When faced with stressful situations, your body responds with a fight or flight response. While this response is helpful for an animal that might become a predator’s meal, it has limited utility in our modern lives. In fact, if your stress becomes chronic, it could cause serious health challenges.
So how can you cut down on your stress?
While many circumstances might be beyond your control, you do have some choices on how you approach stressful situations:
1. Cope actively. Those who have the most success at controlling stress focus on taking charge of situations and seeking solutions. If you tend to avoid challenges and wait until they only get worse, you’re compounding your stress instead of reducing it.
2. Choose how you perceive stressful circumstances. What you think about a circumstance has the most effect on you and your future in dealing with the situation.
- Will you be a victim, and feel worse, or will you take action to do what you can to make it better?
3. Relax and defuse your body’s stress response. It’s difficult to exercise direct control over many aspects of your physical stress response. Just try to will your heart rate and blood pressure to a lower level! However, you do have a lot of control over your breathing, both the rate and the depth.
- Sitting in a quiet place and taking slow, deep breaths can perform miracles. Take a slow, deep breath, hold it for two seconds, and then release it slowly.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is all the rage today, but it has been around for thousands of years. All it really entails is totally focusing on the task at hand. If you’re folding laundry, you should only be thinking about folding laundry, not thinking about your spouse, work, bills, or anything else.
- It’s essentially impossible to be stressed in the present moment. In reality, when you’re stressed, you’re either stressing about the past or future. You’re either getting upset about something that’s over or worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet.
4. Get some exercise. A fight or flight response dumps a lot of chemicals into your body that get everything revved up. Burn them off with a healthy dose of exercise.
- There’s no reason to overdo it, but moving your body around in a vigorous fashion will make you feel a lot better.
5. Take good care of yourself. Most of us tend to marginalize the importance of a healthy diet and adequate sleep. This is a mistake. Your body needs nutritious foods to have a clean energy source. It also needs the proper rest to de-stress and heal from the rigors of the day.
- Find some stress-free activities than you can enjoy regularly. Maybe golf is your thing. Maybe volunteering makes you feel better. Find a new hobby that engages your mind, like chess or learning the guitar.
6. Be proactive. It is much easier to get your stress level under control when it first starts to rise. When your stress is reaching maximum levels, it’s almost too late at that point to regain control.
- Pay attention to your body and mind. When you first start becoming stressed, take the appropriate steps to bring it down.
Stress can be very damaging. Animal studies have shown that lifespan is reduced when an animal is subjected to constant stress. Take the necessary steps to get your stress level as low as reasonably possible. The quality of your life will improve and you’ll be happier.