Thursday, September 6, 2012 Post By: Grayne Wetzky

How to beat stress

Stress is everywhere. In fact, stress is so prevalent in modern life that it is increasingly difficult to pin down exactly what stress is. Everyone is familiar with the terrible feeling of being under intense stress, being stressed out. When your heart rate goes up, you start sweating and it becomes almost impossible to do anything since your mind is racing out of control trying to get ahead if the stressful situation. This kind of acute stress is hopefully rather rare and doesn't last very long, but every time you experience this level of stress, it's not hard to agree that you'd rather not experience it any more than you need to.

Acute stress is easy to identify, but there are many other types of stress that can be a lot more subtle. Stress is constantly placed on us and the sources can be almost anything. Worrying about bills that needs to be paid, caring for sick loved ones, deadlines at work, even waking up in the morning to a glaring alarm. All these factors and thousands more conspire to heap stress onto us and keeps many in almost chronic states of low level stress.

Stress is not good for you. Stress provokes a response from the immune system which again promotes inflammation. Chronic inflammation plays a role in almost all current 'lifestyle' conditions. It plays a part in cancer, auto immune disease, allergies even type 2 diabetes. Stress is disastrous. It doesn't just affect the mind, it also has a real devastating effect on the body. Obviously, you want to reduce the level of stress in your life, but how?

Here are a few effective strategies for reducing and eliminating stress:

This might seem like an overly obvious point, relaxation is after all the very antithesis to stress. Relaxing is getting a bad rap these days though. It seems people want to make sure their lives are busy and always filled with something meaningful, and that relaxing is wasteful and lazy. Have you ever heard the saying "I can sleep when I am dead"? If you don't allow yourself the luxury of kicking back and relaxing, you might get that chance a lot sooner than you would like.

Any strategy for relaxing is good, take a warm bath, listen to music you really enjoy, watch tv or a movie, pick up a hobby. Anything that will let you release the stress of your day will do. Just find a way to relax deeply, and never ever blame yourself for taking some time out.

Go for a walk
Hard exercise for all it's benefits is not a good stress reliever. Intense work out actually is another source of stress for the body. Don't take this as an excuse for not working out, intense exercise is still extremely beneficial for your health, but too much strain can lead to many health issues by itself.

An underrated form of exercise and stress removal is going for an old fashioned walk. Moving at a slow pace is great for the body, and it's a great way to release stress. Pick a location you find beautiful and relaxing, then give yourself time to truly enjoy your surroundings. In fact, there are some research suggesting that simply spending time in a beautiful natural environment, such as a forest, in itself can reduce stress.

Meditation is the art of conscious relaxation. The idea behind meditation is to not only relax the body, but also to calm your mind. For a hyper busy cortex, the idea of relaxing the mind can be difficult and might require quite a bit of practice. There are several disciplines where students spend years trying to achieve and maintain a completely quiet mind.

Luckily you can reap great benefits from meditation with a lot less effort. Being able to successfully meditate for as little as 10 minutes can have a very significant impact on how well you handle stress.

Don't worry
Worrying about a problem or a situation is natural, but ultimately useless. Worrying will not impact the problem one way or another, the only effect worrying can have is to make you stressed and sick. When a difficult situation arises, don't spend your time and energy worrying about it. Instead, ask yourself one simple question: What can I do to improve this situation? If there is one or more course of action you could take, chose one and do it. If there is nothing you can do, worrying is not going to help anyway. All you can gain from worrying is to stress yourself out.

Make a decission
One very common source of mental stress is unfinished business carried around in the mind. This could take the form of mulling over a decision that needs to be made, or a project you mean to start or finish, a letter you want to write, and so on and on. In short, unfinished tasks takes a lot of mental energy to keep straight. As long as these loose ends are hanging around, they will demand your attention regularly and take away your focus and cause stress.

Whenever you have a decision to make, strive to take it as quickly as you can. In most cases, we only need a couple of seconds to make a good decision. In those cases, decide and move on. Own the consequences of your choice and realize that the world goes on just like before even if you didn't spend several days going back and forth with yourself.

If you face a particularly important or difficult decision, talk it over with one or more person you trust. Do not spend a lot of energy trying to debate with yourself on what would be the very best choice.

Learn to forgive
Carrying a grudge is poison for your soul. Chances are that you are hurting yourself far more by holding onto a slight then you are punishing the person you hold a grudge against. If you are wronged,  explain why you feel you were treated badly then move on. Either forgive your trespassers, or if that is impossible, remove them from your life. Don't spend time and mental energy on being angry.

Do not forget to extend this same courtesy to yourself. It is human nature to beat ourselves up over the slightest mistakes and missteps. We berate ourselves for things that we wouldn't even think twice about if it was done by someone else. You are just a human and you will make mistakes. You won't follow through on everything you resolve to do, you'll lose your keys and drop your friends favorite serving bowl. It sucks, but it will happen. If there is a lesson to be learned from your mess up, make sure you make a note of it, then move on and forgive yourself.

Sleep is vastly underrated as a tool for good health. Make sure you get enough sleep. How can you know how much sleep is enough? Go to bed early and throw away your alarm clock. When you sleep through the night and wake up when your body is ready you have had enough sleep. Waking up to a buzzing alarm is not only cutting your sleep short, it is a pretty stressful way to start the day in itself.

Once you have established how long you usually need to sleep, it's easy to make sure you get in bed early enough to get a full nights sleep. If you think that sleep is a waste of time and you would rather spend your time on something else, think again. There are probably hundreds of activities you do in a day that are redundant or of little value that you can cut out before you start cutting into your sleep.

  1. I like what you said about going for a walk. What I've found really helpful is lifting heavy weights and then going for a walk. This has worked great when I get stressed out...if that helps. Also the work of Eckhart Tolle and Dr. Ray Peat have helped me tremendously as well. :)

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