Stress is one of the primary causes of major health problems in our lives: it can cause heart disease, anxiety, sleep deprivation, auto-immune disorders, weight problems, unhappiness, and even deep depression.
But we’re busy – we all have places to be, things to do and people to see. So how do we feel less stressed?
When life gets crazy busy, you might not have time for 90 minute yoga classes, weekend vacations -- or staycations-- or even weekly counseling sessions. So what can be done?
Here are five easy things you can do. A couple shifts in the way you think and a couple actions that take only a few minutes
- Be in the moment, completely, with just one task. Instead of being in a stressful task-switching state of mind, take your next task, let everything else go, and just be here, right now, with this one task. Let yourself be occupied in this task by letting go of the feeling that you need to quickly rush through it – that you need to move on to the next task on your list. There will always something next, because that’s the nature of TO-DO lists – they’re never-ending. Just be 100% in this one task, like it’s your entire world. Bottom line: Slow down. Breathe. Put first things first. Start now. Take a 5-minute break in an hour. Repeat. And always remember, results are the most rewarding.
- Let go of controlling what can’t be controlled. Fear of something is causing you to be stressed, not external factors like your school or family issues. Those outer factors are a part of life, but they become stressful when you fear failure, fear people won’t like you, fear you’re not good enough, and so forth. This fear is based on something in your head about how things are supposed to: you have an image in your head that you’re going to be great, have people like you, be comfortable all the time, and succeed on all fronts. These ideas help you feel in control of a world that you don’t actually control, but they’re hurting you by causing fear and stress. Instead, be OK with chaos and uncertainty, and trust that things will work out. You’ll fear less and feel less stress.
- Accept people just the way they are and smile. We get upset with others because they don’t conform to how we think they ‘should’ act. Instead, try accepting them for who they are, and accept that, like you, they’re imperfect and seeking happiness and fighting their own battles. We’re all doing our best. In most cases people won’t change and it’s a waste of your energy anyway. Instead of trying to change others, give them your support, or take some space, and lead by example.
- Walk outside. When things are getting overwhelming, take 5 or 10 minutes outside to clear your mind. It gives you something new to look at and it gets your body moving. Also, nature does wonders for the body and human spirit. It has been said that going back to nature should be part of the health care system. Take this to heart. It’s honestly the most effective way to instantly reduce the stressful pressure of a worried mind. Right about now, you should consider taking a break from your work and go for a walk – hopefully near some trees, greenery or water. It’s going to have an uplifting effect on your mind and help with attention exhaustion and stress recovery.
- Do short mindfulness practices. You don’t have to meditate (but that’s great too), you can become aware of your body. Seems simple? It is… focus on your body and notice how each part of it feels right now. You can pay attention to your breath for 60 seconds (listen to it and feel it). You can even observe your thoughts about concerns, fears, and doubts, for a minute (although these are just thoughts; you don’t need to believe them or respond to them).
And of course, if you're struggling with any of these points, know that you are not alone. Many of us are right there with you, working hard to feel better, think more clearly, and keep ourselves on track.