On your journey to creating success for yourself, you’re going to face the daily grind and pressures that come with any endeavour. Many people complain that they’re overwhelmed with stress in every area of life: at work, at home, with their finances, relationships, and health. This pressure can lead to irritability in your relations, fatigue, diminished effectiveness on the job, and a compromised immune system.
Stress is our emotional and physiological response to any perceived threat or pressure that we don’t think we can handle. The key word is “perceived” because the threat doesn’t even need to be real: you could be managing a crippling social anxiety disorder or simply ticked off that the lineup for coffee is too long. If you think that something is worth getting stressed over, you’re going to get stressed.
All of these responses are valuable when running from a bear in the woods. However, they’re terrible responses when standing in a boardroom trying to give a PowerPoint presentation to the CEO. Because of this, stress management is a key skill to have in order to be effective in high-pressure situations. Here are some powerful ways to relieve stress:
Stop the event from ever happening. Some things that stress you out, such as a car accident, are quite random and difficult to prepare for. Other things, such as sleeping in and being late for work, might be routine and you can predictably expect that they will occur again. The first line of defense is to ask yourself how much of this event you can control.
Steven Covey wrote in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that we should be proactive and focus on things within our “Circle of Influence.” If procrastination, disorganization, or conflict avoidance are creating situations that cause you stress, the great news is that you have absolute control over them. Maybe getting your kids ready for school in the morning leaves you running behind. If that’s the case, get as much prepared the night before as possible. If getting caught in traffic causes you stress, leave 10 minutes earlier than planned.
Manage your perspective. Two people put in an identical situation can have wildly different reactions to it. One person might remain calm while the other person has a panic attack. Why is this? Because of the meaning we attach to events. Often, the culprit is our perspective—the story we tell ourselves about the events. For example, if you’re trapped in an elevator and you’re in a rush, you might be frustrated, but if someone suffers from claustrophobia, they will perceive being stuck in the elevator as a terrifying and mortal threat. We often make mountains out of proverbial molehills. The key to changing your state is to change your focus.
Author Tony Robbins explains that to change our focus, we must ask positive questions. A great question would be “What is positive about this?” You might initially think that nothing about a situation is great, but when pressed, you can usually find a silver lining. If your flight is delayed, what’s great about that? Perhaps it gives you time to review your notes, make some important calls, or enjoy some unscheduled leisure time.
Burn off stress through exercise. Having a fit, healthy body has many benefits. The action of exercise itself is a powerful ally in managing energy. When we’re stressed, we go into the fight-or-flight response, which is a physiological defense from a threat. Your body is flooded with adrenaline, your heart rate increases, and your sense and response time are heightened. You’re on edge, ready to respond instantly to an attack. This reaction—though valuable in a legitimately dangerous situation—is a physically exhausting response. One of the best ways to relieve stress is to burn it off through intense exercise. Hit the treadmill or lift weights—intensely. You’ll burn off your stress response, give yourself a healthy outlet for aggression and frustration, and get a dopamine boost to the brain, helping you feel great.
Use humour to calm down. Laughter releases endorphins, the body’s version of a natural painkiller. It boosts your mood and immediately cuts through the stress response. So, add some laughter to your day! Listen to your favourite comedians as you commute to work. Watch some funny videos on YouTube on your break. Share a joke with a colleague. Doing this will make you feel great. It’s pretty difficult to feel the pangs of stress when you’re enjoying a deep belly laugh. Learn to find the humour in daily activities and you’ll never run out of comedy material.
Deep breathing. One of the best stress reduction techniques is also a powerful relaxation technique. When we’re in the fight-or-flight response, our breathing becomes rapid and shallow to conserve energy. However, breathing is one of the few bodily functions that you can actually take control over. When we force ourselves to, with intention, breathe in for a count of four, pause, and then exhale for a count of four, something amazing happens: we begin to calm down. Why? Because you’ve taken conscious control over part of the stress response and forced it into a relaxation pattern.
Our busy lives bring multiple opportunities to experience stress. Make a conscious choice to use these techniques and you’ll find yourself enjoying a more relaxed, productive, and stress-free day!
Elixuer Staff Writer