Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash
5 Ways To Take Back Control and Reduce Stress
When you experience stress, either in your everyday life or every so often, you’re probably keen to have ways to manage it. It can be overwhelming when you have to get on with your day, but you can feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. The NHS, Every Mind Matters explains “Stress is something everyone feels at times, and there are all kinds of stressful situations that can be a part of daily life. Low-level stress can even be helpful or motivational.” So it is normal and it’s ok to feel it. What matters is how you respond to stress and manage it.
What if you didn’t have to live life stressed? Would you like an alternative? Good news is, you can learn to eliminate your stress through some simple decisions and small habit changes.
At Life Ladder, our unique approach to personal development includes working with decisions and habits, these are two very important areas of the subconscious mind. Our expert personal development team have helped countless numbers of people let go of stress and enjoy more ease in their day to day lives, so we’re keen to help you learn some easy to apply tips.
Here are 5 easy steps to manage stress:
1) Remember that you are in charge and you have choices
One of the most common themes we tend to see as a cause of stress is a feeling of being out of control, or in other words, lacking in power over a situation or event.
When this happens, the best change you can make is to remember that you are in charge of your mind, and therefore your results. We can choose what environments to put ourselves in. We can decide what people we spend our time with and what action we take to help ourselves.
Often when we allow ourselves to blame people or external situations, we get stressed. When it’s down to something or someone else, we lack the control we need to feel relaxed.
You’d be amazed at how much freedom there is in empowering yourself and making yourself accountable. Things don’t just happen to us. There have been actions before it happened. Choices have been made. Decisions and thoughts have occurred.
When we realise that we are in charge of minds, we can look at things differently. Then, we get a different neurological reaction. For example, if there is a thought like...
‘I can’t enjoy my life because I don’t have enough money to socialise’
How does socialising require money?
Some socialising does cost a bit, of course. However, we have a choice. We can simply arrange to see a friend and sit by the sea and have a chat.
Another example of a stressful thought is... ‘I can’t disagree with my Boss because they have the authority and I need my salary’
What if you ended up having your salary increased because you showed the confidence to disagree? There are many leaders out there that want you to step up and show you know what you’re talking about. They may not have even considered another outlook that could actually be more beneficial. By putting yourself out there, you could give yourself even more opportunities to grow.
Life is full of cause and effect.
These cause and effects are often the trigger of a lot of stress. They can be limiting, rather than empowering. Thinking of all of the things we CAN’T do is never going to relax us and allow us to enjoy life.
So, how do we choose to focus on ‘can do’ rather than ‘can’t do’?
When you choose to look at a situation in terms of what CAN be done, your mental outlook will be entirely different. Instead of starting off in a negative place, you’re instantly thinking about the results that can come from it. You take different actions, empowering you to get different results.
Look at it this way: If that’s what something is.... what is it NOT?
If a meeting doesn’t go well, it’s NOT the only meeting you will have.
The main thing that helps our mind to deal with emotional reactions is to experience the event or issue from a different perspective. Here’s a few examples of ways to experience things differently:
Consider when it wasn’t a problem, (this makes you step outside the issue and therefore lets the mind know that time outside the issue can exist).
Consider what there is to learn from the event which will allow you to let go of the emotion.
If you were the other person involved, what would you see, hear and feel? In experiencing the event in someone else’s shoes, you are shifting the neurological reaction to how it was previously experienced.
What is it not? If this is an issue, what isn’t an issue?
How is it NOT a problem? For example, on one hand, it’s a problem if your car breaks down. On another hand, the person who comes to help fix your car cold be someone important who will change your life. Opportunities come when you least expect them. Or you could learn from the event and it may spur you on to treat yourself to a different car or do more walking. There are always multiple angles to view a situation from.
These perspectives can release the trapped emotion because it won’t mean the same as before. Once you have experienced the event differently, the things you see, hear and feel in relation to the event have changed and expanded.
2) Connect with what you love
What are your most happy moments? When you have experienced laughter, joy or contentment?
Recall those moments. What were they like?
What can you see, hear and feel in the memory?
Get really into the memory. Allow yourself to re-live it.
Have you smiled yet?
We have incredible resources within ourselves to overcome negative emotional states.
Trouble is, we don’t use them enough. That can change, you just need to make the effort to recall the moments regularly enough that it comes easily in times of stress.
Connect with the best moments of your life and use them as your holiday from stress. The moment stress comes along, look at the photo or think of that person that takes you back to a place of joy and feel the stress evaporate.
If you’re struggling to connect to these memories in your mind, you can dig out photos to prompt your memory, or you can grab a notebook and write out what you recollect as though you are writing your own story. What happened? Why did it feel so good? When you write, you’ll be applying more focus on accessing the memory which will open up more feeling.
There is a useful blog by Marie Claire exploring the power of memories which you can.
3) Breathing techniques
You’ve probably heard of using breathing techniques to relax. That’s why Yoga is so popular. You should never underestimate the power of deeper breathing techniques. They’re simple to learn, simple to practice and they’ll have a bigger effect on your stress levels than you’ll realise.
The next time you’re feeling the twinge of stress starting to take hold, take the time to step out of the situation for 5 minutes. Concentrate on your breaths. Breathe deeper. Longer. Use equal breaths in and out. Keep the strength of these breaths balanced.
By doing this, you’re signalling to your brain that you’re okay. There’s no fight or flight reaction that needs to occur here. You’re not in danger. You’re fine.
A few minutes of this and you will feel your body relax. The tension will ease and in this relaxed state, stress will seep out of you and you’ll feel refreshed.
Whenever you feel stress taking hold, make sure you take some soothing and comforting time out. This will seem weird and a bit awkward to begin with, but once you realise the effects it has on your stress levels it’ll become second nature.
4) Take positive action
If you had an experience which caused you stress earlier today, remember this: that was then.
This is now and what you do now, shapes your future.
So, what action can you do now that will take you where you want to be?
When you take a positive approach, you get completely different experiences and results. By changing your emotional state, every step (no matter how small) can make a huge difference.
What can you do now that takes you TOWARDS somewhere you want to go? For example; Making a plan, writing down personal aims or goals, or arranging time with a friend.
Focusing on where you want to go and giving yourself the best possible mental chance of getting there, means progress.
5) Use resources around you
If you are struggling to connect with the happy thoughts, there are tonnes of resources to help. You have all the resources you need.
And no, we don’t mean spending hours of studying in the library!
You have internal resources to give yourself motivation. You can listen to your favourite music, watch something fun, and spend time with people. As much as some people hate it, exercise has proven to be one of the most effective methods in dealing with stress.
Psychology today says hobbies can help you cope with stress.
All of these actions generate different external experiences which take you outside of the stress box you may have got trapped in. Resources are all around. You just have to look.
If you stop where you are now and look around you, what do you see that you like? As I write this article I am looking around and doing this myself and I like my wallpaper, I chose well! I like the sofa I am sitting on. I like my windows and the feeling of the light coming in. There are things all around you which could make you feel good, all it takes is for you to focus on them.
In short, all we need to do is realise that we are in control. We do have power. We do have choice. Because of this, we can lead ourselves to happiness.