How To Handle Stress You Decide To Keep In Life
We live in the 21st century and stress is all around us. Along with other unhealthy lifestyle choices, stress is now said to be among the top reasons for a variety of diseases, including cancer and heart problems. So is there a way around it? Can we remove stress from our lives altogether? If not, can we at least learn to overcome it faster and better? And how?
In this article, I will answer all those questions and give you some food for thought. Unfortunately, stress is so common now—especially among high-achievers and successful people—that most of us think it’s a normal part of life.
Some are even addicted to it, going as far as to feel like they are useless if they are not stressed.
Their logic is the following: when you’re working to achieve a goal and you’re giving it your best, you’re stressed. Therefore, if you’re not stressed, you’re not working towards anything.
Stress management techniques to eliminate stress from your life!
Does this sound familiar? Is this you or someone you love? Well, here’s the good news…
There are many tips and tricks to handle stressful situations and we will discuss most of them, but before that I would like to bring your attention to a breakthrough idea: you can live an (almost) entirely stress-free life!
Part 1: Elimination
What? Is that even possible? Yes, it is. I’ve come up with a simple process that, if you follow it, you will find yourself so stress-free that you’d feel bored. But that’s only going to last a little while. Once you get used to living a stress-free life and learn how to consciously and decisively avoid or immediately deal with stress, you will suddenly find yourself energetic, inspired and capable of anything.
So what is this process I talk about? Here it is:
#1. Identify the main stressors in your life
As with everything, the first step to change something in your life is to identify what needs to be changed. Obviously, in some cases the stressors can’t be changed and we need to learn how to live with them. However, let’s assume that’s not an option for now and just focus on the task at hand: identify what concerns you.
It would be best if you started with a short list, because there are probably more than a few things. Is it your job or maybe something specific in your job? Is it something specific within your family? The place you live? Something else? If it’s just one thing, even better!
#2. List the positive things these stressors bring
For example, there may be things you hate about your job, but probably it pays well or it gives you certainty and a feeling of significance, or the office is close to where you live. Or if you really hate your apartment, the fact that you live there means it does offer something: maybe low rent, nice neighborhood, good size or it comes fully furnished.
From the most silly, small things to the most important ones, list everything that the stressors give you.
#3. List the positive things that non-stressors bring
Now let’s do some dreaming. What would the perfect job look like? One that gives you all the positives of the stressor job and none of the stress. Or what would the perfect apartment look like? Or even the perfect relationship between you and your husband / wife / mother / father.
You’d be surprised how much easier things look once you sit down and describe them, even when it comes to your relations to another human being. It’s a myth that it takes two to change a relationship. It only takes you, because when you lead the relationship in a different direction, the other will usually follow.
So what are your so-called “anti-stressors?” List them and think about how you can achieve them. Start now! If you don’t act, all you will end up with are a few lists you don’t really need. There is no downside! What can you do to keep all of the positives of a certain area of your life and eliminate the stress? Be creative when making the plan. Then follow it!
#4. If you can’t change it, accept it
Sometimes things don’t work out the way we want them to. If you’ve tried everything, but failed—or if you just couldn’t come up with a way to replace your stressors—it’s time to learn how to accept things. How? Mostly using situational stress management techniques that let you face any stressful challenge, keep thinking straight, do the right thing and let go of negative emotions. We will talk about such techniques later in this article. Right now, I’d like to tell you my story of completely eliminating a huge stressor in my life: my career.
Stress be gone!
Just like most people, I was raised to believe that when it comes to careers… certainty and money are the ultimate factors. So, naturally, when it came to choosing a college major, I went with something promising and lucrative: Management. My teachers in high-school have always told me that I have great leadership skills and so I thought that would be the perfect way to develop those skills and apply them in practice.
When I do something, I give it my all, and that’s exactly what I did while studying. I graduated first in my class and found a good starting job in an international company. I didn’t become a manager right away, but my sales position gave me a lot of opportunities to prove what I’m capable of and I was offered the Corporate Sales Manager role about eight months after I started. I worked in the London office and communicated with the directors and owners of multi-billion pound businesses on daily basis. I made good money. I was directly under the owners of the business and they had a lot of respect for me, so I took advantage of flexible schedules and multiple travel opportunities. Here I was: successful! Certain! Financially stable! And unbelievably unhappy.
I was under so much stress. I had to constantly consider the wants and needs of many important clients, of my bosses, of my team, of the company’s partners and investors. At the same time I felt like no one was spending too much time considering my wants and needs.
And because I was so busy, I didn’t consider my needs either. I was becoming more and more miserable and eventually my emotional state started showing. I was distracted, more aggressive and honestly didn’t care about anything. As far as I was concerned, the company could fail tomorrow and I would pack up my desk with a smile!
And so my ignorance failed a huge project. It was really my fault, entirely my fault. And just when I thought I’d get fired and be done with it, my boss—who reprimanded me and cut my bonus—decided he wanted to keep me. He said that now I’ve learned my lesson and that it could happen to anyone.
I should’ve been happy, but I wasn’t at all! I still believe that on a subconscious (or not that subconscious) level I failed because I wanted out! But I didn’t get what I wanted. And so now I had to deal with it all in a whole new way. Because the stress grew (now people were watching my every step).
This is when I started writing the lists I told you about. I wrote what I hated in my job and what I loved about it. I came up with alternative ways to receive what I love. I acted accordingly and surprisingly, when I told my boss I just didn’t feel good as a manager right now, that it was too much stress for me, that I wanted to do something else… he didn’t hate me. He reacted perfectly normal and even supported me in transitioning to my career as a business coach, which led to my career as a writer!
So here’s the deal: if you let the stress, disappointment and frustration get over you and act without really thinking things through, it’s very possible that you end up unhappy.
The time between the failed project and me actually quitting was the time I was reborn. I took coaching classes, I saved up money, I did all my homework. When I quit, I almost immediately went to the next level. Whereas if I was fired, I would probably just start over with some sort of a silly job which would temporarily calm down my financial fears (and my mother) and eventually make me unhappy again.
Since I eliminated this enormous stressor, I am healthier, happier and feel so much better.
Part 2: 10 ways to handle the stress you decide to keep
However, are there still situations, people, and places that annoy me? Are there still things that happen in my life that stress me out? Of course there are. Not all stressors can be completely eliminated, but they can be “handled.”
1. Say what you feel…to someone at least
Emotions are a very primal part of being a human and as such, they can’t be avoided. Whether you like it or not, on a subconscious (and also a not-so-subconscious) level you feel more than you realize. And when we’re defining certain situations or areas of our life as stressful, it is related with negative emotions: dislike, exhaustion, disappointment, hurt egos, loss, frustration etc.
We live in a society that forces us to keep our negative emotions to ourselves so we don’t burden others. However, bottling it all up inside can have catastrophic effects on your health and overall well-being. So speak up!
Emotional intelligence is the science of recognizing, accepting and expressing emotions in a healthy way and if you think you’re not good at that, look into Emotional Intelligence courses. We even offer one, here!
So, if you can communicate the way you feel clearly and with the idea of finding a solution, then do that. If you can’t, at least hire a life coach or psychologist to hear you out. Because when emotions are expressed, they have a beginning and an end. But when they’re all hidden inside, they are a poison that eats you alive.
2. Stress is physical….Deal with it physically
Emotions as whole are very physical experiences. Think about how you’re super-energized when you’re happy or in love. You feel like you can do anything and you have an endless supply of energy.
Then think about fear—the way your tummy starts to hurt and you can’t breathe. Or about frustration—when you literally can’t stay in one place. Stress is a very physical experience and one of the best things you can do is tackle it physically.
But what does this mean?
To prevent your body from letting stress affect it too much, it would be best to exercise daily, or at least a few times a week. You don’t have to go to the gym or run. It’s enough to take a long walk or ride a bike.
Something I love to do, which I see as the perfect combination of meditation and exercise, is yoga. Do yoga once a week and your mind will learn to stay calm, patient and accepting of the world around you and keep you body balanced.
It’s also a great idea to do breathing exercises. One of my favorite breathing practices is the way Tony Robbins starts his day: by taking 30 quick and loud in-and-out breaths through his nose. Loud means that you actually have to hear the breathing. This saturates your blood with air and energizes you for whatever comes.
Obviously, it’s good to use similar practices when a stressful situation occurs also. Taking deep breaths and counting to 10 to focus on something other than the issue is a popular one because it works. If the situation allows it, it would also be good to take a long walk.
3. Relaxation techniques/meditation
More and more psychologists and coaches suggest that as little as 15-min per day can drastically reduce stress levels. Are you ready to invest them? Great! All you have to do is use a relaxation technique or meditation that best works for you.
In order to find what’s best for you, it’s not just OK, but necessary to try different things. It’s important to note that many people still don’t know what relaxation techniques are and how they benefit you. In short, such techniques bring your focus to something very simple and/or positive, inspiring your mind to look at things from a new perspective or entirely emptying it from negative vibrations.
During a meditation, for example, you often focus on your breath or on a certain sound. This literally clears your head, especially if you manage to keep up that focus for longer.
When you do that regularly, your mind will create a “safe place” where it can go when the going gets rough. If you’re not sure exactly what to do, search the internet for different relaxation techniques or directly go to YouTube and check out different guided meditations. Start today. You’ll notice the benefits of it all shortly.
4. Eat healthy
As the world becomes more aware of the fact that being healthy means being energetic—and not just not being sick—the more obvious it becomes that the food you eat has a huge impact not only on your physical, but on your psychological state as well.
It’s simple really. Throughout your life on Earth, you experience everything through your body. So if your body is not in shape and you choose to feed it rubbish, how do you expect to be a better version of yourself as a whole?
It is now a well-known fact that digestion is one of the most energy-consuming operations of your body. In fact, it’s the second most demanding task after sex, which means, as Tony Robbins likes to say, that for most of you digestion is the most energy-consuming thing you do! Which means that when your body consumes energy for digestion, it can’t possibly use enough energy for work, play, love and anything else. Naturally, when your days are demanding and you lack energy, you get stressed. Voila!
So how to eat in order to reduce stress levels? That’s a question that a nutritionist would answer better than I can, but some of the basic tips you can follow are:
- Avoid combining protein-rich and carbs-rich foods in one meal. For example, potatoes and meat are not a good combination.
- Eat food that alkalizes the body. There’s a lot to be said about alkaline-acid balance in the body, but in short, if you’re acid, your cells get less oxygen and you get less energy. Of course, that’s a very simplified way to explain it all. Foods that alkalize the body include vegetables and fruits, especially greens.
- Create a healthy eating regime. Try to eat 3 times a day between 8am and 8pm, maybe with a couple of snacks. It’s best to eat small portions often, rather than huge portions twice a day.
- Drink A LOT of water (and try to cut out Coke if you can).
5. Sleep well
The importance of sleep is well-known. Ever since we were babies, we were cranky when we didn’t get enough sleep. So what makes you think things are different now that we’re adults?
If you adopt some of the other suggestions we’re discussing, like healthy eating habits and daily relaxation techniques, good sleep would probably come naturally to you. All you have to do is let it be!
Sure, you can party up on Friday or Saturday (or maybe both), but don’t do it every week and make sure you get enough sleep the rest of the week.
Don’t forget that according to the latest research you sleep best and get the most rest between 10pm and 2am. So if you regularly go to bed at 2am, even if you sleep till 10am, you just won’t feel rested.
6. Take control over the situation
When we say things like “He makes me so angry” or “This situation is horrible,” we subconsciously stress ourselves out. No, I don’t mean that you should just repeat positive things to yourself without thinking about them. What I mean is that putting the responsibility about how you feel on someone or something else is the #1 way to feel awful.
The truth is that you have no control over what happens around you or what others do, but you do have control over how you feel about it.
So if you change what you’re saying in your head to “I choose to be angry because of how he behaves” or “I choose to feel horrible because of this situation,” you’ll see how absurd it really is for you to react that way.
So, whatever it is that stresses you out, stop letting it dictate your emotions and actions and get the control back. What can you do to change matters? What can you do to accept matters? You are the master of your life. You, and no one else!
7. Don’t be afraid of the magical word… NO!
We live in the age of people-pleasers. So many of us are thought to be agreeable and have made compromises since we were little, and we were taught that this is good and saying “no” is bad. But now that we’ve grown up, we are learning that’s not quite the case
When we say “yes” all the time, we basically disrespect our time and efforts and don’t give ourselves the chance to relax and enjoy life. We’re always responsible for someone else’s happiness and never for our own. Because why would we invest in our happiness? Isn’t that too selfish?
NO! It’s not. As with everything, your best option is to keep things balanced. Don’t make yourself available for everything and everyone.
Here are some great ways to say “No” in different situations:
- When your boss gives you an additional task, ask him to prioritize the rest of your tasks, so you don’t feel too overwhelmed and you know what to focus on first. This way, he will either give the task to someone else (because he will see you have a lot on your plate) or at least give you realistic deadlines.
- When a colleague asks for your help, offer to teach her or him how to do what they have to do, rather then do it for them.
- When a friend asks for a favor and you’re too busy to do it, simply explain that you’re too busy. If they are a true friend, they will understand.
- Make sure you always have some time for yourself, even if you do “nothing.” If need be, discuss this with your partner, roommates or whoever may stand in the way. Share that with everyone. When people know that a certain day or time of the day is your personal time, they won’t feel offended that you say “no.”
8. Time Management
More and more “gurus” say that it’s not about time management, but about energy management. While I do believe in this, time management is still an important part of keeping your days organized and your stress levels low.
One of my favorite time management techniques—first, because it’s easy, and second, because in time it starts to happen automatically in your brain—is all about prioritizing your tasks. Before I explain it, I would like to say that the proper time management technique for you very much depends on when during the day you’re most productive.
For me, that’s in the morning, so that’s when I schedule the most important tasks of my day. If you feel better in the afternoon or even later in the evening, then that’s when you should schedule yours.
Here’s the technique I use:
- List all your tasks for the day. Don’t make the list too long, because this immediately makes you feel overwhelmed.
- Compare them by importance. Some people use urgency as a factor in prioritizing as well. As I’ve made everything possible to exclude urgency from my days, I only use importance. If you need to factor that in, you can.
So the way you compare them is by comparing each task to each task. Is task 1 more important than task 2? Is task 1 more important than task 3? Is it more important than task 4? When you find the most important one, put it as a top priority. Continue with the rest until all your tasks for the day are perfectly prioritized. Now you can start and even if you don’t finish it all, you’ll finish what matters.
And when you finish what matters, you’ll sleep calmly.
9. Think about the positive
Many people see positive thinking in an entirely wrong way. About a year ago I had a discussion about this with my brother in law. He has a business with 30 employees. For him, positive thinking was silly, as it didn’t give you the chance to prepare for the worst. “What good it would be if I just sit here thinking how awesome things are if they aren’t awesome?” he asked me.
I replied to that with another question. I told him he obviously has a great contingency plan for when things go wrong, but what’s his plan if, out of nowhere, 10 more clients contact him and want to work with him. At this time he was fully booked, so he said he’s not sure what he would do. That he would probably just send them away.
That’s exactly what positive thinking is about. It’s about focusing on how to handle the good that comes your way, not just how to handle the bad. Moreover, it’s about how to invite more good. And this requires thinking.
So, if you’re way too stressed because of thinking how to negate possible risks and negative impacts, how about focusing on how to achieve an awesome thing instead?
10. Know thy self
As a coach, I’ve seen this over and over again. Because of circumstances or other’s beliefs, so many people forget to do things according to the number one value for them. And when you ignore your values, you feel stressed out and miserable. Even if you don’t know what’s wrong exactly, it feels like something’s missing.
So let’s talk a bit about values. When asked to list their values, most people start talking about friends and family. Values—and this is an important one—are the emotions you want to feel throughout your life. The most important emotions to you. Do you want to feel free, loved, secure, rich, adventurous, calm? Perhaps all of those, but which one is most important?
To me, it has always been freedom, and until I realized it I just didn’t get why I kept quitting all my jobs, even the great ones. I always ended up financially challenged and unhappy, looking for the next job that would hopefully solve the problem—but it didn’t.
When I first got into coaching, I finally dug deep into my soul and discovered I hated having a schedule. I hated having a boss. I hated having to live my life according to rules created by someone else. When I finally built my own practice, I was finally happy and achieved great financial success, too.
Now I get the chance to do whatever I want to, whenever I want to, to try different business ideas, to write on different topics, to communicate with different people—but only the ones I choose. I also found (and consciously chose to be with) a man who gives me all the freedom in the world. I’ve never been happier and all of this came with me realizing what my #1 value is and building my life around it.
Every minute you spend stressed out eats you alive. Stop that now! Start following the tips in this article and let us know how it’s going!