Doctors keep telling us to get rid of the stress in our lives but, for most of us, this is an unrealistic option. Unless you are planning to move to a desert island any time soon, stress is an inevitable part of daily life. The key is learning how to manage it and to make the most of it.
The funny thing about stress is how it takes us away from the very things that would help us combat it. We retreat into bad habits like staying up all night, binge watching TV, gorging on junk food and skipping workouts. We withdraw from friends, we are reluctant to try new things and we don’t make time for our favorite hobbies. The result is a double dose of stress.
The good news is, with a little patience and perseverance, you can learn to become stress-hardy. Create a personal reservoir of resilience to inoculate you against setbacks and keep you strong, even in the face of stress. Here’s how:
1. Hold the door open for a stranger
Studies show that when we help others we help ourselves. Small gestures like opening a door for a stranger, holding the elevator, bringing a co-worker coffee and asking someone if they need help mitigate daily stress.
2. Take the stairs
Exercise plays a key role in dampening the effects of stress. Do your best to build more movement into every day.
3. Grin and bear it
Smiling during stressful moments can reduce your body’s physical and mental response to stress.
4. Be a social butterfly
Fight the temptation to withdraw into a cocoon by scheduling specific times to meet up with friends. No, “let’s get together soon.”
5. Write a thank-you note
Expressing gratitude makes you feel mentally stronger. It also reduces frustration and irritability.
6. Nature calls
A walk in the park is an excellent antidote for stress. It also reduces rumination and has a calming effect on the body and mind.
7. Be your own voice of reason
Studies show when you talk to yourself positively in the third person—i.e.,“Samantha, you can do it!”—you increase confidence and reduce the effects of stress.
8. Leave a fruit bowl on the table
A readily available healthy snack will increase the likelihood of you making a healthy choice and avoiding junk food. A healthy diet keeps you physically and mentally strong.
9. Sleep on it
Make sleep a priority. The more sleep you get, the more resilient you will be.
10. Be in learning mode
When a setback arises, ask yourself, “what can I learn from this?” Framing the setback as a temporary challenge rather than a permanent roadblock will help you navigate your way through it.
11. Make stress your friend
The way you think about stress matters. A positive mindset about stress is linked with better health and greater life-satisfaction. Think about stress as positive energy you can use. Next time you have to give a speech, remind yourself that “the jitters” are your body telling you that you’re energized and ready to meet the challenge.
12. Do the dishes
When you approach everyday activities like washing the dishes or making your bed with intentionality and awareness, you enhance mindfulness, a scientifically proven stress-reducer. Mindfulness is the moment-to-moment awareness of your experience without passing any judgment. It’s the opposite of multi-tasking. Studies show that mindfulness increases focus and reduces stress.
To paraphrase William James, the greatest weapon against stress is to choose one thought over another.
I wish you all the best,
Dr. Samantha Boardman