This Monday, when the storm of stress hits, ride it out and continue throughout the week. Living a life free of stress is a noble goal but ultimately an impossible one. No matter how hard you try, outside forces will interfere with a seemingly uneventful day and cause some level of stress. Since stress is a normal part of all of our lives, however, we can learn to become experts in managing how to deal with it.
Stress can affect us at all levels and cause our bodies to go into “fight or flight” mode, rallying various hormones that were designed to protect us in dangerous situations that threatened our survival (such as attacks by predators).
However, unless something truly dangerous happens, that level of “protection” is higher than we need. When the brain perceives an outside source of distress, it signals the nervous, respiratory, and cardiovascular systems to prepare for making quick decisions. The heart pounds to fill muscles with blood, breathing increases to get more oxygen into the body and adrenaline triggers blood sugar to provide energy. But in modern society, all of these physiological changes arise as a result of any kind of stress – traffic, an argument, a busy day at work, even reading the news.
We may not have the power to completely eliminate daily stress, but we do have the power to recalibrate ourselves with a few tips. Here is what you can do to weather stress:
Breathe Deeply. At the first sign of stress, start deep breathing. Even while in the midst of a turbulent situation, you can do deep breathing exercises to slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. When you take a deep breath, let the air fill your lungs until your stomach rises. Exhale more slowly than you inhale. Focusing on your breathing by repeating a mantra or phrase, such as “breathe in, breathe out,” will also lower your stress levels.
Step Back. Putting the cause of your stress in perspective will help you view it objectively. By looking at the big picture, the stressor might not be as bad as you thought. It’s an effective way to make your stress seem smaller.
Find Your Flow. Also known as “getting in the zone,” finding your flow will help you focus on the task at hand. You don’t have to be doing a physical activity to find your flow, but the same techniques will help you block out stressful distractions and stay productive.
Remember – the one thing you can control in the midst of chaos is your own attitude! This Monday, don’t let stress control you. Keep calm and carry on!