We all tend to stress over the little things in life, while forgetting all about the big picture. Minor bumps in the road may look like major life events while they're happening, but in the grand scheme of things, most bumps are short-lived and lead to bigger and better things. Even stressful events like the loss of a job, the ending of a relationship or losing a house to foreclosure (I've experienced all of the above) can be put behind you and will soon be fading away in the rear-view mirror as you put the pedal to the medal and accelerate forward with your life.
Stress is a dynamic emotion and the response to it varies from person to person. That's why one person is a nervous wreck while stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, while another drives with the serenity of a Buddhist monk. Some people are born with the ability to regulate stress and thrive under fire, while others break down at the first sign of trouble. This begs the question whether some people's brains are simply wired differently or have they unlocked the secret to reducing the body's response to a stressful situation?
I've got good news for you. Even if you're the biggest stress case on the planet, you can learn to manage stress. Reducing stress isn't a one-size-fits-all approach, so you need to figure out what works best for you, but having the following 5 stress reduction techniques in your bag of tricks will definitely help.
1. Develop Healthy Habits.
The body is a single symbiotic unit, so it makes sense that placing certain areas of the body under constant stress will increase stress in other seemingly-unrelated areas. Living a healthy lifestyle and developing healthy habits like eating right, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep will reduce the overall burden that's placed on your body. With this burden relieved, your body will be better able to manage stressful situations because it isn't already stressed out by everything else that's going on.
Physical fitness doesn't just get your body in shape. It gets your mind in shape as well.
2. Stop Negative Self-Talk Dead In It's Tracks.
That little voice you hear telling you how bad something is and bringing you to a near panic every time a stressful situation presents itself is your inner voice. The key word in that last sentence is your. Your inner voice belongs to you and it's time to learn how to control it. Instead of allowing your inner voice to run wild in a crisis situation, take control of the voice and make a conscious effort to stop the negativity.
If you're telling yourself you're going to bomb the presentation at work or make a fool of yourself while out on a first date, there's a pretty good chance you will. On the other hand, if you tell yourself you've got this and are more than capable of handling a situation, you're well on your way to getting a passing grade or impressing your date.
Confidence is key and you're going to have to fake it until you make it. Controlling your inner voice is going to feel forced at first, but once you learn how to take control of your inner voice, you're only a hop, skip and a jump away from controlling your body's emotional response to stress.
3. Rewrite the Script.
Our past failures are often the reason we fail in the future. Instead of learning from our mistakes and moving on, we allow ourselves to stagnate and sit around stressing out about what could have been. As much as we'd like to sometimes, life can't be rewound. All you can do is learn from your mistakes and move on, carrying with you the lessons you've learned from past mistakes.
When a situation similar to one that caused a past failure presents itself, don't allow yourself to start stressing out that the same thing is going to happen this time. You're smarter and you've learned your lessons from the past. Don't let baggage you're carrying with you from a past failure be the reason you fail again.
Here's something to think about. What do Walt Disney, Colonel Sanders, Bill Gates and Henry Ford all have in common? They failed multiple times before they hit it big. Instead of accepting failure and dwelling on it, they picked up the pieces, rewrote the script and got at it again.
We all lead busy lives. During the week we scramble to get things done at work, while attempting to balance family and friends and on the weekends we try to get caught up on everything we've been neglecting during the week.
Instead of looking at everything that needs to be done, try breaking things down into simple tasks that are easily accomplished. Learning to assess a stressful situation and break it down into simple components makes it less scary and easier to take head-on. Take a large project and divide it into the tasks you need to finish. Now, get to work and finish each of the tasks while patting yourself on the back for a job well-done.
Before you know it, you'll be done and can go back to stressing out about other less-important things...Just kidding. I was checking to see if you're still paying attention.
Another key part of simplifying is learning not to take on more than you can handle. Sure, you want to be a nice person and help out your coworkers, but taking on their work just to be nice is a recipe for disaster if you're already busy and stressed out. Learning to say no will reduce your stress over the long run...and stop worrying about what your coworkers will think of you. It doesn't matter as long as your boss is happy.
5. Is It Really Important?
The first thing you should ask yourself in a stressful situation is whether the situation even warrants a stress response. Certain situations like running late for a child's sporting event or getting stuck in traffic aren't worth allowing yourself to get upset. So what if that guy in the Mercedes just cut you off...All it's going to do in the long run is get you worked up and add to your stress levels.
When a major life event occurs, it's OK to allow yourself some time to worry about it or to wallow in self-pity. Try to keep the time short and get your nose back to the grindstone. Don't let a stressful event define you in a negative way. Instead, take that event and turn it into something you can be proud of.