“That the birds of worry and care fly above your head, this you cannot change.
But that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.” ~ Chinese Proverb
It seems that we humans have an ongoing struggle to reduce stress in our lives. But whether we are coping with our work, social or private lives we can take steps to reduce stress, or as the Proverb says, keep those blasted worry birds out of our hair.
But, first we should differentiate between chronic stress, which is the kind we wish to lessen, and acute stress, which might not be so bad for us. Studies have shown that the latter in small periodic doses of stress might actually be good for us, boosting our brain cells, focus, memory and resistance to disease. Acute stress comes in handy when cramming for an exam or meeting another deadline, focusing in an emergency, coping with a difficult situation or job hunting.
Reducing chronic stress in our lives, however, is important and involves small and simple steps to larger, ongoing commitments. Doing so will help to improve performance, relationships, health and quality of life, and to observe those Three E’s – etiquette, ethics and empathy.
Simple Steps For An Immediate Lift:
- Take a deep breath. Deep breathing can be calming in most circumstances. How you breathe is also important, as noted in this article.
- Laugh. There is nothing better than a good, deep belly laugh to reduce stress. Think of how light and refreshed you feel after a good laugh – the deeper and longer, the better. Even forcing a laugh is healthy.
- Get a good night’s sleep, and take power naps. There’s nothing like a good deep sleep at night to help manage stress; how much each person needs varies. Even if you are able to get a full night’s sleep every night, power naps during the day have proved to be effective.
- Wake up to something soothing, not alarming. Getting off to a bad start in the morning by being blasted out of bed by an alarm (so named because it is alarming!) is not a good way to start your day. Wake up gently to something soothing.
- Cuddle Your Pet. Studies have shown that caring for pets can lower one’s blood pressure and relieve stress. Avoid passing on your anxieties to your pet, but cuddling, petting or brushing your pet can help eliminate your stress. And, watching beautiful fish swim around in a well designed and cared for tank can be very relaxing.
- Move around more. Popping an aerobics or Zumba DVD into your player or taking a class, running around the block, dancing by yourself to a favorite CD or doing some jumping jacks can relieve stress.
- Take a shower or bath. Water is the great rejuvenator. Showering or soaking away the cares of the day, or as a pick-me-up in the morning, can help you to sleep better at night or start your day feeling energized. As well, staying hydrated can reduce stress.
- Buy a new outfit and/or change your hairstyle. Often a simple change will refresh. You need not spend a lot of money, although any time you improve your appearance should be considered an investment in yourself. If you feel that you look your best, you will feel your best.
Ongoing Commitments for Long-Term Benefits:
- Get Organized. Living and working in a decluttered, well-organized and attractive space will help you to think more clearly, work more efficiently and meet deadlines successfully. This strategy will keep you in control and productive.
- Be Prepared. Once you are organized, you can prepare for the next day or down the road. Being prepared will help to avert unpleasant surprises that cause stress.
- Improve your body language and posture. A routine of gentle exercise and massage, along with some energizing power posing can work wonders.
- Develop an exercise routine. Much has been written about the benefits of regular exercise to improve your health. Regular exercise also helps to reduce stress. Plan a program and stick with it.
- Nurture your family and friends. Maintaining strong familial ties and personal relationships with close friends provides you with a structure that will see you through good times and bad. And, that’s a powerful stress reducer!
- Adopt a pet. Don’t rush out and acquire a pet just for this purpose, but if you are in a position to care for a pet responsibly, consider adopting a rescued dog or cat. If you’re living at home, obtain your parents’ approval and make arrangements with them to care for your pet – unless they make it the family pet – while you are away at school or if you cannot take it with you when you move into your own place. With regard to college students, Ohio State University has discovered that students who live with pets on campus are finding their stress levels reduced. And, don’t forget that fish are another kind of pet that can relieve stress; just know that maintaining one can be expensive and time consuming, but also very rewarding and calming.
So, don’t worry if you feel stressed studying for finals, rushing to complete a project for school or work, preparing to make a presentation, etc. That kind of stress will pump up your gray matter and aid you in your efforts. It’s ongoing chronic stress that needs to be addressed in a serious and committed way. In doing so, you’ll be happier and better able to present yourself as the attractive, personable and professional person that you are or aspire to be.
Until next time,