Stress-Less in Your Life

Since April is Stress Awareness Month, I’ll share some things you can do to stress less in your life.

    1. Relax: Relaxing is not something that comes easily in our fast-paced, technology-driven world. With a computer in virtually every hand, it is challenging to disconnect, but doing so can mitigate the effects of stress. Practicing mindfulness—deep breathing, meditation, etc.—is a good way to help you relax. Getting a massage, doing a tension-release exercise, or simply doing nothing are other ways to access relaxation.
    2. Exercise: Research shows that regular exercise helps to reduce the effects of stress in your body. Don’t make exercise a chore. Find ways to move your body that you enjoy, change it up to avoid boredom and invite friends if you like to engage with others.
    3. Support: We all need a support system, especially when experiencing stress. Isolating yourself is a common symptom of stress, so reaching out to others for help feels counterintuitive at the time. Reach out anyway. Sometimes it’s a matter of reducing those toxic people in your life while spending more time with the people who support and encourage you. If you don’t know anyone who fits that description, become a support for someone else. Being a helpful person will attract other supportive people into your life.
    4. Ingestion: What are you ingesting in your body? Alcohol, nicotine, saturated fats, sugar and effects of medication can stress your body and increase the stress you are experiencing. Eating whole foods whenever possible and drinking half your body weight in ounces of water each day is the optimal way to go.
    5. Assertiveness: Do you ever say yes to things you really want to decline? Stress occurs when we overwhelm ourselves with commitments. No one likes to break their word. If you said you were going to do it, then you want to follow through. Don’t make yourself uncomfortable. Learn how to say, “I’m sorry, but that won’t fit in my schedule.”
    6. Priority Management: A lot of people talk about time management, but I prefer to look at it as priority management. When you don’t manage your priorities, you end up doing the not-so-important things first, while the bigger things languish in the to-do pile. Allowing this to happen will increase stress. Manage your priorities so you are doing the most important things first.
    7. Frivolous Activities: When you look at your day, do you have activities that you engage in that have no real benefit? Maybe you are a Netflix-binger, an addicted gamer or a gossip. These behaviors may, on the surface, appear to be fun or relaxing. In small doses, they’re fine, but in excess, they are time wasters with no redeeming value. Check your schedule for examples of these and greatly reduce the time you spend doing them.
    8. Happiness Activities: I know there are things you do, or used to do, that bring you joy. For me, it’s watching the sun set, walking in nature, dancing, singing, spending time with friends, canoeing and horseback riding. When you are stressed, who has time for those things, right? Wrong! Going through stressful times is exactly when you need to schedule something fun. To borrow Stephen Covey’s analogy, sharpening your saw will save you hours of work later and make the job easier. You must rejuvenate yourself when feeling stressed. Do something that makes you happy and the stressful things won’t seem so stressful.
    9. Hobbies/Creativity: Developing a hobby, particularly a creative one, will automatically reduce stress. Woodworking, knitting and cooking can create a stress-free zone. Do you have a creative hobby? When was the last time you engaged in it? How about today?
    10. Nature: Being in nature can connect you to the source and help you realize the bigger picture than the stress you are experiencing. Being in nature grounds you; whether it’s woods, mountains, or water, find the place that works for you. Get some sunshine on your face, feel the wind in your hair and breathe in the smells of Mother Nature.
    11. Spirituality: If you believe in a power greater than yourself, you may find your resilience stronger than others. It helps to know that whatever you are experiencing is happening for a reason and is part of a grander scheme. Having an intelligent, benevolent Higher Power to place your faith in can remove the stress from stressful situations.
    12. Humor: You have probably heard that laughter releases feel-good endorphins. But did you know that fake laughter can produce the same effect? Go ahead, let out a good belly laugh, even if you’re not feeling it, and feel the laughter elevate your mood. If you can laugh legitimately, what’s holding you back? Find a funny YouTube clip and see if you can laugh so hard, you’ll snort! I dare you.
  1. I don’t expect all of these to work for you. Different strategies will resonate with different folks but know there are at least some things on this list that can be go-to options for you when you want to live stress-less.

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