Do you ever feel the need to scream out at the top of your lungs? Unless you are auditioning for the next Tarzan movie (seriously do they make them anymore?) you probably feel stressed! Learning how to slow down our lives and to reduce these negative feelings and emotions will start you on a path to a happier and more relaxed way of life.
So here is how to reduce stress in 10 easy steps!
1. Learn how to say no
Put your hands up if you’ve seen the film ‘Yes man’? Keep those hands up if you’ve also read the book by Danny Wallace. If you haven’t read the book then get to it right now as it’s maybe the best book I’ve read in the last 5 years.
Anyway, if you are familiar with the mantra of saying yes more often, you may be wondering why I am suggesting you go back to saying no. Well as with anything in life, our best intentions can get the better of us and we can take things a little too far. One of the main causes of stress is that we take on way too much in our lives and with only a limited amount of hours in the day, things can get on top of us. We simply lose focus.
Learn to prioritise what you want to do versus what you are indifferent about. Do you REALLY need that overtime? If you don’t feel like working late, don’t do it. Go home and relax for a change. If you feel like you have no time for yourself then maybe try saying no once in a while. You’ll feel better for it.
2. Don’t take life too seriously
Maybe I am a bit weird but I don’t worry too much about the so called big things in life. I have always treated work exactly for what it is, which is something I do to earn money but has no bearing on who I am as a person, or my perceived place in the world.
We all know people who seem to treat their job like a life or death situation or even people who can’t enjoy themselves unless their life meets certain criteria. Some people place a lot of importance on trivial matters and become worked up when such things don’t go their way.
The key is to remember that life is as easy or hard as we make it and the only difference between those who are chilled out to those who are always stressed is simply their perception of the world.
3. Make sure you enjoy the little things
Linking back to the previous entry is the idea that you should always take time out to enjoy the little things. Throughout our lives we will have many momentous and life changing scenarios that will create joy and happiness but some of the best times are the seemingly insignificant.
For example I can genuinely say that the time when I am at my most content is relaxing in front of my laptop to watch my favourite TV show with a packet of Bourbon biscuits and a cup of tea. When I am doing this I am untouchable and any worries that I may have just fade away into the background.
We all have our little activities that put a smile on our face, so don’t deny yourself the opportunity to indulge from time to time.
4. Don’t base your life around work
In my article ‘You are not your job’ I mention how many people identify and base their whole lives around their job and what they think it says about them as a person. By basing your identity on your job you are almost giving up your power and free will and you allow your job to dictate everything that goes on in your life.
If you have a great success at work then you will feel happy in your personal life, and if you have a day when you don’t do so well, again that will transition over to your personal life also. I think we have all had troublesome times at work we’ve taken all this stress and pressure home with us.
This is very unhealthy and the better you get at keeping your job and personal life separate, the happier and more relaxed you will become.
5. Exercise regularly
I think most people know that when we become stressed our blood pressure rises in tandem. Mental issues aside, one of the main problems with a stressful lifestyle is the risk of damaging our heart in the long term. Also stress releases various hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol which in large quantities are not particularly good for us.
One of the best ways to reduce all of this is to make sure we exercise regularly and for you ‘gym-phobes ‘ out there, simply doing any physical activity will produce the same effect.
So go out there and get rid of that negative energy by raising your heart rate and have some fun with it.
6. Spend time with your friends
Humans are social creatures by default and the longer we stray from spending time with our friends the unhappier we will become.
There are many people who are so unhappy and become so stressed with their daily lives that they literally live for the weekend. It’s almost like they place their happiness on hold from Monday to Friday just so they can go out, get drunk and release all of this tension. I don’t necessarily think alcohol is the best way to relieve stress but I believe it is the act of being around good company that actually does the trick.
Having a healthy social life is a great stress buster so take the time to see your friends and have some fun.
7. Share the workload
If you’re the type of person who loves responsibility and taking on new challenges all the time then there is a good chance that you’re actually doing a little too much. To get ahead in life we are duped into believing that it is the quantity of work that we do that makes the difference, yet in reality it is usually the quality that shows through instead.
Don’t micro-manage everything and learn to trust others with some of the responsibilities for a change. This can be applied to the workplace and it can also hold true for home life too.
Anytime that you are feeling a little too bogged down, prioritise what needs to be done first and what you feel you need to do yourself, and everything else share with others.
8. Focus on the present
In a recent guest post I wrote for Stacy Claflin titled ‘There is no tomorrow’, I proposed the idea that we spend too much time either thinking about the past or worrying about the future and in turn we rarely actually live in the present.
When you think about it, the past and the future don’t actually exist yet we place so much importance on our regrets and our hopes. Let me ask you a question; Right now what are your troubles? Right this second, as you are reading these words, what bad things are happening to you?
Nothing bad is happening. Yes you may have things that you worry about but they aren’t affecting you right now. Your worries are just projections of a possible future that hasn’t happened yet.
If you spend the majority of your thoughts on the here and now instead of the past or future, then you can’t help but become relaxed and at ease with the world.
9. Embrace the silence
Meditation is scientifically proven to reduce blood pressure and to lower your heart rate, but I’m not suggesting you all go sit down, cross your legs and “mmmmmm” to yourself. Simply just relaxing in total silence will do wonders for your state of mind.
At least once a day try just having 5 minutes to yourself away from any distractions. Turn off your phone, the TV and anything else that may disrupt the silence. Lie down, clear your mind of any negative thoughts and just focus on your breathing. You will feel so much better after doing this and any pent up frustration will have disappeared.
As a side note to this, one factor in the amount of stress hormones in our body is a lack of sleep. When you go to bed at night try to make your room as close to absolute darkness as possible. Even tiny LED lights can trick the brain into reducing the amount of melatonin which is crucial to a good night’s sleep.
10. Get off the damn internet
No not yet. Wait until you have read the rest of this article (and subscribed to this site via the little pink email box just below this article) .
Okay after doing all that, a good way to reduce stress is to get away from perhaps the greatest addiction in our modern lives, the internet. The creation of social media such as Facebook and Twitter can actually reduce our dopamine levels and initiate a form of depression.
Constantly clicking new pages, checking what our friends are up to, reading up on seemingly perfect lives can all cause stress levels to rise so imagine what doing this day after day, year after year can do to our brains?
Every now and then take a break from the internet and if you are particularly brave, turn off your phone for several hours.
So do you have any stress busting tips you have to share? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Image: Simona Gauri