Need less stress? Here’s what to do.
I remember reading a popular book many years ago that started with the words, “Life is difficult”. You may be thinking, yes, I read that book, The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck, M.D.. Dr. Peck goes on to say that life is a series of problems.
You need a basic set of tools to solve those problems. He calls this “tool box discipline”. When you exercise discipline, you can accomplish anything. But without discipline, life is often a struggle.
Have you ever heard that if you do something for 21 days straight, it becomes a habit. Well, this is a sort of discipline. In this post, I would like to provide you a challenge. Trying a few simple behaviors each day will greatly reduce your everyday stress. We will call these the ABCs of stress reduction. I am sure that if you commit to doing A, B and C for 21 days in a row you will see your stress significantly reduced.
A is for Action
Staying active and exercising daily has shown to prove a multitude of benefits both physically and mentally. Try walking for 20 minutes each day to start with. If this is too much, try walking for 10 minutes. Gradually increase your walking pace and the amount of time you walk. This is a great stress reliever. Research has shown that exercise improves our cardiovascular functioning, lowers blood pressure, and improves the effectiveness of our immune system. If you walk outside, you can also enjoy the beauty of the trees, flowers, wildlife, and get an extra boost of Vitamin D from the sun.
B is for Breathing
Taking deep breaths is a great way to lower your heart rate, calm your breathing, and help you relax. Try breathing in through your nose, holding that breath for a few seconds, then exhaling slowly through your mouth. Take 3 or 4 deep breaths anytime you begin to notice your body tensing up, you feel distracted or overwhelmed. This will help you re-focus on the situation at hand and feel more clear-minded so you can decide what to do next. Yoga is a great way to learn proper breathing techniques and is available at many fitness centers. It is available on-line as well.
C is for Communicating
Communication is key to reducing stress for many of us. Simply talking out the problem with a close family member or friend can be tremendously helpful. For others, it can be helpful to speak with a professional counselor if stress seems to be interfering with your daily life. Start by focusing on your thoughts. What am I thinking?
Second, consider how you feel. Am I sad, confused, angry, lonely? Share these thoughts and feelings with someone you feel close to and whom you trust to keep your confidence.
Talking and sharing your stresses, fears, anxieties, or sadness with someone else takes the power out of the negative emotion and helps you to feel calmer, relaxed and hopeful.
Keep reciting your ABCs
Try to see if you can finish the ABC’s by writing down other ideas for reducing stress in your life. For example, D is for dancing; E is for encouraging yourself with positive affirmations like, “I can do this”, “I did a good job on that project”; and F is for family support. “I will commit to using my family for support by talking with them over the next 21 days”.
Other useful tips for reducing stress
- Drink plenty of water each day. We can all use extra hydration in our busy lives. So commit to keeping a water bottle at your side to regularly drink from during the day.
- Get plenty of sleep. Commit to going to sleep at a reasonable hour and take naps as needed.
- Keep a journal or write down your thoughts and feelings. Keeping a journal, blog, or diary can be tremendously helpful in reducing stress, anxiety, or depressive thoughts. Commit to writing a short entry in a blog or diary or on social media each day. It is as easy as listing the positive things you accomplished today.
- Eat healthy. Commit to eating fruits and vegetables every day so you can provide your body the fuel it needs to function in a healthy way. Commit to reducing unnecessary fats and sugars in your diet and munching on carrot sticks instead of potato chips.
- Laugh. They say that laughter is the best medicine and I believe this to be true. There is just something wonderful about having a good belly laugh, watching a funny show on TV or going to see a great comedian perform live. Laughter lowers our blood pressure, triggers the release of endorphins, reduces stress hormone levels, and contributes to a general sense of well-being.
Take these doable actions and greatly reduce the stress in your life. You will live happier, healthier and longer. Hmm, I think I’ll go watch a re-run of Seinfeld. 🙂