Note: Be sure to check out my guest post this week on Leading to Love, Mental Illness and Suicidal Thoughts: Redefining the Stigma.
This week we have examined the harmful effects of chronic stress and its common causes. Today we will look at some healthy habits that will reduce the stress that you experience in your life.
We live in a culture of stress and fear, so making these changes will go against the grain. However, the benefits to yourself and those around you will be noticeable almost immediately!
Here are some healthy habits that will help you reduce the stress in your life:
1. Make yourself a priority.
Stress comes from neglecting our own basic needs. There is no way around it--in order to break the cycle of chronic stress, we need to make ourselves a priority. Schedule your unwinding time, your work-out, meal preparation time, and sleep FIRST. These are non-negotiable. Everything else must fit around them.
This may seem selfish, but consider that chronic stress makes it difficult to focus and be as helpful to others as you could be. Also consider the effects that chronic stress has on your health and lifespan. In order to truly be there for others, we need to take care of ourselves.
2. Learn to Say "No."
Remind yourself not to agree to commitments on the spot. Sleep on it, offer to help but not do everything, and enlist the help of others. Having fewer obligations means that you can give more time and energy to the ones you keep, and the ones you say "no" to can be taken on by other people, who may have the time and energy to give them the attention they deserve.
It is easy to want to step in when you see someone struggling, but resist this urge. Doing everyone's job for them will only increase your stress load. Instead, offer to help them through it--whether they need to vent, need help getting organized, or something else.
3. Ask for what you need.
In the same way that you offer help to others, be sure to ask for help when you need it. If you're staying up too late doing housework, enlist your family to help! So often, we assume that other people already know we need help, and are choosing not to offer any assistance. Rarely is this the case. Often, those around us simply don't realize that we are overwhelmed.
Not only does asking for help allow us to experience less stress, but it also makes the other person feel needed and valued. Asking someone for advice can help to form a stronger relationship with that person.
4. Increase your toolkit.
You will be less afraid of losing "security," if you know that you have the tools to weather the storms in life. Study up on relaxation techniques, stress management, communication, and emotional mastery. The more you learn, then easier it will be to just "let go" and let life flow.
It is important to realize that suffering and struggle always comes from internal, not external circumstances. It is possible to have an outwardly "perfect" life and suffer a great deal, due to a lack of self-confidence and misunderstanding about the intentions of others. Clear out the mental clutter, and you will be less phased by external events.
5. Simplify your lifestyle.
Having excess causes stress. How much time and money do you spend managing your possessions? What regular expenses can you eliminate by doing without the things you don't need?
You can eliminate car payments and drive an older car. You can choose to purchase a simpler cell phone plan and use an older phone. How often do you watch cable television? By paring down and cutting expenses, you will reduce the amount of time that you need to spend at work and cut down on financial worries and stress.
Would you like help simplifying your life and reducing your sources of stress? Then, you may want to consider purchasing a low-cost and confidential e-mail, chat, or video session!