Medical experts have been telling us for decades that stress is dangerous to our health. Maybe your doctor has already advised you to lower your stress levels; I know mine has. Even if stress isn’t yet endangering your general health, it will certainly be having an impact on your life. You can make your life better for yourself by reducing stress.
A certain amount of stress is good; in order to get things done on time, to achieve things we have never done before and to compete at a higher level, we need short bursts of stress or pressure. It is when the stress becomes prolonged that it starts to affect quality of life.
What is The Source of Your Stress?
Take the time to look at all aspects of your life and consider areas that are causing you stress. Some of the common causes of stress include feeling there is insufficient time, that a task is beyond your capabilities, relationship problems, not taking enough time-out for relaxation and not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. You will probably find other things that are causing you stress and it is important to review all aspects of your life to find where these stressors are lurking.
I find it helpful to jot these down because when you’re stressed, holding too many thoughts in your mind is darned near impossible. When you review your list, note the things that you think there is no solution to. That’s not to say there is no solution; it’s just that you can’t see one at the moment. This will leave you with some aspects of your life that are stressful but that you can think of something you could do about it. This is where you start to make some small changes designed to reduce stress.
The Pressure of Time
If, like me, you find that there never seems to be enough time to get everything done, consider how you conduct your day. Do you jump from one task to another, never completing anything? Are you constantly being interrupted with phone calls? Do you procrastinate over how to get started and end up not starting at all? Do you constantly stop what you are doing to check emails and messages?
If time is your problem, you need to get organized. Set aside a time to check emails and don’t look at them at any other time unless you are expecting something really important. Set aside a time for making phone calls and don’t make or receive calls at any other time. If people ring at other times, set aside a time in the afternoon for returning those calls. When you are not being interrupted all the time, you will be amazed at how much more work you get done. There may be some resistance at first, from co-workers and others, but soon they will come to accept the best times to contact you.
If getting things completed is your problem, you need a daily to-do list which sets out the 5 most important tasks for each day. Don’t be distracted from your list; complete your top 5 jobs before you touch anything else. You will achieve what is most important and you’ll feel the stress just melt away. Productive, successful people do today what less-productive people promise themselves they’ll do tomorrow. What gets done today is finished; what gets left till tomorrow causes stress and anxiety; we all know that tomorrow never comes, don’t we? It is simply a matter of changing your mindset, setting priorities and getting organized.
Overwhelmed and Not Productive
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your life, look at everything you do and see if you can find ways to cut back, delegate or share. Do you really have to chair that committee or could you give someone else a turn? Do you really have to do every task on your desk or can you delegate to another worker or train someone up to do that job? Can you ask your partner to share the responsibility of getting the kids to school on time? Look at your schedule with an open mind and be prepared to let go of some responsibilities and tasks. Be prepared to ask for help to reduce stress.
Lack of Control
Another thing I used to get really stressed about was things I had no control over; now, how dumb is that! Look for ways to avoid or accept what you cannot change and set your amazing abilities to those things you can. Life may never be perfect but we can certainly make life better by focusing on the things we can change, manage or control.
Your mindset and attitude to life has a huge influence to how your life turns out. Instead of finding ways that something might not work, instead of focusing on the negatives, change your mindset and look for an alternative to the problem. Problems are just speed bumps to be negotiated; don’t let them stop you from living the life you want.
If your finances cause you stress, take action immediately. Make an appointment with a financial advisor and lay all your cards on the table to get the best advice. Simplify your financial matters, create a budget and stick to it. Pay yourself first to build up an emergency fund and release the stress that comes with worrying about how you would cope if disaster struck.
What Others Think
A big factor that causes stress is worrying what people think of you or whether you are good enough. I once read that what other people think about you is none of your business! You certainly have no control over what people think of you; they’ll form their own opinions and think what they like. Be true to yourself and stop worrying about what other people think – that’s their problem! As long as your conscience is clear and you do the best you can, you can use your mind for better things. Don’t take things personally; your reactions shape your life, so learn to acknowledge and move on.
Reduce Your Stress
You need to be proactive about reducing stress and avoiding its negative impact on your life. As well as implementing strategies like the ones we’ve already talked about, you need to add ‘mental health moments’ into your daily routine. Here are just a few that I use on a regular basis and find they really help keep the stress at bay. Laugh long and often; it’s a great stress reliever. Get away from stressful situations as often as you can. At work, take a 5 minute break every 2 hours; stand up, walk around, stretch, have a drink of water, lie on the floor – anything that changes your posture and gets you moving. Always take your lunch break and get out of the building; eat a healthy meal and take a walk around the block to stretch your legs and clear your head. You will be amazed at how much more productive you are when you go back to work after these breaks. Get outside into nature whenever you can; Mother Nature is the best remedy to stress that I know!
When you feel the stress levels rising, take a moment to close your eyes and steady your breathing. Focus on managing how you react to the situation rather than the problem. Learn to say ‘no’ without feeling guilty; don’t take on more than you can handle.
I hope these ideas for reducing stress to make life better for yourself will help you to be more proactive in leading the life you want.