Stress hits us all. It can make us age faster. It can ruin relationships. It can even cause erectile dysfunction (yikes!). We live in a world abundant with stressors, so searching for a stress-free life is quite useless. Stress, after all, can teach us a lot. Nevertheless, this does not mean we need to ignore our stress levels. That is why, ladies and gentlemen, I have devised a top ten list of ways to reduce thy stress.
“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
― Mark Twain
1. Get Offurazz
The tush is a comfortable muscle to rest on after a hard day’s worth of work, but sitting on it too long and not releasing your body’s stored up energy can increase anxiety up to 60%. Individuals who lack a regular exercise routine are even more susceptible to this number as their body has a tendency to store increased reserves of energy instead of releasing them.
You can put this to the test yourself, next time you’re loaded with fury, go into the backyard and chop a tree down with every ounce of that rage. Not only will your wife thank you for finally getting to that backyard project, but your mind will find little reserves left for emotional drama. Remember, emotions are as much a physical sensation as they are mental. The reduced swirl of chemical reactions focused on your emotions and placed into the output motion based activity will almost certainly come to your aid… a good romp in the old love sack is also a good way to burn out those wild emotions.
2. Steer Clear of Mind Altering/Stimulating Substances
We live in a society that teaches us to solve more than 90% of our problems with a substance. Nervous? Drink. Depressed? Pill. Bored? Cellphone. It is no wonder addiction plagues so many cultures today. It is also why stress levels have sky-rocketed throughout the globe. Americans are among the worst stressed out in the world. 55% of American’s reported feeling stressed out throughout the majority of their day, according to one Gallup Poll. Worry and Anger are close behind.
Most of us believe that some form of substance/distraction will get rid of that stress but in truth it only subdues it for a later release. In particular alcohol and other depressants, once the mind-numbing effect wears off, your emotional state is likely to rush back in full swing, hitting you harder that originally and causing your stress to increase. So, yeah, don’t do that, at least not as a solution to your stress.
This is perhaps the most obvious solution but also the most neglected. The CDC reported that 1 in 3 Americans don’t get enought sleep… I must admit that I am one of them as I write this at 2am. The base recommendation of sleep duration is 7 hours, with increased times, of course, being optimal.
Our bad habits start on an official level from a very young age, as we tend to force our young into bed at an early time and subsequently rattle them out of their sweet little dreams at the crack of dawn to enter cold, concrete structures in what resemble prison lines and group cells (I loved school).
Ways to offset this is to take cat naps during the day. This can indeed help with sleep-deprivation, however, there is no substitute for a solid night of slumber. It will definitely aid in taking the edge off.
4. Taking A F*#k!ng Break
That’s the other thing about our society(ies). We are work-O-holics. It is instilled in us, before we can even poop on our own, that your value is determined by the size of your bank account, no matter what that empowerment poster says on your wall. And it is also drilled into our brains that we should feel incredibly guilty if we haven’t splintered our spines and lost a leg at the end of an honest day’s work. So, by the time you’re 40, you’re used to running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
Taking the time to stop what you’re doing, and stop thinking about what you’re doing will not only help you reduce stress but also help the task you return to. Increased clarity and increased energy come along with a much needed siesta.
5. Steer Clear From A-Holes
“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” – Dan Pena
We can’t choose who our family is, we often can’t even choose which friends are best for us, yet, we can choose who we spend our time with and how much time we spend with them. The old says goes: Birds of a feather flock together. So, if you’re in need of a good change, maybe it’s time to change your colors.
Many people stick around old buds or spend time with negative family members because of a sense of obligation. This is natural as the more time we have invested in a relationship the more we feel the need to nourish that bond. The result of this is a sense of owing. We feel we owe it to our loved ones the sacrifice of not only our understanding but also our positive vibes. The only problem is good vibes are like any currency. Spend too much and you’ll be out in the gutter.
Give people who are open to your advice a good earful. These people are, after all, open to change. For those too hard-headed to know their closed off and a pain to be around, give them the boot or simply reduce your presence around theirs.
I recently dealt with a troubling individual who was a constant stress in my business and personal life. She was close to both me and my partner. We wanted her to go but preferred she just changed and “got back to the way she was”. Truth be told, this was how she was long before we met her. And, when she left, we felt a massive weight flee from our shoulders.
Meditation is finally gaining better understanding in our society. For too long was it considered a religious practice by the vast majority. Some forms of meditation are indeed a religious practice, but its effects are without a doubt some of the healthiest benefits to reap from. It eases anxiety, relieves mental stress, improves clarity, helps you crush it at Candy Crush… meditation can perform wonders.
Meditation has a vault worth of books already written on it, but I will say this: there are more ways to meditate than sitting with your legs crossed in a quiet room. While driving, while running, while working, while pooping, meditating is the act of stilling the mind and redirecting it within. Take it deeper. Take it spiritual. That is your choice. But , no matter what, take meditation serious.
7. Communicate and Relate (Not With an A$$hole)
One of the larger stressors in our lives comes when we feel alone. Studies were held post Vietnam war about the effects of loneliness and the correlation with addiction. There is a wonderful book by Johann Hari called “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War On Drugs” that tracks the increase in American addiction after the war. The results are truly eye-opening. Aside from the massive ignorance the vast majority holds in regards to its views on addiction, it truly highlights the severe effects loneliness has on the human mind.
Human beings are by default a pack species. We long to be heard. We long to be seen. We long to be understood. Communicating with someone who, at the very least, can see your point of view can indeed smooth out your day.
8. The Power of No
Here comes good old guilt again. You’re in line at the check-out and you see that sign. You know the one. The image with the sad, vibrant eyes. The image with the children moping with long, sad faces in front of the dingy mud-hut. The cashier then turns to you and asks: “Would you like to make a donation.” As you turn to the others in line, you see a dozen faces just like your own yet somehow you feel guilty, as if you’re the only one who is about to say no. Truth is, I don’t see many if anyone giving a dollar to save the world… except for at Taco Bell. The whole “round off your change into a donation” tactic must work wonders (and why the f*#k isn’t EZ Awakenings on that list??!)
Ahem, back to this blog… Turning people’s favors down makes us feel selfish. But consciously saying no, sticking to your choice, and even voicing and knowing why, can make you feel like you’re made of Teflon. Point made: Empowerment reduces stress with feelings of capability.
9. Do What Your Truly Want To Do
This one is often the byproduct of #8. Taking power by letting your voice and command be heard relieves stress by ridding yourself of the anxiety of being a walk-on. The same is true of making other choices. You are here for your life, and you will remember that at some point, sooner or later. This does not imply to be constantly selfish, but you should indeed indulge in delights for your own satisfaction.
If you spend all of your time giving to your kids or giving to the world then you are missing out on the at least one soul, your own. If “giving, giving, giving” is your own satisfaction then you are still making a choice to do what you want to do and therefore satisfied #9, you self aggrandized son-of-a-
10. Find Your Fear
Last but not least, discover what your god d@mn fears are. Fear is the cause of all anxiety and worry. It is often the cause of depression and feelings of despondency. Just because we no longer live in a world where being chased by lions and bears is a legitimate concern doesn’t mean we don’t feel the same fear. A lack of money or the impending doom of a relationship can trigger equal amounts of anxiety in any brain.
It is important to know what your triggers are and to know that you don’t and should not try to change the world around you in order to avoid them. Master them. Feel them. Admit to them. Know that they are and were developed and that you live in a neuroplastic mind with ever-changing capabilities. “Professionals” may tell you that you have a disease. “They” may say the odds are against you and your fate is determined. But, they aren’t living your life. They haven’t seen what you’ve seen and they sure as hell aren’t as motivated to make changes.
So, find your fear, make your choices, tell them no, communicate with a friend, meditate, tell the pricks to piss off, take a break to meditate, go and sleep, keep the liquor cabinet closed and get off your ass. Because the time to start living was yesterday.