By Tim Brownson, Certified Life Coach
Everybody experiences stress to a greater or lesser degree. There are times when stress can
be beneficial to us (eustress), but most of the time the opposite is true. Chronic stress is pernicious as it can massively diminish the body’s ability to run efficiently, ward off illness and stay healthy.
Many people think that stress is just a fact of modern life and goes with the territory, but it really doesn’t have to be that way. Stress should never be worn as a badge of pride.
Stress is a fear response and nothing else. We take an external situation, analyze it and then ascribe a meaning to it. That meaning decides whether or not we feel stressed. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well that’s because it is, although it does take work.
Nobody stresses you out but you. Not your partner, not your boss, and not the fact that your eight-week-old puppy has just pooped on the carpet – like mine did about an hour or so ago.
It’s how you translate external events internally that decides how you feel.
The first step to reducing stress is to accept that you’re not a victim, and that you have control of how you feel. When you can do that, then you can make massive beneficial change.
Today I’m going to give you 8 ways to help you manage your stress levels. Some of these aren’t exactly cutting edge, and you’ll have heard of some of them before, but hearing about them and putting them into practice are two entirely different things.
So kick off your shoes, resist the urge to go grab that fifth cup of coffee, and let’s do some good!
1. Breathe properly! Too many people breathe shallowly and rapidly and from the upper chest area rather than from the diaphragm.
Take a few moments to check your breathing. You should be breathing from low down, and not your upper chest. If you control your breathing, you control your levels of anxiety and reduce stress.
2. Watch what you drink! Sorry to be a killjoy, and I like a glass of wine as much as the next person (more, some would say), but alcohol is a depressant. It may make you feel better at the time, but it will not help you reduce long-term stress. In fact, it will have the exact opposite effect. Especially when the photos of you dancing like a loon at the office Christmas party are posted on the office bulletin board.
Also, be aware that stimulants such as caffeine will prompt the heart to beat faster and make you more “wired.” This, in turn, leads to more rapid breathing and a potential increase in anxiety and stress. A couple of cups of coffee a day are no big deal. However, if you’re knocking back the stuff by the pot load and you’re already more tense than a drug smuggler during a cavity search, it may pay to ease up.
3. Eat better! Try and keep all those saturated fats, and processed and refined foods, to a minimum. Also, drink plenty of water. Water is a great way of reducing acidity in the body and flushing out all those toxins. A healthy body can deal much more efficiently with stress.
4. Exercise! Have you ever felt down or stressed after doing sports or working out? Of course not, it’s almost physiologically impossible. Exercise releases endorphins, oxygenates the blood and lowers stress. It also helps strengthen the immune system, make you feel better about yourself and finally get you back into that sexy little black number. You can try it too ladies.
5. Say Ahh! I’m not talking about the Ahh noise you make when your doctor asks you to stick out your tongue because you have a nasty rash in your throat. This is the Ahh we make when we let out a huge sigh of contentment.
Do it five or six times either out loud (if you don’t mind getting strange looks from work colleges), or internally (if you’d prefer to retain a modicum of dignity). This action sends a signal to the subconscious that all is well in your world, and you’ll immediately feel better.
6. Chill! This is absolutely imperative. Take time for yourself to relax. Meditate for 20 to 30 minutes per day, and this can have incredible results. There is no downside to meditation, but there’s lots of upside. If you haven’t got time, then make some.
7. Say “no!” If you think it’s necessary to say “yes” to every request that’s ever made of you, think again. It may seem like you have to take on extra work to get on in life, but that’s simply not the case.
Think of any really famous person that you admire, and I’m willing to bet that they say “no” at least 10 times for each time they say “yes.” They have to, otherwise they’d spend all their lives opening shopping malls, kissing babies, and meeting stalkers for coffee.
8. Be grateful! I know it’s been said once or twice before, but guess why that is? Because it bloody well works! Your life is probably way better than you think it is. If you can focus on what is good about it without neglecting the areas you’d like to improve on, you’ll soon feel happier than the dog who was asked by the blind butcher to mind the store for five minutes.
Clients sometimes tell me they don’t have the time to do all this. I then ask them how they’ll make the time to spend in the hospital when they have a heart attack or a stroke? It kind of gets the message over.
This is your health we are talking about, so just do it and quit whining about it!
About the Author
Tim Brownson is an English Professional Life Coach, NLP Master Practitioner and author living in Orlando, Florida. He is currently involved in a unique project to give away 1,000,000 copies of the hard copy version of the critically acclaimed book he has co-authored called “How To Be Rich and Happy.”
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