7 Steps to Reducing Stress: Regain Balance For a Happier and Healthier Life
Table of Contents
Many things can make us feel anxious, afraid or just stressed out. That includes our busy lives, our work, our friends and, yes, our family. And while many of us choose to ignore the extent of our stress, that does not make it go away. In fact, ignoring it can actually makes it worse as stress that is left unresolved can manifest itself in unexpected and unhealthy ways. For instance, you can break out in hives, get an ulcer, have bowel problems, and list goes on. In the end, your body will find a way of responding.
Others may choose to deal with stress in even more unhealthy ways such as through drinking or drug abuse. Although these may seem to alleviate the stress in the short term, they ultimately end up exasperating the situation by adding an additional burden on the body.
So how can you deal with stress in a healthy way, reduce that stress, and ideally regain your mental and physical balance? It's a step-by-step process and here's how you can get started:
1. Acknowledge that you feel stressed
Instead of hiding from and denying the stress you need to acknowledge that you are not dealing with it in a healthy way. If left unattended, stress can fester even when the source of it seems very small. Much like a single match, stress can spread quickly and destroy much or it can be controlled and used for something good. Once you accept the stress you can then work to use it instead of letting it use you.
2. Identify the sources
Many of us have issues that go back a long time. Baggage from childhood or adolescence that we have left untended. If you get stressed when you have to talk to groups of people, for example, maybe you had a bad experience in giving a presentation when you were in school. Try to find the core of the stress and deal with that rather than trying to avoid the stress-inducing situations. Yes, you could go through your life avoiding people, but it is much easier and healthier to commit to overcoming your fear.
3. Step out of your comfort zone
Dealing with stress often means you get more stress for a short period of time. Although this may seem counterproductive, it is actually quite beneficial. After you find the source of your stress you can then work on confronting it. This may mean getting out of your comfort zone and doing things that make you stressed in a controlled way. As long as you take small steps and are in control you may find that your stress is reduced gradually. For example for a person who is afraid of public speaking because of an incident in school they can work on speaking in front of small groups of friends or trusted co-workers at first. When that becomes tolerable to deal with, they can increase the size of the group or present to people that they are not as comfortable with. Overtime, type of audience should become easier. That doesn't mean you'll never be nervous, but rather you'll be able to look back on your previous success to get through a new challenges.
4. Get positive feedback
Choosing people who give you positive feedback or can help you on your journey to reduce stress is essential. No manis an island as they say and you cannot do it alone. You need someone or many some-ones to help you and support you as you make your journey towards reducing your stress. This can be as simple as a friend acting as a sounding board or a person you can safely vent to about your previous hurts that caused the stress. This person needs to be in your corner and able to safely help you without criticism or correction. Having another person also helps you to regain perspective. Although the trauma might seem huge to you it can become quite small when looked at from another point of view. You may also find that things you took as personal assaults were nothing more than someone’s bad mood, mental disorder, or wrong thinking. By having a friend to help you get things in the right perspective you can overcome the source of your stress much more easily.
5. Use your words
Many times reducing stress means confronting people who stress you out which can certainly include the unintended effects from friends and family. In such situations, you may have a hard time expressing what they are feeling, especially in the heat of the moment. So instead you'll keep it bottled up and then suddenly react in unpredictable ways.
This is not healthy for you or for your relationships with others. After all, they are not mind readers and may not understand that your reaction is due to them stressing you out. To confront people about adding to your stress, you must first understand what you are feeling and why. Sometimes a good way to do this is to write down your feelings. An example would be a parent who has always pushed a child to do his or her best. They are trying to be encouraging but the child, now an adult, has always felt like the parent was saying they were not good enough or not perfect. Now an adult, that person could write down how they felt and what the parent did at the time. This in turn can then be shared with the parent. If done in a calm and non-confrontational way, this often has positive results that can mean lasting changes in their relationship. Although it is not easy to resolve issues that have been going on a long time, it can be done.
6. Help others
Helping others is a great way to reduce your stress and realign your priorities. We often get so caught up in our own lives and drama that we create this cycle of internally recycled stress from practically nothing. After all, if you sit around thinking about what stresses you all the time you are likely going to be more stressed! Instead, try to focus on helping others and meeting their needs. Stepping into someone else's shoes and helping them with their problems is a great way to gain perspective and feel like you have accomplished something in your life. Stress can often be exacerbated when we feel useless or life feels pointless.
7. Follow your dreams
Last but certainly not least, make sure you follow your dreams. Many of us are stressed from jobs we hate, places we live, or patterns we have fallen into. We may feel trapped, lost, or just bored. However, you do not have to stay where you are do what you are doing. The great thing about being an adult is the ability to make of your life what you will. Even if you have a partner or family that does not mean you can't make a change in your life. Often times your family will be more than happy to help you find what makes you less stressed and happier. After all, they want what is best for you too. Also, don't think that just because you have a job or a mortgage that you are stuck. It may take some planning and preparation to make your move wisely and effectively, but following your dreams is something that you should make an effort to do.
All of us have the potential to live balanced, stress free lives. It all starts with taking control and working at living a happy, healthier life. It takes small steps but they add up quickly to result in big changes in the way you think, feel, and communicate with others. Take your first step today!
This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from WhiteFence.com. She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. Questions and comments can be sent to: liznelson17 @ gmail.com.