We are under constantly persistent pressure in the bustle of our daily lives. We always have due dates, deadlines, and obligations to others. Stress has a way of never forgetting to creep up on us, making us feel as though we can barely cope with the world around us. Too much negative stress (and yes, there is such a thing as positive stress, it’s called Eustress) is unwanted in our lives and can cause depression, heart disease, obesity, and ulcers. And, honestly, it can be downright annoying.
More often than not, common stresses are avoidable, and most people can live their lives experiencing minimal amounts of stress with a bit of conscious management.
#1 – The Cause of Stress
Find out what is causing you to feel stress and work on eliminating it. Nail down the exact cause, and break down fixing it into small, actionable steps. Stressing about a deadline? Break your to-do list up into management tasks, then (and this is the most important factor) don’t procrastinate! In most cases, this allows you to really deliver your best work and show your best self, rather than rushing through and axing parts in the name of making the last minute deadline. Stressing about relationships? Analyze the people in your life objectively, and determine specific pain points you can discuss and break down. Nearly every stressful situation can be made less stressful by finding the exact stress points and smoothing them out. A little preparation goes a long way, too.
#2 – Take Things One Step at a Time
When someone is stressed, many times, it is because they may have too much to do all at once. Instead of reviewing everything in your head and driving yourself into deep worry, take some time to write a listicle of your own. Make sure the list is moderately detailed so that you know exactly what you have to do without wasting additional time later on. Once you have created a list, work through each item from the first to the last, in that order. Do not skip around or think about the other items listed. We love the folks over at PassionPlanner for keeping us and our goals (big + long term and small + short term) on track and organized.
#3 – Make Time for #1 – YOU!
Devoting all of your time to your career, school, family, a second career, your friends, your fur-baby, or any other obligations you might have is a great way to burn yourself out in a short timeframe. Even with the weight of the world on your shoulders, you can prevent burnout by blocking out “You” time.
Try to block out time each day to do something you enjoy. This shouldn’t be some vague or abstract concept that consumes a great deal of mental energy. Focus on an activity that makes you happy, and treat it like an appointment that you cannot miss. If you enjoy singing, spend 30 minutes a day belting out Adele’s latest. If you like to dance, take some time out to bust a move in your kitchen. These are healthy coping mechanisms and will allow you to relieve built up stress and emotion.
#4 – Play Sports
You probably already know that human bodies release endorphins, or the “feel-good” chemical, during physical activity. Playing a team sport combines that burst of endorphins with the social aspect of being a part of a team, allowing you to feel good, keep your body healthy and your heart strong, meet some new friends, hang out with existing friends, and forget about your stress for a bit. Most cities have intermural or public sports teams you can join, so check out your city’s website or ask around!
#5 – Listen to Music
Our brains also release endorphins when we listen to music that is pleasing to us. The human brain is hard-wired to be drawn towards steady beats and melodic combinations of sound, and different parts of the brain become activated only when listening to music. Music is scientifically proven to reduce stress levels, perhaps more effectively than prescription medication.
There are countless music apps available, many of which are customized specifically to your preferences. Spotify offers a “Discover Weekly” playlist, comprised of music the application thinks you’ll love based on your past preferences and listening history. It’s pretty darn accurate too.
#6 – Talk to Someone
We get by with a little help from our friends! While we experience tons of minor stresses each day, if you’re really stressing about a specific situation, then talk to someone. Many times, a friend or family member’s outside perspective about a situation will provide you with a clear path to eliminating your stress, or at least managing it. Even if their advice doesn’t fit your situation, always take what others say into consideration. The people closest to us are there to help and support, so utilize your inner circle whenever you need. Just make sure to reciprocate that support when it’s their turn!
#7 – Cook Something (Or Learn How!)
Personally, I find cooking to be a relaxing, fun experience. Grab some cookbooks or find a recipe online, turn on some of the music we talked about earlier, and start! Try to put your full focus and attention into preparing whatever it is you’re making. If it’s for you, use your favorite fresh ingredients, smell them, feel them in your hands, observe the appearance of each ingredient. If you’re making something for someone else, imagine the person in your mind. Really engage your senses and focus, and don’t stress too much about perfection. Before you know it, there will be wonderful aromas in your kitchen, you’ll be relaxed, and most likely eating something healthier than you would have if you went out for a meal. Oh, and don’t forget the wine!
#8 – Find Yourself
Many times, people are stressed because they are confused as to what or who they want to be in life. Take comfort in the fact that this emotion is one we all experience from time to time. Find your true self by stepping out of your comfort zone – whether with food, friends, activities, travel, books, or physical activities. If possible, travel (and by travel I mean go somewhere at least six hours away). Open your mind to new cultures, foods, and religions. Don’t analyze anything too much, but make sure to keep your mind (and your hands) busy. Take photos. Laugh. Find what makes you happy.
Listen, not everything has to be a stressful situation. Next time you find yourself stressed out about the million things we deal with each day, stop and take a breath.
Do you have other stress relievers you’d like to share? Connect on our social channels and tell us about them!