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Stress Relief Techniques: 5 Things I Learned from Spying on Calm People

How many times have you reacted to stress by blurting out a harsh response and escalating the situation? It can be hard not to. If you're already simmering then any extra little stress is going to provoke a spurt of steam, sometimes your steam just evaporates into the air, but sometimes it scalds people around you and that's not a good thing. So how can you stop those spontaneous eruptions? One way is to gather a selection of stress relief techniques and play around with them. There are a whole variety of ways to deal with challenges and frustrations, and it feels wonderful to know that you can break old patterns and grow new responses that are truly inline with who you want to be.

It's often helpful, when you want to learn a new skill, to look out for other people who've already mastered it. If you know someone who's able to keep cool, calm and collected no matter what's going on around them watch them! You can look at their posture, and their breathing as well as listen and look out for more obvious signs of how they operate.

If someone's good at handling stress, it usually means they know how to relax. Not only do they know how to relax, but they are relaxed. Their shoulders are not up by their ears, their gestures are smooth, and they have an easy going air about how they do everything. I've met a few people like this and they fascinate me.

Here are five of my favourite lessons I learned by observing others who handle stress brilliantly:


1. Take Your Time

You don’t have to say yes or no immediately to everything that’s asked of you. You can smile and say, thanks for asking me, can I get back to you? This simple way of handling incoming requests saves you feeling pressured to accept things you don't feel sure about. You can take yourself away for a few minutes/hours/days depending on the nature of the request and decided what you want to do. The rule of thumb is not to act out of guilt. As Anthony Robbins says "don't should all over yourself."

If someone asks you a favour and, having taken time to think it over, you decide you're happy to help them, then do it and feel happy about it. That's so much more positive than doing it out of obligation and then saying "oh, it wasn't so bad after all." If it's something you really don't feel comfortable doing, if it conflicts with your values, or will stress you out, tire you out, or divert you from higher priorities, then don't do it.

Buying yourself some thinking time gives you the chance to react honestly and avoid making decisions in haste and then regretting them later.


2. Walk Around it

Sometimes we subject ourselves to unnecessary stress by meeting things head on when we could walk on by. People with naturally good stress relief strategies know how to side step annoying people and situations, they may meet them, but they're not imposed on by them. They don’t get rattled repeatedly by the same person, they don't repeatedly get caught up in the same argument or hellish situation, and they don’t waste energy screaming at other road users.

Often what gets to us isn't even to do with us. It's not personal, so why feel stressed and offended by it? Taking a step to the side not only saves you stress, but allows you space to view others more compassionately, maybe they're having a bad day, feeling ill, worried about xxx. Everyone is carrying something, if we all learned to avoid confrontation and give each other a little respect and room to breath the world would be a happier place.


3. The Penguin Principle

In the movie Madagascar, the penguins have a very neat way of dealing with stress, whenever they get in a tricky situation the boss reminds them all to “smile and wave” - it’s a great tip. Imagine the difference in your stress levels over the course of a month if you smiled and waved a few times instead of getting stressed every time you felt challenged.


4. Stop the Clock

Every once in a while just stop and take a break. No matter how busy you are, you can find 10 minutes a day to take some deep breaths and stretch, read something inspiring or funny, take a walk, listen to some music or do something creative. Research shows that short breaks are essential in stopping stress building up and causing you harm.

Some people set themselves up with little stress discharge cues during the day. For example, stretching and taking a deep breath every time the phone rings, relaxing your posture and watching your breath while waiting in line, or taking a few slow long deep breaths at traffic lights. These are just a few ideas, if you have some favourites of your own, please add them in the comments section below.


5. Avoid Expectations

Expectations can be a major cause of stress. If someone else expects you to do something and you’re too busy, it’s OK to say so. You have free will to set your priorities and live your life as you feel is best. It’s painful when others impose their values and priorities on us. It can make you feel like you're not good enough, but you have to ask “not good enough for who?” And if the answer is not good enough for someone other than you then it’s another case of the “shoulds”. Point one said; "don't should all over yourself." Point five is saying “don’t let others should all over you either.”

What works for you? If you have any stress relief techniques to share please leave a comment below.


Photo by Meredith_Farmer










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Reader Comments (17)

Nice post and a lovely website.


May 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteranushruti

Thank you Anushruti, that's praise indeed coming from Divine Taste.

Thanks for stopping by,


May 15, 2009 | Registered CommenterAnanga

Thanks for this post. I liked the observation that you don't have to respond immediately to someone just because they are acting insistent and impatient. I think many of us have a leftover habit of trying to obey as quickly as possible from our childhoods, and part of adulthood is about recognizing there's nothing we actually "have" to do.


found this in stumbleupon, it's good advice and I'm going to put it into practice! thank you!

Jun 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

These stress relief techniques are really helpful and effective. I've tried some of these and it helped me clear my mind. Thanks for sharing.

Those tips are very good. They are simple, yet very effective. This is like anger management101 too, though this is about dealing with stress. Well, when you look at it, anger and stress are same but in some ways.

Sep 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDentists Irving

Thanks for the article! I like these tips a lot, especially 4 and 5, which I'll take some time to focus on today. I'm not that good at pausing to rest when I'm focused, but I definitely know working end-on-end for too long makes me very cranky... and probably not so effective.

I think maybe you can take this away as the essence of the post, or an essence of it: make space. That's something I really want to focus on right now. Make space in the morning to get some perspective on the day and know what your priorities are, make space while working to get your bearings and zoom out a little, make space to see if anything else is important. You could call this "meditating" - I like a meditation where I simply make space for myself to be - but perhaps it's not the word that quite brings up the right flavour. It's more... spacious than a lot of meditations are :)

Because we have too much STUFF in our life and not enough space between the stuff. It's cramped in there, and short-sightedness and discomfort is to be expected while things continue in that vein.




Feb 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew


thanks for your comment - I like your point about us having too much stuff and not enough space, I was talking about that with a friend last night.

with all good wishes to you

Feb 8, 2010 | Registered CommenterAnanga

This is a great post! And what great advice. I stumbled upon your blog when I was looking up information on measured breathing. I love Tip #1 -- Usually I either say "yes" or "no" very readily when asked to do something, without putting thought into it. What a beautiful blog. Keep up the great work!

Mar 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJuli


Thanks for your kind words. I'm happy to know this post clicked with you.

best wishes

Mar 31, 2010 | Registered CommenterAnanga

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