There’s good stress … and then there’s bad stress. Do you know the difference? And how are you dealing yours? It’s important to be aware of what stresses you out, so you can build a relationship with your biggest stressors and manage the way you react to them.
Some stress is healthy … it kicks in to protect you in times of need and gives you a sense of focus when you’re about to take a test or give a presentation. It motivates you to rise to the occasion. And in times of emergency, stress can actually save your life.
Then there is the type of stress that is harmful. It can cause physical, mental, and emotional aches and pains. It can cause your body and mind to overreact to situations, resulting in digestive problems, weight fluctuation, heart disease, depression, and a host of other issues that no one desires or deserves.
It’s time to manage the good, the bad, and the ugly faces of stress in your life. Here are 10 tried-and-true ways to manage your stress, so you can get on the path to living a healthy and balanced life.
Number 1: Identify Your Stress Triggers
Recognizing the triggers to your stressful reactions is an important first step in managing your stress. True, it might be impossible to remove life’s stresses, but understanding the things that stress you out—and in what ways—is particularly helpful in solving the underlying problems.
What stresses you out? And how do you react to it? There are a host of physical and mental reactions to stress, and everyone reacts differently. Understanding how it manifests in your life is the first step to finding balance.
Number 2: Get Some Exercise
Moving your body is important to combat stressful reactions, and prevent them from arising in the future. When you keep your body in peak condition, you feel lighter and more energized, leaving you prepared to manage life’s stresses.
No matter what your fitness level may be, the central key is simply to move your body every day. Identifying the type or types of exercise that you most enjoy—and those best suited to your mind-body type, or dosha—will be key to developing a regular exercise routine.
Number 3: Find Stillness Every Day
Meditation is one of the best tools you have to counteract stress, and your brain’s bias to hold onto negativity.
In meditation, your body actually releases stress and reverses the effects of the flight-or-fight response. This response was really intended to be a short-term mechanism to protect you from perceived danger, which rarely comes in handy nowadays. And the stress generated within you from the response can be harmful to your health.
Number 4: Eat Well
Nourishing your body with the right food will give you the energy you need to tackle what life brings you, including stress.
Every body has different nutritional requirements, and Ayurveda teaches us that dietary plan should be based on an understanding of your unique mind-body type, or dosha. If you’re stressed out, what you’re eating is a great thing to look at, as different doshas are triggered by different foods. It’s important to make conscious eating choices with your unique dosha in mind.
Number 5: Sleep to Combat Stress
Are you getting enough Zzzz’s? Restful sleep is an essential key to staying healthy and strong. When you’re well-rested, you can approach stressful situations more calmly, yet sleep is so often neglected or underemphasized.
The key is making sure you’re not only getting enough sleep, but that the quality of sleep you’re getting is restful and restorative.
Number 6: Hit the Road
Taking annual vacations is really good for you. Ask your doctor: it appears that going on vacation may not be an icing-on-the-cake type of indulgence—it may actually be necessary for good health.
But multi-week, exotic getaways aren’t always an option with the many responsibilities that come with life. Whether you have the time and money to head out on a European tour, or can simply afford a long weekend that’s close to home, yet away from the grind, planning a break is a great tool for reducing stress. Plus, it gives you something to look forward to.
Number 7: Create a Gratitude Practice
Gratitude is a powerful force that you can use to expand your happiness, improve your health, and—you guessed it—helps you cope with stress.
Many scientific studies, including research by renowned psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, have found that people who consciously focus on gratitude, experience greater emotional wellbeing and physical health than those who don’t.
Number 8: Create Cushions in Your Calendar
If you’re reading this, you probably have a busy schedule, which is one contributor to stress. When you have a lot on your plate, you end up hurrying through the day and multitasking, which will only exacerbate stress levels.
Creating cushions in your schedule is a good tactic to reduce your risk for stress. Leave yourself enough time between getting from point A to point B—whether getting to and from meetings, classes, or getting from home to work to dinner plans—to help diffuse potential stressors that may arise that are out of your control. For example, if you know that you have to be on time to your 9 a.m. meeting and it takes you 20 minutes to get to work, leave yourself 30 so you don’t have to rush or get stressed out if you hit traffic.
Number 9: Say Cheese
No one can deny the mind-body connection. But how much power does the body have over the mind?
Research has found that even a phony smile can help you handle stress. So if you’re looking for a way out of stress, you’ll need to smile more.
Number 10: Stop Should-ing Yourself
Do you do things in your life because you want to … or because you should? Are you paying attention to the signs the universe is sending you and the guidance you feel deep in your soul? Because we’re so full of ideas and judgments about what we should and shouldn’t do, we tend to ignore the best advice we get—the guidance from our soul.