Every day, in every aspect of our lives, we encounter the inevitable stressors of life. And while some level of stress (eustress) is needed to motivate us to be productive and successful, when not handled properly with whatever current resources we possess, distress can be very detrimental to our health and well-being.
It is critical that we learn and put into practice, different methods and techniques, to help reduce or alleviate these unexpected and sometimes unavoidable stresses of life. Below are 10 practical ways in which this can be accomplished.
1. Organize: A famous writer once said that organization is the law of heaven, and whenever we do not abide by its principles of order, we are bound to experience hell on earth.
When one’s life is not organized, the clutter can cause annoying stress even for those without any type of anxiety or stress disorder.
If one’s life is organized, the stress of trying to locate things is reduced and the mind feels more in control of situations. Organization can be achieved through time and practice, and does not have to be done in one day.
Even organizing one’s desk at work or book shelf at home can assist in making one feel more in control of situations and eliminate the stress associated with a lack of control and not knowing where things are.
2. Plan ahead – Avoid procrastination: When a job or task is left until the last minute, an unforeseen problem or circumstance may present itself when it is too late to solve. Do work according to your personal style, but be generous in the time you allow yourself for the final effort. Be like the Olympians, who prepare way ahead of time.
Preparation is certainly an important key in avoiding stress while experiencing success at the same time.
3. Prioritize: Along with organizing and planning, one must also consider prioritizing the jobs or tasks in order of importance. Attending a stress management seminar, I learned that it is best to always do what is ‘most urgent and important’ first and eliminate or leave for last, those activities or events that might be ‘not urgent or important’. Then juggle between these two extremes, what are ‘urgent but not important’ and what are ‘important but not urgent’.
4. Learn to say no: My grandmother, who was a very instrumental mentor in my childhood life use to always tell me, “Don’t try to be Jesus – only He can save the whole world”. Never allow other people’s emergency to become your priority. If you cannot commit to an event on time or accomplish a particular task in a given time, it’s best to just say no or ask for extra time to accomplish whatever was asked of you. Of course at times, one must consider the ‘prayer of serenity’ when applying this principle.
5. Get enough rest: Along with being overworked, another common reason for stressful behavior and feelings is a lack of sleep/rest. If one is not getting the proper amount of sleep, the body does not have time to recover and rejuvenate from the day and therefore can feel tired and sore. This tired and sore feeling can cause physical and mental stress throughout the day. It can lead to anxiety, frustration, irritability and other mental disorders.
6. Eat the right foods: Eating healthy can reduce one’s chances of a brain chemical disorder and imbalance. Try to eat foods that are low fat and high fibered.
Many high fiber foods like complex grains and nuts are loaded with B vitamins that are needed to “calm the nerves” and enhance chemical reaction in the body. Unhealthy fats on the other hand can block many of these chemical reactions leading to unhealthy thinking and unhealthy behaviors.
Try eating more fruits and vegetables, as they are known for their ability to cause a feeling of enjoyment when eaten, while at the same time containing many of the nutrients for good brain functions. Reducing or eliminating caffeine and other stimulants is also a great way to help the body deal with stress as well.
7. Get fit: Aerobic and cardio exercises are well documented ways to reduce stress. These exercises can include taking a leisurely walk, to taking a fast paced cardio class at a gym or wellness center.
These activities allow for the brain to think on something different, such as the movements, and allows for the subconscious to deal with the everyday stresses.
7. Look at the positives: Stress can be caused by viewing life as a chore, and not realizing the joys one has all around. Instead of looking at the amount of work that needs to be done, think of what work has been completed and how best to complete the work that needs to be done. Think about the things that bring joy into your life when you feel stressed out or over-whelmed.
8. Take a break! If one has been working for a while, taking a break can greatly reduce the amount of stress one feels. Even if working on a deadline, getting up and away from the desk for a few minutes can increase one’s efficiency by reducing stress.
Working hard is good, working efficient is better, and eliminating stress is best.
9. Relax: Many people are so focused on work and other responsibilities that they forget to relax. Relaxation techniques such a meditation and massage therapy have long been known to reduce stress levels. People often forget that relaxing is a part of a healthy lifestyle and by skipping this aspect, people often cause more stress and feel the effects of stress more profoundly.
10. Talk to someone: The idea that “no man is an island” is very true. If one does not talk about the stressful situations in his or her life, that stress builds and can cause devastating health effects. Talk to someone, one’s spouse, best friend, even one’s dog. Though it seems like such a small thing, reaching out and talking to someone is one of the best ways to eliminate stress, and anyone can do it.
Most of all talk to God – He cares! – His inspired words remind us in the gospel of Saint Matthews 11:28-30 – “Come unto me, all you that are stressed and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and you shall find rest and peace in your soul. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
God bless and enjoy a stress-free day – today!