1. Focus only on the things that you can change or influence.
Feeling powerless is a major contributor to stress. Yet, so often, we get worked up about the things we have absolutely no influence over – new parking arrangements near work, the actions of complete strangers, bad news of events that have happened to us or to others. Trouble is, while we are getting angry or upset by these things, and spending time thinking and talking about them, we are wasting the time and energy we have to make our lives better for ourselves by changing those things we can affect.
For example, if we find out we have a health problem, we have a choice of whether to spend time asking “why me?” or bemoaning the unfairness of life (neither of which will change a single thing), or we could spend that time finding out and planning how to limit the impact of the condition – for example: what lifestyle and dietary changes could help? What is the best way to take the medication so that it has best chance of working? By focusing on those things which are under our control we can move forward and be less stressed.
Therefore, whenever you find something taking up your thoughts and making you feel angry, worried or frustrated ask yourself “What can I do about this issue to change it?” If there is something you can do – then do it by all means. However, if the honest answer is “Nothing”, then move on and use your time and energy for your own benefit.
2. Live your life as it happens, not in retrospect or in fear
How often do you think about the past and the future? Many people spend a lot of time mulling over past events feeling embarrassed, regretful, angry or looking back with rose-tinted spectacles. Others spend time worrying about the future, “what if? –ing” about worst-case scenarios. The fact is that neither the past nor the future exist.
The past has gone and is immutable and the future has yet to happen. The only time we can actually live our life is now, this instance. Unfortunately, we often miss the now because our heads are in the past or the future – what a waste of the time we actually have!
Worse – while we’re thinking up the dreadful possibilities of a bad future, we’re missing the opportunities we have to make for a great one.
Just think how different things could be, if every five minutes you spent worrying about the past or the future were spent on doing something positive now instead. Just try it – each time you find yourself thinking negatively about the future or the past just yell “stop” to yourself (inwardly I mean, especially if you’re in the supermarket or elsewhere public!!). Then focus on what you’re doing at the time, notice the sounds, the sights, and the interactions going on around you – real life happening in real time. Spend time in the present.
3. Sleep well
A tired brain gets stressed easily. We all know that babies get cranky when tired yet forget that adults are no different. Tired people handle stress poorly and get emotional easily becoming angry, tearful, anxious and depressed easily.
It’s not difficult to see how easily tiredness-related stress can become contagious as relationships are put to the test and those around get stressed too.
Stop seeing sleep as a luxury – sleep is as essential as air, water and food. More so – just think of it this way. If a person hasn’t slept properly for a while, the need to sleep can overpower even the survival instinct – as happens when drivers fall asleep even whilst driving at high speed on a motorway. The need for sleep is overwhelming and even mild to moderate sleep deprivation reduces a person’s problem-solving abilities, creativity and memory, not to mention their tolerance and coping abilities. Think of yourself as like your phone – if you don’t recharge your battery properly, you’ll soon stop functioning until you do!
4. Learn to say no
How often do you realise you’ve taken on more than you can really do? How often do you give up something you’d like to do for yourself because you’ve promised all of your time to other people? How often do you resent doing things for others?
If you find that you do one or more of these things, you could probably benefit from learning to say no. Don’t blame others for always expecting you to do stuff for them – they’re only reacting to how you’ve behaved in the past. We are each responsible for how we’re perceived and if you’ve always said yes in the past you can hardly be surprised that folks expect you to say yes now.
You could benefit from managing other people’s expectations of you. Set aside times for yourself and be willing to say no to other demands on that time. You can make it clear when you would be able to lend a hand, or do a job, but by making it clear that you value your time, others will learn to respect it too.
If you’ve been saying yes to people for a very long time it might take some getting used to, on both sides. Don’t be bullied into sacrificing your own time for someone else’s priorities – as adults, they are capable of finding alternatives and organising their own lives. This isn’t about being mean or selfish – after all, you’re not saying never.
What’s more, by not taking on too much you’ll be able to do the things you do take on more effectively. remember, saying yes to everything leads people to believe your time has no value – after all, if you’re willing to give it away why should anyone think it valuable?
Nothing reduces stress like laughing. Doesn’t matter what causes it – silly kitten videos on YouTube, re-runs of old sitcoms, playing with the dogs or fooling around with the family – laughter is healthy and stress-busting.
Why not make it a habit for when you get home from work to find something which makes you laugh? Comedy shows playing while you prepare dinner perhaps, or watching short video clips while having a coffee break? Once we laugh we see the world (including ourselves) more positively – and that can’t be bad, can it?