Today I’d like to share with you how to boost your skill in dealing with stress so you can minimise its negative impact.
Stress is felt when the perceived demands on you exceed your perceived ability to cope. So one important way in which you can reduce the negative impact of stress is to increase your own ability to cope. You can do this through:
Learning how to relax and finding time for it
Being able to relax and lower the tension and ‘busy-ness’ in our minds and bodies is a very important factor towards reducing stress. I’ve put together a brief, 2-minute relaxation video here. My Ultimate Relaxation CD or mp3 offers a simple yet powerful relaxation for busy people and trains your mind to control your stress, using coaching, hypnotherapy and NLP techniques. Click here to hear a sample track or to purchase a copy.
Learning to say ‘no’
Saying ‘no’ when appropriate is vital for ensuring we don’t take on too much and the pressure on us doesn’t tip us into overwhelm and crippling stress. Remember that saying ‘no’ is not rejecting the other person, simply asserting your own limitations. Let me know if you’d like me to send my tips on how to say ‘no’.
Having realistic expectations of ourselves and others
We add to our own stress by expecting far too much of ourselves or of our nearest and dearest. Many people I work with set the bar so high for themselves, far higher than they’d set for others. These impossible goals lead inevitably to failure, resulting in further stress. Taking time to challenge our expectations and setting realistic goals increases the chance of success and reduces the stress felt by ourselves and those close to us.
Taking regular exercise
Exercise produces chemicals in the body which increase our sense of wellbeing and reduce our stress levels. Exercise also burns up the ‘stress chemicals’. Our stress response releases chemicals in our bodies and tenses our muscles so we are ready for ‘fight or flight’. If those chemicals are not used up through exercise our bodies remain awash with these chemicals, our muscles stay tense and our stress levels remain high. So spending half an hour – or even a quarter of an hour – a day walking, swimming, running, or gardening can go a long way to reducing the stress we feel.
Learning to be in the moment
Many of us add to our stress by analysing and over-thinking – perhaps going over things we did or didn’t do and wishing we’d done them differently, or churning over and dreading what is still to come. The resulting stress response means we are in a constant, and exhausting state of alert. Our concentration and sense of calm goes, and we find it difficult to focus on the task in hand. Learn a good mindfulness technique (just one minute long) to bring you back to the present moment, and you’ll find your ability to concentrate and achieve improves and your stress levels drop.
Reducing your intake of alcohol, caffeine and smoking
All these contribute to the toxic chemicals in our bodies and leave us less able to deal effectively with stress. Our natural response to stress may be to reach for a drink, a coffee or a cigarette. Whilst they can each offer some immediate support, the longer-term impact of over-consumption will increase our stress. Excessive alcohol can lead to high blood pressure and can destroy relationships, career and self-esteem, and both caffeine and nicotine stimulate the nervous system and increase the stress chemicals in the body.
Building and maintaining good friendships
Having a good network of friends provides opportunities for sharing problems before they worsen, support from each other, and laughter, a well-known stress-reducer. Find time in your busy schedule for your friends rather than crowding them out and you’ll have your own stress management system on tap.
Giving yourself positive ‘self-talk’
The way we talk to ourselves has a huge impact on the amount of stress we feel. If we regularly ‘do ourselves down’, expect ourselves to fail or talk in derogatory terms to ourselves, our self-esteem suffers, we will be less able to succeed, and our stress will increase. By contrast talk to yourself in the same way you would to a good friend, your self-esteem is boosted, you’ll find greater success in life and your stress levels will be contained.
Finding time for you and your family
If your time is constantly pressured, trying to squeeze more and more in, your stress will increase and your health will suffer. Just as damaging, relationships can break down as your family and friends see less and less of you. Take time for you each day – even just 15 minutes – where you just stop, turn off your phone and take some time out. Set aside regular, quality time for your family or closest relationships. You are likely to discover that, along with reducing your stress, your relationships improve, your work becomes more enjoyable and productive, and your life, health and wellbeing are turned around.
There are many things you can do to take control of your stress.
Which one will you start today?