By Lucy Miller
Today’s modern lifestyles can leave many of us feeling stressed and overstretched. Many people are balancing personal and work lives while trying to find time for self-care. While making major life changes is the ultimate path to achieving a less stressful lifestyle, it is not always an option for everyone. However, by learning how to become aware of stressful situations and managing your reaction, you can fight stress without making major lifestyle changes. Here are some tips.
The best tool you can use to fight stress is already within you, it’s as simple as taking the time throughout your day to reconnect with your breath. Reconnecting with your breath is the unifying feature of all yoga practices, no matter the level of difficulty. In fact, it’s this feature that calms individuals during their yoga practice, a benefit they experience throughout the rest of their day. But you don’t have to go to a yoga class to experience the stress-reducing benefits of reconnecting with your breath. You can practice mindful breathing anywhere and anytime. According to The American Institute of Stress, taking a breath is one of the best forms of stress reduction.
So, what is the difference between mindful breathing and simply breathing? Mindful breathing is inherently therapeutic, allowing it to calm you and redirect your focus from stress and worry towards your breath. When we breathe mindfully, we are reconnecting with our bodies. To practice mindful breathing, begin by closing your eyes and taking a deep inhalation. Follow up by exhaling fully through the nose. Repeat this breath evenly for 3 to 5 minutes. Consistently engaging in deep, even breaths takes more focus than you may have previously thought. Given the amount of attentiveness required, you are simultaneously clearing your mind while practicing mindful breathing. In addition, you’re flooding the body with oxygen which produces a calming effect.
If you are feeling stressed at work, for example before a presentation, you can practice mindful breathing right in the meeting room. You don’t have to close your eyes or significantly lengthen your breath. Instead, direct your attention to steady breathes and let stressful thoughts trickle out of your mind.
Lack of control can make us feel like our lives are out of sync and can cause stress symptoms. Being unorganized or scattered makes us feel powerless. For many of us, simply finding the time to become organized feels like a challenge. However, you may already have the tools you need to get organized.
Waking up in the morning with a list of tasks streaming through your head is a recipe for inciting stressful feelings. Utilizing tools like calendars, spreadsheets, and planners can help you organize your day, as well as set realistic expectations. Record events, appointments, and obligations as each come up so that you are only filling in time you have available. Mark off slots for personal and family time so that you don’t schedule every last minute of your day with tasks. Each night, lay out your clothing for the next day, prepare your lunch or anything you may need to carry with you and review what you have planned for the next day.
By mentally preparing yourself for what is ahead of you, you won’t feel scattered and out of control. Not everything is in our control of course, but by taking charge of what is we can reduce unnecessary stress in our lives.
Reconnecting With Nature
Human beings have become disconnected from the natural world because of our lifestyles. The average worker spends 40 hours a week indoors using some form of technology. Technological advancement and the job market that has formed as a result should be celebrated. However, we must also acknowledge how this type of environment has shaped our society and lifestyles. For some of us, this may mean our only time spent outside is walking to and from our vehicles.
A person’s natural state is in the natural world. It’s where we’re calmest and where we’re simply able to just be. Getting outside for just 15 minutes can drastically improve a person’s emotional state. In fact, by getting fresh and sunshine daily you will feel far less stressed throughout the week. One reason is you are reconnecting with your natural human state, of course. The other is that you are taking time away from the busy lifestyle you are caught up in and allowing yourself some time to simply live for the sake of enjoyment with no pressure or task at hand.
Venturing out into nature and away from the city bustle will create an entirely different and therapeutic atmosphere for you to fight stress in. However, even if you can’t leave the city, just taking a walk around the neighborhood in open-air can still be uplifting. City parks are also a great resource for workers to escape to midday. There, you can disconnect and reset before finishing your day with cool, calm, and collected attitude. Last, with a rise in the new psychology genre of “Ecopsychology,” consider a trip outside a free trip to the therapist and an effective way to fight stress!
Meeting Basic Needs
According to the famed 20th-century psychologist, Abraham Maslow, all humans have a “hierarchy of needs.” These needs are ranked on a pyramid with the following ascending upward in tiers: physiological needs, security, belonging, and esteem. At the very top of the pyramid is self-actualization, a phase that individuals reach after becoming their best selves.
What is important to take from Maslow’s theory is that we must meet our most basic human needs or we will be in a perpetual state of stress. Our basic needs become obstacles when we’re unable to fulfill these needs. Though challenging, having the courage to ask yourself where you’re lacking fulfillment or what is causing you stress is a very important part of fighting stress. This process will actually help alleviate stress from your life instead of merely masking its symptoms.
Having a strong network both in your professional and personal life is an important way to reduce stress. We all need someone to turn to when we’ve had a bad day or need help with something out of reach. The best way to build strong networks is to simply have integrity in our daily actions. By being the co-worker, friend, sibling, or partner you’d like to have, you strengthen your relationships. When the time comes, you know you’ll have the support that you need.
Embrace Positive Psychology
Traditionally, psychology is known for pointing out what is wrong instead of focusing on what is working well. Positive psychology takes the exact opposite approach. You, too, can apply positive psychology techniques to your own life without ever meeting a psychologist.
Say you’ve just bombed an interview. Your initial reaction may be to start tearing yourself down and focusing on everything you did wrong. However, you’re looking at things from an angle that doesn’t benefit you moving forward and will only cause you stress. Instead, remember that you did land the interview, that you now have an idea of what to not to do at future interviews and that there will be other interviews. By being honest with yourself, you’ll be less stressed about the future while having preserved your self-esteem.