Whether you talk to a teenage or a 95 year old grandmother, everyone has "valid" reasons to stress out.
Stress is a survival mechanism developed over thousands of years of human evolution. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors were stressed when they were being chased by a lion on the Serengeti. In today's modern world, you probably aren't being chased by a lion but any stress you experienced is still treated the same way by your body.
As soon as your senses detect a stressful situation (aka hungry lion or work stress), you body puts into motion a complex series of action that result in a surge of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.
- Adrenaline is used to increase your heart rate which boosts energy supplies and drives more oxygen to your muscles
- Cortisol increases available blood sugar and cell repair substances. Cortisol also makes your all of your body functions are tuned for the fight or flight response. Anything non essential to that get's altered to secondary status (immune system, digestive system, growth and regenerative processes, etc).
Obviously these are function no longer required in our urban jungle and the effects can be far reaching since most people are constantly in a state of stress.
How do I beat stress?
- Meditate - Research has shown time and time again that regular meditation (a couple of minutes a day) makes practitioners much more resilient to stress. You can take the traditional route of learning meditation (which is a wonderful thing) from a trained teacher or use the quicker audio based guided meditations with brain wave entrainment technologies (basically special sound waves that "force" your brain into a meditative state). I am a trained meditator, practitioner of QiGong and also you these quicker shortcut meditation takes once in a while. While many of them are good, I like the Paraliminal recordings from Learning Strategies.
Breathe - Remember to breathe. Find a quiet secluded location. Sit down on a chair with both feet flat on the floor. Place your hands over your knees (thumbs not touching each other). Close your eyes and slowly breath in on a count of 5. Hold your breath for a cound of 5, then exhale for a count of 8-10. As you breath in, we want to relax every muscle in your body from toes to your head. As an example, as you inhale, clench the muscles in your feet for 5 seconds. When you hold your breath, relax those muscles and see how good it feels. This type of controlled breathing will slow down your heart and counter many of the effects of stress.
Live with gratitude - Many people get stressed when they start to feel overwhelmed, when they believe they are losing control of their lives. Gratitude is a fantastic way to counter this effect. Read my article (link) on how to use gratitude in your life and how it will make you happier.
Live in the moment - We are so worried about missing time that we rarely live in the moment. As you are eating supper with your kids, are you thinking about work, reading emails or watching TV? Take a step back and enjoy the time with your family, friends or even alone. As I walk my dog, I can think about how to plan my next work day, all the to do items on my list, etc. Or I can just listen to the sounds of the bird and the street. Feel the sun gently caress my face. I can feel the wind gently blowing. It is in this moments of absolute presence that you typically are the happiest. Being present in the moment is the only way to be truly happy.
Social Support - Some people feel much better as soon as they talk to someone impartial about their stresses. Find a friend you can call who will listen non judgementally and provide non biased calm advice. Often times you see thinks worse than they really are an having an impartial support system you will listen to is invaluable.
Move - Sometimes a little exercise will be just what the doctor ordered. If you feel stressed and can't seem to shake that feeling, go and take a walk. Listen to your favourite music and take a walk. The more vigorous the movement (exercise) the better it will help shake your stress off.
Remember that we decide when to feel stressed and therefore you can decide to live a calm and in control life.
Why not read some of my other self improvement articles (link).