Stress. It’s everywhere – lurking at work, at home, in your inbox, even in your car. A little bit of stress can be a good thing. It’s a natural response to life’s challenges. However, when there’s too much unnecessary stress in your life, bad things are sure to follow.
Constant stress is tough on the body, leading to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems. It’s tough on the mind as well, greatly increasing your risk of depression and anxiety and driving a wedge between you and the people you love the most.
Here’s the good thing, though: you can take back control. Small changes to your lifestyle can dramatically reduce stress’s impact. Here are three changes you can start making today to reduce the amount of stress in your life.
1. Know What Stresses You Out: Ever hear the saying “know your enemy?” Understanding which situations or people trigger your stress response allows you to take steps to avoid them.
Take a few moments in a quiet place to write a list of the things that cause you stress. Be specific. At first glance you may feel that your job as a whole causes you to feel stressed out, but on further reflection you may realize it’s really the interactions you have with your boss or the fact you’re always feeling behind.
Go over your list when you’re done and find items you can weed out or change. Does a stressful daily traffic jam set your day off on the wrong foot? Find a different route, or pick up some new music or an audio book to help you relax while you wait. Is there friction between you and someone you see regularly? Try to mend the relationship, or make changes to limit your interactions with that person. Don’t worry if a change seems small: small life changes can lead to big results.
2. Simplify: Stress often hides in the multitude of stuff in our lives. Stuff can mean physical objects that need care and weigh you down. Stuff can mean the multitude of appointments, obligations, responsibilities, and relationships in your life. Stuff can even mean the information you take in from your phone, your television, your computer, and every other noisy, distracting thing in your life.
Remove unnecessary stuff in your life to reduce the drain on your time, energy, and emotions. Donate items that you don’t need. Take a break from unnecessary social obligations (unless they truly bring you joy). Turn off the phone, shut down the computer, and hide the remote. Stress will have no place left to hide.
3. Reach Out: Reaching out to others when you feel stressed is a wonderful thing. Take a break from a hectic day to share a coffee and a laugh with a good friend. Spend time in play with your children. Go on a date with your partner. Relax and enjoy the company.
Helping others is another great way to reach out when you’re feeling stressed. Use a little bit of the time you created by avoiding unnecessary appointments and obligations to make a difference in someone’s life. Volunteer your time and talents for a charity or organization you believe in. The feeling you’ll get from making an impact on other’s lives is a potent stress-buster.
You’ll probably never live a completely stress-free lifestyle, and that’s okay. Making small changes to manage and overcome unnecessary stress can be a huge relief that transforms how you view your life and your world.