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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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