There’s no way you can remove stress from your life. You won’t be able to get rid of all of your stressors, all the time. If you think you’ve been “failing” on that part—on not being capable of avoiding the ever-present nuisance that is stress—perhaps you’ve only been dealing with it the wrong way.
It sucks. But the good news is that there are healthy ways to deal with stress.
Not All Stress Is Bad
It’s an evolutionary fact that stress yields the fight-or-flight response. In other words, stress makes us uncomfortable—sometimes sweaty-much uncomfortable—just so we could get out of our zone to think of solutions for a potentially dangerous situation.
This is similar to the notion that always being happy is not good for us—”perpetual” happiness makes us careless about making decisions in that such decisions are likely to be worse than when we’re actually stressed while making them.
Therefore a balance must be sought. You would want to properly act depending on a situation. You would want to use your mental faculty so that you could do what’s best for you and everybody else—and not merely give in to what feels good at the moment.
That’s why a bit of stress is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. Life is about being healthy, after all. It warrants feeling a wide range of emotions…like stress.
But of course, as you may know, stress can also take its toll on your wellbeing. (That’s what stress management is for.) You don’t eliminate stressors; you manage them. No matter who you are, you need to guard yourself against its dark side.
Stress, a Subtle Killer
Sometimes stressors are present but you absolutely have no idea they’re there.
Financial stress, for instance, is the most common stressor for Americans. What do you do if you’re in such a situation? You can’t simply shrug it off when you inevitably attach some sort of meaning to it. Being in such a position makes you assign blame or shame to it.
That’s just for financial stress. You may be stressed in your relationships or career or by the unexpected things like being unable to sleep.
Chronic stress is linked to health problems like insomnia, depression, obesity, heart disease, cancer, and even death. It doesn’t really matter where the stress comes from. A huge or tiny stressor is essentially the same—especially when you allow them to get the best of you.
What’s worse is that the poor stress-related coping behaviors seen in adults such as lack of sleep, lack of exercise, and poor eating habits, are also developing in teenagers, with school being a huge player.
These poor coping mechanisms are being learned and ingrained in young people they become strong habits at a very young age. It’s no wonder these habits become unbreakable by the time they’re adults. When that happens, life becomes unnecessarily more difficult when confronted by stress.
Healthy Ways to Deal with Stress
Whatever the cause or source of your stress, it’s always a good idea to handle it in better ways. Most of the time, it may be easier than you think.
Among the many benefits of meditation is that it can ease anxiety and mental stress.
Meditation trains your mind to be fully present. In many ways, you get stressed when you allow your mind to think of the negative things (which have always been there, anyway) instead of working on solutions, even in small steps, every day.
You might think it’s boring to sit down and do nothing for just ten minutes but ask yourself, why is it boring? What are the other things you would rather be doing that could justify neglecting to train your mind to be present, anytime, anywhere? Is it worth it to go through your daily routine with a lot of other unnecessary things running through your head? Ask yourself these kinds of questions.
You don’t even need to do it every day. But remember: to deal with stress, handle that precious moment gifted to you.
Stress is like a massive toxic force that stays in your body. Physical exercise has always been among the top ways to get it out. Exercise could be really fun, too!
If you’re feeling you’re in a slump for some reason—whether you’ve been staying sedentary for a couple of days or traveling or meeting clients—just wear your outfit and get out of the house. Walk. Run. Go to the gym.
Exercise will clear your head. It’s also known to have an antidepressant effect. At 30 minutes a day, you should be all set!
This might be an “immediate” or “short-term” fix, but why the hell not? Take a pause from the usual stressors, and just breathe.
Deep breathing helps your internal systems achieve coherence. It’s relaxing. It’s calming. It’s a nice reminder that whatever it is that’s going on, everything’s going to be fine. It may not get better today, but you know you can have the strength to work on it right about now.
Bibliotherapy is a form of therapy you can get from books. (“Biblio” means “book.”) Of course, plus points if the book is about feeling good, or if you like the topic. But generally, reading is a good stress release, even if you don’t generally agree with the author.
Reading about human nature and psychology has been beneficial to the “stress side” of my life. Although I’ve been interested in that stuff since my youth, it’s only been a couple of years ago since I started really reading and zeroing in on the topic.
Whatever your interests are, you’ll only learn about yourself more when you read. Life is too short not to do that, don’t you think?
I know. You might be thinking, “Well, I’m already stressed my entire freaking life and now you want me to help others?? I thought I should be taking care of my own needs first for chrissakes!”
It might sound too much on your part, but here’s an interesting tidbit: Helping others shelters us from our more negative reactions to stress. It’s not that stress goes away when you hold the door for someone—but your positive emotions will likely not decrease. And the best part? You won’t react to stress as horribly as you used to.
Look at how a simple human interaction can do wonders for you. Even if you’re a withdrawn type of person, you can’t deny that doing something for others feels good—or at least, helps with the daily stress!
Watch out for the Food
It’s an age-old piece of wisdom. Your body is your mind.
But it may be something you’re neglecting. Don’t downplay the role of food on your stress levels—especially if you really enjoy those at your favorite fast food chain.
I don’t mean to judge based on what you eat. I’m only saying it’s real easy to check which foods are good and which are not. Besides, you might enjoy them more than the uber-delicious but empty ones.
Easily Overlooked Stressors
This might be debatable. Reality is reality; you can’t distort it…unlike what some people might say…although they might be right, too.
But here are easily overlooked stressors: your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and habits. And no, I’m not saying it’s your fault. But consider that perhaps you’ve simply developed an unhealthy system in which you allow yourself to be boxed in every single day, without somehow challenging it.
Put in other words, you’re not choosing the real stressors you must be dealing with. And again, I would like to emphasize that you don’t have to “choose your reality.” It’s simply choosing those that matter more, and that will help you grow.
For example, you’re broke. (Hello, again, financial stress!) You’re pretty sure you’ll be broke for a while. Needless to say, your broke-ness is going to generate more stressors, say, what if you get sick? But let’s focus on being broke first.
What are the stressors, for now, you would rather focus on? Perhaps it’s the late nights of working on side projects or parttime jobs. Perhaps it’s approaching strangers you could start networking with. Or perhaps doing a job you can’t particularly find any meaning to—for now—until you find one you can.
When you focus on the right stressors, you’ll stop the unnecessary complaining, you won’t mind the toxic people, you won’t give a shit on the petty things you used to give a shit on.
Like choosing your own battles, you can also choose your stressors.
Talk About It
I don’t mean finding an excuse to become that toxic person, even just for a while. But take note that this is where your support system comes in. It also complements my previous point that you should allow yourself to help others.
Find a trusted friend you can share your thoughts with. If you want to up it, find a therapist. Simply talking about your problems or stressors is healthy enough—whether with a friend or a psychotherapist. This way, your thoughts become words. You hear what you say. This fosters critical thinking. Add to that the help your friend can give you while bouncing ideas off each other.
If you haven’t talked with someone for a while, just try it and you should feel the difference once you get back to your routine.
Set Up a Time
Be intentional with your actions. Keep your mind disciplined. It’s all the same with stressors.
Remember mindfulness? Keep at it, but when something else bothers you, get your pen and notebook (or journal) and write it down. Then ignore that thought and come back to it later.
I’m not saying you should suppress your emotions or anything like that, but you should also remember you should be doing something worthwhile. Something you like doing. Something that fulfills you in a spiritual sense.
But set up a time to deal with your worries alone. That’s okay, but keep in mind that somehow, you have a purpose—you should be living it.
Life can be stressful. But the keyword is still life.
Beware of the lens you wear. It’s cliché, but you can always look for the good amidst the stress. Besides, everybody has their own flavors of stress! But it’s easy to resort to moping or getting angry or anything that brings out the worst in you.
It doesn’t have to be that way. If anything, stress should bring out the best in you. Maybe you just need stressors so that after a while, you’ll realize they aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
(Image Credit: Marco Verch)