Nothing can hold you back quite like stress. Unfortunately, stressors are everywhere. Even a small amount can severely impact your ability to perform. Therefore, it’s important to learn how to deal with your stress effectively.
According to a research study from The Rockefeller University in New York entitled, “Cognitive Emotion Regulation Fails the Stress Test”, even a small amount of stress negatively impacts a person’s ability to keep their emotions in check. Stress, if unchallenged, can build up in the body and mind.
Stress can also impinge on your love life. Multiple studies (here, here, here) have been conducted to guage the impact of chronic stress in sex drive and sexual satiscaction. In pregnant women, high levels of stress can have a negative effect on child development. It can also cause issues with body weight.
Finally, stress takes a toll on your heart. When you’re stressed, the hormones circulating in your blood can cause your heart to beat faster than necessary, and make your blood vessels constrict. This increases blood pressure, and can exacerbate an existing heart condition.
Anxiety is Killing Me!
One of the biggest contributors to stress is worry. But, look at it this way: most of the things you worry about probably won’t happen.
Decide here and now to stop mulling over things that are out of your control.
Instead, put that energy into visualizing the outcome you’d like to see. Vividly visualizing the positive has repeatedly been shown to lower stress levels.
“Two elements must therefore be rooted out once for all, - the fear of future suffering, and the recollection of past suffering; since the latter no longer concerns me, and the former concerns me not yet.” - Letter 78, Letters from a Stoic, Seneca
Besides, worrying doesn’t contribute to the problem-solving process in any way. When has worry ever actually helped you resolve a crisis?
Worry is a dividend paid to disaster before it is due. - Ian Fleming
In a stressful situation, you may find yourself asking the question, “What if..?” While that question can get you thinking, the stress-soaked mind isn’t in the position to generate solutions. At any given moment, you’re either working on a solution, or you’re spending time worrying.
Meditation is a great way to clear your mind and de-stress. To get started, simply designate five minutes out of your day to focus on your breathing.
When your thoughts move away from your breathing, and they will, refocus on each breath. As you gain proficiency, you can increase your sessions from 5 minutes to 10, and then to 15.
Meditation has been shown to reduce stress levels and blood pressure. Check out Episode 4 of our podcast for more thoughts on meditation.
Tackle your Everyday Stressors
A single neglected weed can take over a garden in a few weeks. [Note: I see this constantly in my backyard!] Similarly, life’s small stresses quickly add up. Free yourself of these low-grade stressors by taking stock of them, and then drawing up a plan to deal with them one by one.
As you remove the small stressors from your daily life, you’ll empower yourself to deal with life’s larger issues. You’ll have more energy and feel more optimistic. With optimism comes opportunity.
Proactively dealing with stress is like taking off blinders. Suddenly you’ll find new and exciting ways to express yourself. You’ll form deeper relationships with your family and friends. You’ll also feel more gratitude for everyday things. Gratitude has its own rewards.
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” ― Marcus Aurelius
Get started now by making a list of all the stressors in your life. Once you think you’ve got them all down, step away for a day, and then go back to the list to add any you forgot. Then, go through them one by and write a sentence or two on how you can deal with them. Take action on your ideas. This takes time, but step by step, you’ll feel your stress melting away.
By focusing on the items which are causing you to worry, and those which build your anxiety, you’re following the advice from Marcus Aurelius. The obstacle has become the new path. Focus on tackling each one, one at a time, and you’ll find progress, and maybe even peace.
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