“If the grass looks greener on the other side, stop complaining and start watering the grass you’re standing on” – Angel Charnoff.
Stress is our bodies’ natural response to potential threats. Though the concept of stress is modern, this fight or flight response called “stress” is as old as mankind. What then, makes stress the all-important cause for concern, with the World Health Organisation referring to stress as the health epidemic of the twenty-first century? Stress is also known to be one of the common factors that play a role in most of the health issues today ranging from obesity to heart disease.
Amanda Enayati, a CNN Contributor, in her book, “Seeking Serenity” says the difference between us and our ancestors as far as stress is concerned, is that we endure the ‘stressors’ all the time. Constantly. With access to information and news that reach us within minutes of incidents happening around the world, we react in the same way our ancestors used to when faced with a life-or-death situation. Not to mention that human mind, in an adaptive way, is drawn towards negative information like economic meltdowns, mindless killings, Government instability, terrorism, global warming, to name a few worst case scenarios.
Even if we assume there is no bad news, there are still stress triggers in everyday living – traffic congestion, having to deal with people you don’t like or constant multitasking. Amanda says it’s not actually the stress that’s of concern but how we look at it and respond to it.
Research shows that short spurts of stress boosts brain capacity, memory, and learning, and enhances the body’s immune response. How we think about stress is the key to unlocking its power. When we perceive stress to be unrelenting and traumatic, it becomes toxic. Stress can be recast as an amazing gift, one that sharpens our mind and heightens our focus. Apply breaks and buffers to moderate, transient stress before it becomes toxic or chronic. It’s easier said than done, but not impossible. Let’s look at some of the controlling factors:
- Slow down
Prioritise and focus only on the worthy. Motivational speaker Robin Sharma says,”the real secret to getting things done is knowing what things need to be left undone.”
- Go on an intermittent technology fast
Try to go without technology and gadgets for a few minutes intermittently through the course of the day. Resist the urge to look up your messages. Instead, watching, talking, listening and spending time with people will make a world of difference.
- Take off on a mini vacation
Visualizing yourself at a favorite vacation spot or any favorite location, sitting right at your desk will help you manage stressful situations. It would take as little as 15 minutes to improve your mood.
- Accept failure and discomfort
Without challenges and failures, you wouldn’t be the person you are today. It’s the stress created by that deadline that pushed you to complete the project so efficiently.
- Experience gratitude
We don’t need to meet a physically or mentally challenged person to feel blessed. Gratitude can be felt for things as simple as those that made you smile. Maintaining a gratitude journal is a great way to feel contented and happy.
- Live mindfully
This means going about our daily routine by enjoying every moment, rather than doing them absent-mindedly. For example, while eating, be aware of how the food looks, smells, tastes rather than watch TV or scan emails. This is true for anything from showering or cooking to walking, even breathing (that’s what meditation is all about.)
Reaching out to people is a sure-fire way to control chronic stress. Psychotherapists say that volunteering always makes you feel good because it promotes the feeling of being part of a community and being useful and valuable to fellow beings.
- Avoid toxic people/ situations
If unavoidable, at least try to remain disconnected. Be determined not to let anyone or anything spoil your day. These tips will help you get over negative emotions.
- Have fun
Laugh more, go for a walk, enjoy nature. Play with kids – they give you a wonderful opportunity to be a child all over again.
- Spend time rather than money
To keep your loved ones happy, prefer to spend more time with them rather than buying expensive stuff. Time is a rare commodity these days so they are sure to appreciate it.
- Find and embrace your creativity
Science shows that stress triggers are lesser for creative people. Finding out areas where you are creative and developing them (or just appreciating creativity in others) can act as a buffer against toxic stress.
- Eat healthy food
Eating a well-balanced whole-food diet goes a long way in combating stress, as any health enthusiast would swear by. It’s a proven fact that processed and sugary foods increase stress levels.
- Make time for physical exercise
This is one of the factors that feature first when you google anything about stress. And rightly so. Most successful people cite exercise as the single most effective stress-busting factor.
Decluttering your environment, your home and your desk really helps in relaxing your mind. In fact, the process of cleaning up itself has been suggested as a stress-relieving activity.
Which ones out of these do you prefer? Love to hear from you.