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Stress is a negative thing. None of us want to stress and rather we want to feel happy, at least most of the time, if not all. But, is that possible?
How do we deal with stress, since it is bound to happen? It is quite impossible to lead a life without stress but we can certainly find ways to deal with it so it doesn’t affect us negatively beyond a point.
Let us start by looking at a few definitions of stress.
As per dictionary-
Stress (noun) is importance attached to a thing. This sounds intuitive because we would only stress about things if they are important. Otherwise, we couldn’t care less. However, this is not a great definition for our purpose because stress has several negative connotations and we are trying to figure how to deal with those.
Let us look at this definition from positive psychology:
This is quite an interesting definition and it defines what stress in words that may not be too easy to understand. Let us try to simplify this. Basically, what this is trying to say is that stress happens because of imbalance between what is expected of us and what we can deliver.
This is true, that is clearly one of the reasons of stress. However, there could be multiple others reasons. Like, overthinking about future problems which currently do not exist could also lead to stress. Analysis of your past in a manner that could be counterproductive to our mental state could lead to stress.
It would be important to understand here what happens when we feel stressed? Why is stress such a bad thing?
When we feel stress, multiple things happen in our body and mind, a few of those could be the below:
- Heavy breathing
- Sweating or over sweating
- Trembling in the body
- Heart beating faster than usual
- Feeling overwhelmed
These could be some of the symptoms of stress and there could be many more others, depending on person to person and how severe the stress is. Clearly, all of this tells us that stress is a negative thing and we must do all we can do to avoid it, or learn how to deal with it to the best we can.
Now that we know that stress is a terrible thing, we want to know how to stay away from being worried and stressed as much as possible. Since we can’t quite eliminate stress, we need to really work on how to manage stress in everyday life.
Let us break this down. Let us look at ways to deal with short-term stress and long term stress.
Short term stress is stress is the stress you are feeling right now. If you are feeling stressed right now, and that is the reason you clicked on this article, the below section is for you. In the section below, we will try and see if we can reduce your immediate stress:
1. Breathe deeply
Just stop reading the article right now, and close your eyes. Take a few minutes off, and breathe deeply. Observe your breath and just take a few deep breaths. Please do this for a few minutes till you feel better.
2. It is going to be okay
No matter what the problem you are dealing with right now, it is temporary. You will be fine. In a few weeks, months or a year, you will look back at this time and be thankful that you kept going. Do not think that this is permanent and things will never improve.
3. You can fight through this
We do not know how strong we are as human beings. I have posted some great stories of people who have fought insurmountable odds through this blog. You may want to read this story of a man who spent 29 years in a jungle in Philippines after the Second World War was over under the illusion that the war was still on. He had nothing to eat and no place to stay. He and his colleagues spent a lot of time living off beef which they cooked by slaughtering cows that ventured into the jungle, in addition to whatever fruits were available. If they could do that for 29 years, your troubles would not be that long.
4. Go for a physical activity
If you run, after you have finished reading this article, go for a run or a swim or whatever physical activity you like. When you engage your body and exhaust yourself, you feel you are in a better state to think about your life problems.
5. Call a friend
If you feel overwhelmed right now and can’t think by yourself, call someone you trust and speak to them. If needed, go to their place or call them home and pour your heart out. It will make you feel relieved in the moment.
6. Clench your teeth and stretch your facial muscles
Do not worry about the faces you will make. Just clench your teeth and stretch your facial muscles. If there is a lot of stress in your body, you need to figure out a way to release it. This may help. I do this every day post workout, no kidding. It helps reduce the stress.
7. If you have a headache, pop a pill and sleep for a while
Sleeping solves a lot of problems in the immediate moment when we can’t figure what to do. If you feel overwhelmed and do not want to visit a friend or do anything else, rely on a pill and take a nap. Do not keep an alarm. If you want to relax completely, sleep as long as you need to. When you wake up, you may be in a position to deal with your situation differently.
8. Write it down
If writing is an activity you like to do when you are in stress, take a notepad or a computer and write how you feel. The more you write, the better you will understand. Writing helps clear your mind and relieve stress.
9. Count to 10 and back
May be, you need to distract yourself since too much is happening around you, and you can’t make sense of it. Take a step back and count to 10. Count to 100, if needed. It will take you away from the current situation and allow you to refocus.
10. Drink water or tea or coffee
Drink some water or any beverage you like. May be you have taken a lot professionally and personally, and it has clogged your mind. Do yourself a favor by having some water or a hot beverage.
11. Stop talking
When we are stressed, anything that we say adds to stress. We are not in the right frame of mind for a conversation. We may end up saying something that would make the situation worse, than making it better. So, stop talking and take a break from whatever is bothering you.
12. Give yourself a pep talk
Do you talk to yourself? If you don’t, you should. You are your best friend, and you need to give yourself a pep talk, when things don’t seem too good. If on any other day, you should give yourself a pep talk a few times a day. It will help you put the situation in perspective.
If we want to live a stress-free life, there have to be ways to organise life in a way that we don’t feel stressed out every now and then. Let us see what we can do to live a stress-free life.
13. Plan your life
They say that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Although planning can never be perfect, but it is helpful in organizing our lives. If you know what you are doing, when and why you are doing it, it will help in reducing your overall stress levels.
14. Make physical activity a part of your regular life
A lot of people live sedentary lives and it affects their stress levels. Body and mind live in the same structure. When you take care of your body, your take care of your mind and vice versa. Make physical activity like brushing-something that you cannot do without.
15. Accept that nature is more powerful than us
We need to accept that nature is omnipotent and way too powerful. There would be times when you would make plans and they would be soiled by something you totally did not expect. Give away the desire to control your life completely. We don’t completely control our lives. The Corona Virus in 2020 affected the lives of the entire population of the world and nobody could have foreseen it. Nature is more powerful than we all can individually be.
16. Eat healthy
We may not be what we eat, but what we eat affects our stress levels. If we eat healthy and take care of our body, the mind will be taken care of as well. After all, stress starts in the mind, and then it affects the body. But, if we eat junk and toxic food, it will affect our body and our minds, making it way more difficult to deal with stress,
17. Avoid negativity and toxic people
Avoid negative people. Toxic people who are around you will cause you stress, and in the long term, anxiety. If you can’t get rid of them and they are too close to you, listen to them but do not pay attention or act on anything they say. You need positivity and optimism to lead a healthy and positive life.
18. Work hard in the right direction
If the source of your stress is your work, figure out the content of the work and ask yourself if you are passionate about it. If you continue to do work that you find boring and monotonous, over time, it will make you stressed out, and you will find it difficult to deal with it.
19. Deal with temporary problems with a positive attitude
Understand that temporary problems do not define you. You will be able to find you way out of them and you will be fine.
20. Do not compare your life to that of others
There is one sure shot way to feel miserable about life and most people who are stressed and miserable do that- they regularly compare their lives to that of others and then feel bad about their lives.
All of us can get through life happily for most of the duration if we focus on our lives and water our grass, rather than complaining that the grass is greener on the other side.
21. Live mindfully
Develop an attitude to live in the present moment. It would help if you do things that you find interesting. If you find your work interesting, you would find it easier to be mindful than if you don’t. If you love your partner, you would not be distracted by others. Make a conscious attempt to live in the moment to avoid stress.
22. Plan your time well
I was listening to a podcast yesterday where one of the guys on the podcast mentioned that he plans his days to the minute. That’s an aspiration I have. I want to be able to plan my time to the minute. When you have your time planned, you feel more control on your life, and hence feel less stressed out, than you otherwise would.
Meditation is an extremely powerful form of activity that can help in relieving stress. Make it an everyday part of your life. Find a quiet place in your house, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Just observe the thoughts that come in your mind without making a mental effort to obstruct them. Meditation, when done regularly, is quite helpful is living a stress-free life or even in just reducing stress.
24. Under-promise and Over-deliver
When making goals, there are two popular forms of goal creation. There are two popular schools of thought. One says: under-promise and over-deliver. The other one says set your goals so high that even if you miss them, you will have reached somewhere worthwhile. The problem with the latter school of thought is that it creates tremendous amount of stress and doesn’t allow you to feel good even if you hit the target.
Our goal in life is to feel good about ourselves and improve our self-esteem and confidence. Therefore, I personally find the under-promise and over-deliver school of thought quite useful. However, you can choose what works for you obviously. I won’t come there and tell you, ‘dude, I told you so.’
From a stress reduction point of view, take the under-promise and over-deliver route.
25. Get a massage every now and then
A massage helps in relieving stress and hence we would recommend a spa visit whenever you can find the time, money and inclination. Plan it so that you can come back post the visit and sleep for some time as you would feel so relaxed that your body would demand a nap.
26. Become a positive person
27. Identify the sources of stress
Observe your life carefully on a regular basis and identify what stresses you out. Your goal over a long term period is to eliminate the sources of stress. You want to live a happy life and if you want to be happy, you can’t live with many sources of stress around you.
28. Do ONE thing at a time
We are terrible multi-taskers. Multi-tasking is a vice that results in mediocre results across the board. Focus on doing one thing a time and move on to the next thing when what you had been doing has been done. Make space between tasks.
Focus on quality over quantity. Do not shoot out anything that you are not proud of. I am already happy about the value this article is going to give to people looking for ways to reduce stress in their lives.
29. Laugh about life
Figure out a way to laugh about everything in life-pain or joy. Laughter helps in reducing your stress levels and make you interested in life. Laughter makes you happy in the moments that you laugh.
30. Work on being a happier person
When you work consciously on trying to be a happier person, you will slowly also subconsciously find ways to remove and eliminate stress from your life. Happy people learn how to deal with stress because they know that it will affect their happiness and they guard anything that affects their happiness negatively. After all, why are we here?
How to lead a stress-free life is vast subject and there is no way one can make an exhaustive list. There is no exhaustive list, and there never will be one. However, in order to eliminate or reduce stress from our lives, these points are a good start.
There is no way we can completely eliminate stress since life is uncertain and unpredictable events happen which we cannot foresee. However, we can create a framework of how to deal with stress when we must deal with it. I hope that you will find these ways useful in reducing stress from your everyday life.
Thank you for reading.
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I appreciate the time you spent in reading the blog and wish you happiness.