The other day, I was working on a pretty complex spreadsheet for a client. The kids are all home on Christmas break and the husband even had the week off.
As I was trying to concentrate, the older two started what I’m guessing was a wrestling match upstairs. It sounded like no less than a heard of wild animals running around my house. My husband walked in asking for help on some menial task that didn’t truly require me. Immediately following that the baby grabbed the toddler’s pigtail and pulled hard, causing her to scream and cry and as she pulled away, the baby fell, in turn, causing him to also scream and cry.
I can only describe stress as pressure with your face being the gauge. As the pressure continues to rise, you can actually feel blood rush to your cheeks (feeling warm), you might shake a bit and eventually the alarm (yelling) goes off. I’m guessing thats what I looked like after that morning and I’m guessing many of you have been there too. So what do we do when we feel our stress level rising?
5 Tips to Lowering Your Stress Level
1 – Be Proactive, Not Reactive
When we let stuff happen to us, we have only one option: react. It’s much harder to change the way you react to things then to try to be proactive about them. In a previous post I shared some of the most common reasons you might get stressed out on a day-to-day basis. Read it and really take a look at yourself and the circumstances when you get stressed and try to identify what your triggers are. What are things that stress you out?
Then I want you to 1. try to avoid those situations and 2. be prepared for when they will happen when you cannot avoid them. So, for example, do you get stressed when you get distracted a lot (hint, that’s me)? So try to always do work that requires high levels of concentration and focus at a time and a place where you can avoid distractions for the most part. For me, it would’ve made better sense to lock myself in my office after the kids laid down for their nap to work on the spreadsheet. But this isn’t always possible, so I started making myself react to distractions from my family differently: I tell them I love them and why and then redirect them to a much more fun activity then bothering mom. It might not work for you, but its what I choose to do. You should come up with your own reactive actions or phrases so you are prepared when stress hits.
2 – Learn to Breath
If you feel the hight of stress hit you, sometimes all you need to do is take a second and breath. Its the same reason people don’t mind a quiet drive or running in the morning, it gives you a chance to refresh and truly assess a stressful situation (since most people tend to overreact at first).
- The Stimulating Breath – “If done properly, you may feel invigorated, comparable to the heightened awareness you feel after a good workout. You should feel the effort at the back of the neck, the diaphragm, the chest and the abdomen. Try this diaphragmatic breathing exercise the next time you need an energy boost and feel yourself reaching for a cup of coffee.”
- The 4-7-8 – “Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it whenever anything upsetting happens – before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension or stress. Use it to help you fall asleep. This exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.”
- Breath Counting – A very simple breathing technique often used in Zen practice.
3 – Walk Away
No matter what you do, sometimes the best or only solution is simply to walk away. This is especially helpful if the stress is coming from a situation of conflict with another person.
Unfortunately, there are people out there that choose to start unnecessary conflict just for the case of arguing. Maybe they are having a bad day (or week or month) or maybe its just their personality. But you will only waste time and energy and stress yourself out if you choose to engage with them. So instead, just walk away. Don’t say anything, don’t turn around if they yell, just keep walking. The further you get away from the conflict, the lower your stress levels will fall.
4 – Delegate
Everyone knows to be productive, sometimes you have to delegate, but delegation is also a great way to relieve some stress. If you have too much on your plate or something changed and now you won’t have the time to do everything you needed to, just hand something off. Don’t tell me you are the only one who can do everything you’re doing. There is something (but most likely, several things) that you can delegate to someone. Whether its emailing someone for information, making a phone call, researching some new software, etc. Or even more personal things like watching the kids (hello babysitter, older siblings, spouse, family, friends, etc.), cooking dinner (delegate to Pizza Hut!), or cleaning (delegate to the kids maybe setting up a commission system).
If you don’t feel over stretched or over extended any more you won’t feel pressured – pressure = stress. Lower the pressure, lower the stress.
5 – Pray
I know not everyone is a religious person, but many are. No matter your religion, when you feel your stress peak, stop everything you are doing (I don’t care how important) and just pray. Say everything you are thinking and feeling. Ask for guidance, help, peace. But then make sure to just say thank you – list everything there is to be grateful for in that moment: your family, friends, air in your lungs, a roof over your head, food in the fridge, clients in your books, etc. etc.
Praying like this helps you to hand over the baggage of stress you are feeling and causes you to redirect your focus on being grateful for the things in your life that bring you joy and peace. Its like a natural anti-venom to the poisonous bite of stress.
I hope you are able to take these 5 tips and use them the next time a stressful situation comes up. Remember, stress is not something to take lightly as it can have catastrophic affects on your mind and body.
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As someone who always made people ask, “How does she do it?”, I had to learn how to fit more into my day without completely losing my mind. Now I’m excited to share how I did that and what I’ve learned with everyone else. I just want to see people able to live the life they want, doing the things they want, without the stress they think is normal. I want everyone to experience Peace of Time.