact with their pet have been found to have higher levels of oxytocin in their blood. Known as the “cuddle hormone”, the neurotransmitter oxytocin provides a real stress-reduction boost. Stroking a pet also lowers levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. So, whether you own your own pet or volunteer to take care of a neighbor’s dog for a while, you are likely to feel the wellbeing benefit.
Loneliness is a real strain on our physical and mental health. When you feel stressed, it can be tempting to hide away. Yet, connecting with supportive and loving friends and family can be a real stressbuster. Consider ways you can connect, laugh, have fun and benefit from the boost. Having a work colleague that you can check in with, or take a coffee break together, can also support stress management at work.
So, yes, modern life is frantic at times. But you don’t need to allow yourself to be swept away. Take time to build in these tips––and find ways to manage and decrease stress in your daily life.