You simply can’t avoid stress completely. If you have to go to work, maintain relationships, enjoy hobbies, and live in the modern world, you will always be bombarded with stressors. It’s key to look at stress differently and find ways to reduce its harmful effects. Here are a few ways to help you achieve that.
Acute stress is ok
It’s important to realize that stress is not all bad. The acute stress response can be beneficial. It allows you to perform at your best at work or in athletic events, and it can even help you react fast and get away in case of an emergency. The thing you’re trying to avoid is to be constantly in a stressed state, to allow stress to become chronic. And how do you do that? You need to keep a balance of ‘relaxed’ and ‘stressed’ in your life. Here are a few ways to do that. None of them are easy but if you can choose just one and make it a part of your life, you will be much better off.
Very often stress comes from the way we look at a certain situation. For example, if you miss your train you can either be furious and worry about all the things you’re going to miss or accept what happened and use the extra time you have to do something productive or fun. Being able to reframe a situation is a game changer in stress management.
Work at 70 % capacity
A lot of people get stressed when things aren’t perfect. Try putting a sticker saying ‘70 %’ on your fridge to remind yourself that “good enough” is exactly the outcome you need sometimes. You are often your harshest critic so a note from yourself can save you a lot of stressful moments.
Accept things as they are
There are many things that are completely outside of your control. The weather is bad on your holiday, there’s a personnel change at your work, or your political party loses in the election. These things can be a big source of stress, and rightfully so, they affect your life! But they don’t have to be. You can also accept them and move on with your life.
Remind yourself to be grateful
One of the best antidotes for stress and anxiety is gratefulness. It’s virtually impossible to be grateful and stressed at the same time. The most effective way to add gratefulness to your life is to write one thing you’re grateful for each day in your journal. Make it a habit before going to bed and you’ll see how much of a change it produces in you internally.
Learn to observe
It becomes much easier to do all of the above if you learn to observe yourself – your thoughts, emotions, and reactions. If you practice awareness you will have an easier time recognizing your stress response early. Try the inward focus exercise from the first article, or use a guided meditation app to get better at it.