It is no secret that we live in an increasingly busy world. phones, computers, gadgets, deadlines, busy cities, rush hours.
But there is a way that you can escape that – briefly, and get your life back on track by reducing stress. It is very important that you identify the causes of the stress in your life – then use these methods to reduce them.
I have been in the situation where everything caused me stress, be it waking up and realising I had work to do at University, going to Town and seeing douche-bags who wore branded clothes or even phonecalls. It was really starting to mess up my physical and mental health to the point where I sought help. Professional help – and I hadn’t even started to worry about finances or the “real world” yet.
I attended a 14-week course which taught me skills to cope with the crap life throws at everyone.
The skills I learnt the most about, and recommend are:
- The half-smile
- Acting opposite
- Stay busy
Now these may seem straightforward, but this guide will look at each skill and methods on how to employ it. Always remember to practice, practice, practice.
This probably seems the most basic skill here, and you’re right, it is.
All it takes it a half smile, as the name suggests
Try it now. Go on. Sure, some of the more cynical may say “urgh what a waste of time” but just managing that half smile can give off a sense of well-being and inside this can also change your mental outlook. There have even been studies proving that using this method does indeed work:
Smiling is good for our physical health – studies have come out that actually show decreased blood pressure when people smile.
So there you have it. It does work, maybe not for all, but that is one of many methods that can change your outlook, and hopefully make life just that little bit less stressful.
This is the hardest to master, but the best pay-off. In essence, mindfulness is a meditation technique, stemming from Buddhism, and it allows you to live in the moment.
What are you doing right now? Reading this, noticing the background of the page, breathing – how fast? Deep?, Can you feel the pressure on the chair or your feet? The sensation of your clothes on your skin.
You get the idea. There are literally tons of books on the subject and countless websites offering both free and paid advice. All you need to know is that you can master this (with a lot of practice), and believe me, I’ve seen agoraphobics leave the house and go shopping (a big deal for them) through practicing this technique. So without further-a-do…
Like you saw earlier, I asked what was going on in the present. Chances are, most people concentrate on what they did in the past, or what will happen in the future. Depressed and regretful of the past, and anxiety-filled about the future.
But what about the present? Now? Be glad you’re here, alive – reading this.
In order to reduce stress with this method, as you probably guessed, mindfulness and concentrating on the present you soon realise that your worries about an assignment or deadline is in the future, and manageable. Essentially it’s an observation technique – and one you can use to your advantage when it comes to stress management.
A few exercises are as follows:
The 1-minute mindfulness
Check the time. Now check your breathing. Right where you are, and practice this at least once a day.
Concentrate on your breathing for a minute. No cheating, but there is no way to “fail”. You are always learning.
Take a mental note of the regularity of your breath. How deep it is etc. Do not let your mind wander. If you find yourself thinking about something, especially stressful, let it go.
Imagine your issues are leaves on a river. Let them flow by.
You can leave your eyes open or closed. Some people prefer to have their eyes open as they feel claustrophobic focusing on their own, internal relaxation methods.
Any object will do for this – and you can soon advance to observing people.
Pick up your coffee mug, a piece of fruit or a water bottle. Anything.
Now, just look at the object. Observe it for what it is. The colour, texture, weight etc. You may feel a sense of heightened awareness and you’ll soon realise that thoughts of the past or future will be out of your mind – as you are now fully focused on this object.
Much like the book by Aldous Huxley The Doors of Perception, look at something and notice things where the ordinary becomes the extraordinary. How it reflects in the light and how your mind is like a spotlight on the object.
These 2 methods at a basic level are a good starter, and there are, like I said, literally tons of books out there. A good start is “Mindfulness for Dummies”, and another is “Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond” by Ajahn Brahm.
I cannot stress enough that practice is the key to success. At first I found myself wondering if this stuff worked at all, but after 6 months of it, I soon realised that it does work – and the present is the only time where you can make a decision.
A real simple one here.
Feeling down? Don’t want to go out and feel like the world pissed you off? Go out.
Is work getting you down? Do the work and get it out of your way.
Acting opposite means that you throw yourself into something that you otherwise may not want to do. Stress can be relieved through doing what causes you stress and smashing through it.
Once you break that fear and stress you are burdened with you’ll soon realise just how little it was in relation to your life.
Give it a try sometime. It worked for me, and I was on the verge of a full-blown breakdown.
Your lifestyle causes you stress. It’s no lie. Work, social life, lack of downtime etc.
By staying busy through things which fit in with your timetable with work, which may not give you much time, look at the weekend as a place of refuge. Your 2 day island in a week, ocean, of stress. Plan something to do, go volunteering and stay away from things which cause you stress. That can be a 2 day change of lifestyle, and will soon become something you crave to live for – helping out with depression. Soon you’ll be wanting the weekend to come quicker.
Keep the activities healthy. Hanging around with people who cause, or can cause you stress will not help you. Cut those ties, and do what you like. This is the most simple of things to do to reduce stress. I can’t tell you what to do – but i can give you some examples.
- Some quality time with trusted friends
- Watch some films and do some things you never thought you had time to do.
- Volunteer somewhere local
- A solitary activity like fishing, hiking or cycling
Living with a significant other or children can prove a challenge.
Make it clear that you need some time to reduce the stress in your life. if it is caused by them then go for something solitary. If you prefer to have them go with you, then plan a family weekend – if the stress is at work, then plan it there. A few minutes each day writing down ideas can prove to be a good escape in a place where you otherwise associate with stress and anger.
I cannot stress (lol, pun) enough that you practice these skills, mainly the half-smile and mindfulness ones, enough. You may choose to combine them as well, practicing mindfulness when out on a weekend break.
Other steps you can take are things such as working at home, delegating work, choosing a more relaxed life by winding down your footprint on social networks and the like. The more sociable you appear, the more people will want to see you, and therefore hassle you.
Do not turn to drugs – this includes alcohol or tobacco. I beg you. They are only a temporary reprieve and will soon cause you more stress than relief when it comes to the addiction phase.
Linked to drugs, finances are also a source of big worry. Mindfulness and other things can hopefully reduce the worry you have from these things.
I hope your life soon becomes less stressful, and feel free to look at other guides online and through books mentioned within this guide.