The other morning I woke up at 4:30am. No, I’m not that early a riser. Normally. Just woke up and my brain was spinning. Happens every once in a while, typically when there’s a ton of stuff going on and I feel like even if I run full speed, I won’t get it all done this week or month.
Obviously a bit stressed out.
The thing is, stress isn’t always bad! We need a certain amount of stress in our lives in order to function well. For instance, a desire to excel in our business; the drive to please customers; and the practice of goal-setting and goal-completion all impose a level of stress on us that is good and productive.
That said, stress is a leading cause of stroke and hypertension.
Too much stress, or the wrong kind of stress can:
- Kill creativity
- Cause irritability and harm relationships
- Squelch fun and our enjoyment of life
- Damage our physical, emotional, and spiritual health
Stress can either come from outside of us, or be self-imposed. Either way, we can take steps to greatly reduce and/or manage our stress levels. Here are 8 effective ways to lower stress:
Set reasonable goals for yourself
Here’s where you really have to know yourself. Or, if you’re married, your spouse can provide you with great feedback. We need a certain level of stress in order to stretch and grow. But too much stress places unreasonable demands on us that render us less effective.
Think of this in terms of a sport like surfing. The surfer wants waves big enough to give them a thrill and increase their skill. Waves that are too small are boring. But waves that are too big for the surfer’s skill and comfort level are dangerous and frightening. Find your stress sweet-spot in goal-setting and “ride that wave!”
When we’re under stress, regardless of the cause, our bodies secrete stress chemicals like adrenalin and cortisol. These are both important chemicals in a fight-or-flight emergency. But many stressful situations don’t allow for fighting or fleeing. Over time these stress chemicals damage our health.
The best way to flush the body from these stress chemicals is to exercise. Often, I’ve experienced and heard others say when exercising, “I can feel the stress melting away!” You don’t have to become a “jock” to get the benefits of exercise. Just get out and be active regularly.
Plus there’s the awesome benefit of stepping away and doing something physical that my brain gets time to relax. I’ll feel stuck and stressed and go for a 3 mile fast walk to come back with fresh insight and ready to again go at the task I was stuck on!
Eat less and fast intermittently
Eating too much food and too often makes us lethargic and can cause all kinds of metabolic issues and diseases. These add to and even cause stress. Intermittent fasting is a great way to discipline yourself to cut back on the amount of food you eat. You can fast intermittently in a variety of ways:
- Fast 24 hours once a week.
- Don’t eat between 7pm and 7am.
- Fast for a whole day once a month.
- When you fast, always stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Laugh a lot!
Laughing really is good medicine. Laughing gives us a more measured perspective of reality. When we laugh, we usually do so in the context of healthy relationships.
Laughing also prevents us from taking ourselves too seriously.
Cultivate healthy relationships
Nothing is more stressful than relational conflict. Don’t hold grudges. Forgive others their faults. Do all you can to invest in healthy relationships by loving on and spending time with others.
Do you find yourself gripping the steering wheel tightly and bearing down on that slow driver in front of you? Slow down; take it easy; don’t be in such a hurry! When we hurry we make mistakes and that too adds to our stress levels. Relax, and enjoy the view.
Debt is a hard task-master! When we bought that new car on credit, or made that purchase on our card, we thought we could handle the payments, no problem. But situations change, and that new car or purchase may now feel like a prison sentence. Take steps to get out of debt if you’re in debt; and if you’re out of debt, cling to the freedom it offers.
Take time to relax and get plenty of sleep
Your body and mind need down-time. Do something enriching and enjoyable: read a book; pursue a hobby; watch a good movie; play games with friends; go for a stroll with a loved one. And while you’re at it, be sure to get a good night’s sleep! An afternoon power nap can also be a good thing and the best spent 20 minutes all afternoon.
Too much of the wrong kind of stress can steal our joy and our health. Put one or more of these stress-reduction strategies into practice today and experience some relief! Then manage your stress as a way of life.
Think about your day. What are the things that cause you to feel stressed?
What are the things that wake you up in the night?
It may not be something that can be resolved immediately, but what is one thing, no matter how small, that you can do today towards resolving what is causing the stress?