Stress is everywhere in our lives. It’s good and it’s bad – all at the same time. Why? Well, good stress keeps you alert, alive and stops you from walking in front of moving traffic or being killed by something in your environment. Bad stress creeps over you, makes you feel sad and out of control. It makes you feel bogged down and like you can’t cope. And that's why we need to find ways to beat the stress of everyday life.
Can You Eliminate Stress?
You see, there’s no way of eliminating bad stress because a lot of it is brought on by circumstances outside of our control. As I always say, if you can’t control something, instead pay attention to what you can control, which is how you think, feel, and react to it. The best way to beat stress is to learn how to deal with it so you can drive over it. It becomes like a speed bump in the road that might slow you down a little – not like a massive road blockage that means you have to stop and turn around.
You know those people in your life who try to make things really difficult? They’re just mean, nasty, meanie people. The best way to piss them off (honestly) is to be really nice back to them and show them that their big meanie actions don’t hurt you. We’re going to do the same thing with stress. And just let it wash right off. Because it's going to come at you. Full-speed. Hardcore. And you’re going to do the stuff I’m sharing with you here to show you that the stress can’t beat you.
Now one big caveat – these tactics are simple, but they’re not especially easy. It's going to take time and effort. It’s going to take some dedication. But it’s so worth it. You’re training your brain and your emotions here to figure this stuff out for long-term happiness and resilience.
So, let’s dig in and take a look at a bunch of really simple things you can do when you feel stressful situations creeping around the corner, using techniques of mindfulness.
1. Walk Away
Stressful situations push you to snap, but they don’t come out of nowhere. You can feel them building. So learn to tune into that feeling and watch out for it. As soon as you notice that you feel tense or that it’s building up, be proactive enough to just walk out and stretch your legs. You’re looking for the moment that comes right before the straw breaks the camel’s back. (Is that analogy still relevant in 2022? Who knows?) So get out of the environment where that situation was brewing. Get some fresh air. Distance yourself and give yourself time to think.
Studies show that just doing simple exercise (like walking) for 20-25 minutes is enough to calm you down from a stress attack. This helps you lower cortisol (the stress chemical) and blood pressure levels and releases ‘good' chemicals in the brain. Feeling the fresh air hit your lungs and reflecting on the things around you will help you to calm down and put things in perspective. You’re likely to de-escalate the situation and give yourself time to think of the best next step that won’t just make things worse.
Don't Let Stress Control You!
Humans are stubborn, so if you stay in the stressful situation long enough to snap, you’ll fire out something badly worded. It'll probably be directed at the wrong person, which is going to make them feel bad. Then you feel bad. The other people around you feel bad. And then that gives you something new to be stressed about.
This is even important if the stressful thing isn’t like a one-on-one conversation or interaction. If it’s a more general ‘life’ thing – just getting a change of state and into a different place works wonders. You can take the stressful thing with you. I’m not suggesting you can just magically leave it behind you in the room. But that’s okay. Just getting into a different physical place with it helps to dust off the stress and give you a new state.
2. Breathe Properly
It's often been proven that humans don't breathe properly, which means that we're actually constantly starving our brains of important oxygen. We literally don't breathe properly day-to-day, 24/7. And you might think you know how to breathe because you've been doing it your entire life. And you sort of have. You've been taking in oxygen and giving out carbon dioxide, but not quite doing it deeply or properly. Because our posture and general activities don’t really allow for it.
When you feel stress starting to build, you should instantly take a few minutes to close your eyes, sit back, and take deep breaths. Find somewhere comfortable and place your hands on your lap. Then breathe deeply in through your nose, hold it for a few seconds, and then let it out through your mouth.
Repeat this over and over to allow more oxygen to enter your brain and feel your entire body relax and unwind. If you're in a public place like an office or a shop, you can go to the toilet and do this. Just get somewhere the way you're out of the way of everybody else. Now, if it's a public toilet, the people outside the cubicle might overhear this and think it’s a little bit weird. But I promise you it's totally, totally okay!
Allow Yourself To Relax And Unwind
Just repeat this over and over. It allows you to feel your entire body relax and unwind. And I want you to feel every single part of your body unwinding slowly. Start to feel the knots coming out of your shoulders and the places where you personally feel stress.
For most people, it's up in the top half around their shoulders, their neck, and their head. So allow those areas of your body to physically relax and unwind and allow the stress to leave you. It sounds crazy, but it really does work. Try it and you'll feel the difference. You're literally breathing in the way that we really should.
3. Screw The Things That Don't Matter
A lot of the time we get this pent-up anger and stress building in our lives about things that are really important. But then the thing that pushes us to snap in the moment is actually a tiny, insignificant thing. It’s just not all that important!
So when you feel stressed, try and step back from the situation and decide in the grand scheme of things whether it's actually important. Is it life-changing? Or would you be better off just to say “Screw it” and let it go?
We often get hooked up on the little things that, in the grand scheme of things, are insignificant. You need to learn how to re-frame every ‘bad' situation and look at the bigger picture to fully understand if it's worth getting stressed about.
A Short Story About Stress
Here's a story to explain this in more detail. A young woman had an argument with her husband followed by a busy, stressful day at work that made her angrier and angrier and ‘worked up'. On the drive home, her stress was continuing to build further, anticipating the (even bigger) fallout that was waiting for her once she got home to her husband.
Upon arriving home she found her husband with his head in his hands. She asked what was wrong. He had received test results back from the hospital that confirmed he had been diagnosed with a terrible disease. Suddenly their silly argument disappeared and became insignificant.
Whilst this is an extreme example, it's a stark reminder that we must always look at the bigger picture to determine whether we’re getting stressed over the things that don't matter. We quite often get worked up about the stuff that is insignificant in our life. So instead of doing that, always take time to step back and review. Look at the bigger picture.
4. Make Time For You
A lot of us find we spend a lot of time doing the things that get us stressed. So when life really starts to get on top of you, it's important you take time to step out of that, switch off completely, and instead do the things that you actually enjoy doing.
I mean, let’s face it. We weren't put on this planet to spend all of our energy and life working or doing the stuff that we don't enjoy. It feels that way because we’re trained like that by the world and the pressures around us. But it’s just not true.
Don't feel guilty for stepping out of the hustle and bustle of life to spend time being yourself and following your greatest passions – whatever they might be. And then when you're ready, you can return to deal with the stressful situation with a calm mind and a level head.
I am quite a workaholic. I love nothing more than to be sat on the computer creating things and putting stuff together. But it recently hit me that I don’t have anything that I do for ‘fun’ outside of this. So this year I’ve decided to force myself to take a certain amount of downtime to go bike riding, ice skating, playing on the Playstation, learning piano, and doing the other things I want to do. With no stress attached to them. So take some time out to go and do the things you love with the people you enjoy spending time with the most – whatever that looks like to you.
5. Tidy Up
When I was growing up and into my early 20’s, I was the messiest person you can possibly imagine. I lived in an absolute tip and would often take my clothes off at the end of the day (there's an image for you), drop them on the floor, go straight to bed and leave them there.
I remember buying new plates because it was easier than washing up the plates that were in the sink. How crazy is that? But the problem is that clutter, mayhem, and mess actually cloud our minds. And even if you think you don't mind living in that kind of environment, it's actually making you stressed. It's making you unhappy – whether you realise it or not.
How To Break Your Untidy-ness
Here’s how I broke my untidy-ness. I implemented a 10-minute tidying regime on a daily basis – both at home and in my home office. I call it my “Ten O'Clock Ten Minute Tidy” built into my life. The name speaks for itself, but at 10 pm each night, I spend 10 minutes clearing things away and neatening my house. It helps me to refresh, reset, and relax before I jump back into the chaos that work and life bring.
I also have a reset day in my week. For me, that's a Sunday. The reset day is designed to put everything back in order both physically (organising and tidying the house) but also in my head. That way I'm starting the following week from a clean and tidy environment and a place of clarity. If you're interested, I go over this in more detail in my blog posts: 5 Ways To Improve Yourself Every Day and How To Create An Effective Morning Routine.
6. Sleep And Self-Care
Make sure you get enough sleep. Most people (and I am absolutely including myself in this) underestimate how much sleep they need to efficiently function. And by ‘efficiently function’, I don't mean get the stuff done that needs to be done. I mean, doing it in a way that is emotionally balanced and calm.
It's easy to burn the candle at both ends to try and get the most out of your day, especially when you're a busy person and you've got lots going on. But it's been proven loads and loads of times that tiredness makes us irritable and easily stressed by small and insignificant things.
I mean think about babies. How often do you see babies getting a little bit cranky on an afternoon and starting to cry? And that we always say the same things, don't we? We know they're telling us they're tired. And that's because, as grown-ups, we know that tiredness makes us stressed. Now of course, babies get tired much faster than we do. Because they've got all that important stuff to do, like crawling and playing and eating everything.
But we get stressed by all of that stuff too (okay, maybe not crawling and eating everything). But because we get stressed, we need sleep. So try and make sure you go to bed with enough time to sleep fully and deeply before you need to be awake and functioning. Trust me, I’ve done a lot of work on this, as someone who previously lived in denial about how much sleep I needed.
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And there you have it – 6 strategies to help you beat the stress of everyday life. The key here is to act fast. The moment you feel stress building up (or recognise something that could trigger stress), go over these strategies and work out how to implement them. Unfortunately, no one can give you a magic wand to take the stress away. The key is to figure out how to handle stress, so that stress isn't in control of you. And if you liked this content, check out my YouTube channel Success Unlocked for more tips on self-improvement without the ‘woo’.
I'm Rob Temple, and I'm obsessed with how our thoughts can help us create incredible changes in our lives. It's why I share practical tips, strategies, stories, and inspiration for unstoppable personal growth to help you become the perfect version of yourself.