Stress: the ultimate time waster, relationship breaker, anger fuel-er, burn-out creator, self-esteem robber, worthiness thief…the list could go on and on.
Yet, no matter how hard we try, we all experience stress.
Well it turns out, it is supposed to be that way. Because we are human. Because we have cortisol. Because we have brains that think…and over think. And pressure and expectations and comparisons.
We all have stress.
So the question is not, “how do I get rid of stress?”, but rather, “how do i manage stress?“.
About 11 months ago I asked myself that question for the first time, then I challenged myself to answer it. And 11 months later it turns out I still get stressed, BUT, now I have the ability to go from stressed-out to chilled-out in a matter of minutes.
So here is a list of my top 10 (and somewhat unconventional) ways to reduce stress:
1. Square breathing / military breathing. This is more than just “trying to breathe”. This strategy seriously calms you down and distracts you in a matter of 16 seconds.
How to: breathe in slowly for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, repeat if necessary. The counting takes your focus away from the stress and the slow breathing slows down your heart rate. Congrats! You now are calm enough to think logically and assess the situation.
2. Saying/singing random words. I am not asking you to sing the opera or your favourite song. “La ya hmmm naaaa” in a monotone voice will do. I am probably the queen of doing this. When I pair it with rocking back-and-forth on my legs or gently swaying, it relaxes me enough so i can begin thinking logically.
3. Repeating words like “yup, ya, ok, uh-huh, ok, f***ing right Ella!, good.” ..ok maybe your name isn’t Ella. But repeating words with positive / good associations will keep your brain thinking positively instead negatively.
4. Sit. Just sit. On the floor, on the couch, on a chair. And then just look. Let your brain rest while your eyes take the reigns and your body doesn’t exert itself. Don’t read, don’t go on your phone, don’t turn on the tv. Let your eyes really see what’s in front of you. Notice the texture of what you see. And the colour. Are you lucky to have what you’re looking at? Was it a gift? Are you thankful? This is called mindfulness. The more you become mindful of your surroundings, your gratefulness level will increase and your stress level will decrease.
5. Drink a calming tea. Not a glass of wine, not a rum and coke, not a caffinated beverage, and don’t eat pizza! I like to have chammomile tea or lavendar tea. You can even buy certain tea blends designed to make you calm. I like a magnesium tea called Calm as well as a brand called Traditional Medicinals – Cup of Calm.
6. Be proactive and under-schedule yourself. Odds, are your “minimal schedule” is more of a realistic schedule. Even though the amount of things you do daily might not change, being able to check off all the items on your list each day will make you feel more productive. You’ll also put less pressure on yourself to deliver quantity. And you’ll therefore have more time to focus on quality!
7. Talk to yourself. Don’t play the avoidance game. The last thing you want to do is distract yourself from stress for a week then have it creep up on you again. Pushing your stress deep down inside can turn into bad anxiety and even panic attacks. What I suggest is having a full-on and preferably outloud conversation with yourself. Ask yourself why you are stressed. Can you change the situation? If not, then remember “it isn’t worth the worry.” Life is 20% what happens to you and 80% what you make it.
8. Don’t do it. But only long enough to reassess your situation. I can’t stress the previous sentence enough. Taking a day or a month (or 8 months in the case of my masters) to step back and decide if you can approach your situation in a better way could be the best thing for you. There is always a way.
9. Afformations. Lately I find myself doing this more and more. This concept was developed by Noah St. John (check out his system, Afformations, for all the details). Doing this involves asking yourself questions. That’s right, they aren’t af-firm-ations where you say things to yourself like “I am successful” on a daily basis – when you simply say things like that, you force yourself to believe what you actually think is a lie. What you should do instead is ask yourself, “Why am I successful?” Asking the question on a daily basis forces your brain to start thinking of an answer. Soon you’ll find those answers and then you’ll adjust your behaviour. I can’t tell you how much this one helps – kudos to you Mr. St. John.
10. Listen to relaxing music. If you’re like me, you like to listen to music that matches your mood. And if you’re really like me, you’ve probably realized that sad music makes you more sad, angry music makes you more angry etc etc. Well good news, relaxing music makes you more relaxed! So next time you get stressed, all you have to do is head to the internet and search “relaxing music”. One of my absolute favourites is Peder B. Helland whose YouTube Channel is called Soothing Relaxation. I swear he has playlists for every type of “relaxation mood”.
You’ll notice there is nothing on this list like hiking, yoga, or spa day. That is because those types of things and other traditional forms of de-stressers are secondary in the order of ‘Stress Maintenance Operations’. They are ideal for the long term but not ideal as immediate responses. (Note: expect an upcoming blog post on these secondary responses).
Stress happens fast, so we need to equip ourselves with the most efficient reactionary tools. And that is why i think the list in this post is so important.
So next time you feel stressed, try one of these techniques. The more you practise the easier it will get.
I wish you a stress-free and Happy Monday 🙂
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