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Stress Less

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Effect of StressThe six fundamental steps to improved health

More than two-thirds of visits to doctors’ surgeries are for stress-related illnesses. Stress has been linked to headaches, backaches, insomnia, anger, cramps, elevated blood pressure, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and lowered resistance to infection. For women, stress is a key factor in hormonal imbalances resulting in menstrual irregularities, PMS, fibroids, endometriosis and fertility problems. Stress can also be a factor in the development of almost all disease states, including cancer and heart disease; the leading cause of death in men & women. In most cases stress is a result of letting life get out of balance. This happens when we put all our energy into only one or two areas of our life (usually work) and ignore the rest.

We take on too much, over-promise, don’t delegate and push our own wants and needs into the background by always looking after others needs first. We overload ourselves to the point where we are forced to stop attending to what is important to us, such as time for our interests and time to spend with our families. If stress is a major issue for you there are steps you can take to restore balance to your life – so you can stress less and smile more.

Step One:Develop extreme self-care

Most people suffering stress have become good at practicing extreme self-neglect! They don’t eat well, rarely exercise or take time out and probably can’t remember the last time they had a holiday. If you are one of these people you need to take your self-care to new heights, above and beyond your normal limit. When you take care of your own needs first you are building a reserve of energy and resources that will enable you to sustain extreme self-care with enough left over to care for others. Creating 10 delightful daily habits that give you enjoyment is a great place to start. Here are some suggestions.

  • Stretch for 2 minutes.
  • Laugh for 5 minutes
  • Floss your teeth
  • Read to a child
  • Hug a loved one
  • Go for a 10-minute walk in the park
  • Watch your favorite television serial.
  • Write in a journal
  • Eat 3 fruit and 5 veg
  • Read a chapter of your favourite book
  • Drink 2 litres of water
  • Go to bed early

The key to gaining accumulated benefits from your daily habits and practicing extreme self-care is to do them each day. Start with one habit and commit to practicing it for seven days, then add another, practicing both for another seven days. Continue adding your habits until you are practicing all 10 items on your list daily.

Step Two: Eliminate tolerations

Tolerations are situations and conditions you put up with that drain you physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. They include crossed boundaries, unfinished business or projects, others’ bad behaviour, frustrations, unwanted commitments, clutter, messy surroundings, broken items, being over weight, weeds in the garden and debt. List five tolerations that drive you nuts about your job, life, and health and home and then devise a plan to get rid of the first ‘intolerable’ toleration on your list this week. Notice how this makes you feel, how it lifts a weight off your shoulders. Now think about how much better you will feel when you get rid of the other four tolerations on your list! When you’ve completed the elimination of the first five tolerations you’ve listed, start a new one and keep working until you have zero tolerations in your life.

Step Three: Having your needs met!

Unmet needs cause us to become upset, angry, stressed and depressed. The key to satisfying our personal needs is to identify them. Identify needs that feel authentic, not ones that may look good to others or are superficial. Be aware that what you consider to be a need (such as to be loved) may be covering a real need (self-esteem). Ideas of personal needs are:

  • Calmness
  • Freedom
  • Being listened to
  • Independence
  • Feeling valued
  • Stability
  • Respect
  • A life purpose
  • Satisfying work
  • Honesty
  • Loyalty
  • Being busy
  • Security
  • Being loved
  • Balance
  • Responsibility
  • A career
  • Children It may be necessary for you to tell others what your needs are and learn to ask for support. 

Step Four: Smile often and laugh more!

Scientists have found that laughter stimulates the release of beneficial brain neurotransmitters and hormones, which can reduce stress, improve our immune system and give us a general sense of wellbeing. Some doctors are using laughter therapy to replace anti-depressants and to reduce the use of painkillers. According to researchers faking laughter will also produce the same health and wellbeing results as real laughter. Do you need to improve your ability to laugh more? I recommend that upon waking we should sit upright in bed or in a chair and smile vigorously and ridiculously. This muscular action induces the release of endorphins and within minutes we actually feel happy! “Positive self-talk can be very empowering, so let’s begin our days with loud statements such as I love laughing! People love hearing me laugh! Laughing makes me happy and healthy! I have a beautiful smile! Lets express not suppress, lets laugh and live longer!”

Step Five: Set Goals

Without goals we have no direction in life. We are lost! When we are lost we become stressed and overwhelmed. Goals help us navigate our lives with greater ease and reaching goals fulfils us, making us happier. One way to find out what your real goals are is to write a list of 100 things you’d like to accomplish before you die and then start working on your list today! When you set a goal it tells your subconscious mind what is important to you and to be on the lookout for things, people, opportunities or situations that will enable you to move towards your goal. Establishing goals is a tool we can use to have what we want and need in our personal and professional lives.

Step Six: Create a supportive environment

Our surroundings can be supportive and give us energy or drag us down and leave us stressed and tired. An inspiring, enjoyable environment filled with positive things and people energises us and we feel happier. We all need good support structures to help our lives flow with less effort and to remain balanced. Five important life support structures are:

  • People: family, friends, life coach or counsellor, accountant, doctor, housekeeper
  • Places: your office, desk, car, home
  • Things: your phone, computer, home decor
  • Processes: filing system, record keeping, time management program
  • Inner Environment: your outlook on life, self-esteem level, thought processes Examine these five categories and look at who or what you use to support you in each area. Are you truly being supported? What do you need to change to feel more supported in all areas of your life? Start making the easiest changes first. Just as it can take time to end up stressed, overwhelmed and out of balance, it also takes time to make positive changes in your life. Sometimes trying to implement change (even for the better) can itself cause stress and prevent a person remaining motivated. Making changes in your life can be stressful, even if the changes are aimed at reducing stress. For this reason it is important to work on each of the steps one at a time, mastering each before moving on to the next.

If you discover you can’t make the changes on your own, get support from a counselor, doctor, friend, peer or life coach who specializes in stress issues. Above all, keep in mind the benefits you will enjoy when you’ve mastered the steps to stress less and smile more!

What are your key stresses? Have you been able to identify them? Have you been able to eliminate them?

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Photo credits: h.koppdelaney’s photostream flickr.com

You may also like to read:

Balancing Stress Instead of Being Consumed By It @ Advanced Life Skills Blog

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Author: Zeenat {PositiveProvocations.com}

Counseling Psychologist/ Spiritual Counselor/Motivational Speaker/Naturopath/Holistic Healer/Writer

35 thoughts on “Stress Less

  1. Well to be honest my husband is more apt to recognize my PMS symptoms and is very compassionate with me when the time comes.

    I don’t drink caffeine products usually my tea is decaffeinated. Very little salt in my diet also but still have some stress around the time Aunt Flo comes to visit.

    I find I am unusually more tired and dream just before my period starts and it is a restless sleep because I can remember the dreams often.

    I find yoga and meditation necessary when I am stressed out and I like to run as a source of relaxation and rejuvenation.

    Great article – I love the part about laughing and smiling more. That some great medicine, I agree completely!

    • HI Bunny,
      I think your hubby and my hubby are twins…both are so caring at just the right time 🙂
      You seem to have all the stresses already eliminated from you life girl! I am glad to read youre so passionate about your physical and mental health.
      Smile smile smile 😉

  2. Excellent breakdown Zeenet. I think this kind of format is one of the best ways to help others evaluate the potential problem areas in their life.

    • HI Jonathan,
      Glad you liked my step by step approach. Youre very right when you say that this post and its format was specifically written keeping in mind that it should help people evaluate and find the potential problems in their lives.
      Thank you for your insightful comment.

  3. What a comprehensive list for de-stressing. Step by step – I loved it!

    I’m not usually under too much stress these days, but today for some reason… Ugh! Your post is just perfectly timed! (I’m sucking a peppermint as I write this, which, if I smoked, would put me in the “half a pack a day” range equivalency.)

    One thing that stood out for me in your list that I’m not always good at is asking for what I need. Sometimes I don’t think my needs are legitimate, which causes me to keep quiet about them. I’m learning, though, to speak my mind (or my wants/desires, in this case) and trust that it’s better to get them out of me and into the open air where someone might help me meet them, than to keep them inside.

    • HI Megan,
      I nearly ducked when i read youre comment…fear of the peppermint coming in my face…;)hehehe…
      Am happy that this post is doing its job and helping you identify your stresses.
      You know to some degree i have the problem of not asking for my needs too…but am slowly getting to be more open about them. The problem with not opening up an telling what you need is that it tends to eat away at you on the inside. And we all know what a havoc that can create….

  4. Hi Zeenat.

    For me the most important thing has been to create a supportive environment to change my habits. Even when I knew what to do, I could not do it on my own. I simply could not fight that pesky Little Voice that would sabotage me doing what was good for me, to take a break, to say ‘no’ to requests to give some examples. My Little Voice would even make peppermints wrong :).
    Now I have support in my partner John and my buddy Ann-Marie, I can override the saboteur and reduce the things that would cause stress.
    It is hard to believe though how we are cause in the matter of the unhealthy things in our lives.
    You are a champ to remind us of our own responsibility and that we can better the quality of our lives.
    Hugs for that, Wilma

    • Hi Wilma,
      Its so important to have a support system, that helps you in all walks of your life. I am so happy to read about your partner John and Ann-Marie. Sounds like youre all set to face the world 🙂 A supportive environment is key to personal development.
      Thanks for all the lovely hugs…right back at you! 😉

  5. Hi Zeenet,
    This is a wonderful article. I need to laugh, laugh, laugh more!
    Next I need to eliminate the toleration of my office being messy. Auughhh! When I do it seems it’s right back to the same in a week or two. I believe my ADHD has something to do with it.

    • Hi Tess,
      Laugh….oh lord i laughed just reading your comment. I love the Auuughhh…
      I know mess can get us to pull our hair out. But try to hire someone instead of doing it yourself. That way it will remain clean and you wont need to worry about it piling up as well. But well, your paper work only you know where to put that 😉

  6. All ideas very nicely segregated and put together. My stress usually comes from two places – 1. Goals : too many to little of them 2. Imbalance between different yet important aspects of my life.

    Releasing stress seems to be an on going activity. You keep releasing and new ones keep coming if you don’t pay enough attention.

    • HI Avani,
      Very rightly said….new stresses keep coming up if we dont pay attention. But rather than just paying attention, we need to also have a back up plan to eliminate or atleast not let it get to us. Cause not having your goals met usually leads to frustration. And then anger….and then SSSStress.
      So either eliminate or let it not get to you works best. Now ways of not letting it get to you are above in the post 🙂
      Glad you liked the post.

  7. Excellent post! You have very beautifully pointed out in easy steps how to eliminate and reduce stress in daily life. Make life simpler every day goes a long way in adding peace and tranquility in all our daily chores. Keep up the great work!

    • Hi Vijay,
      Thank you for the lovely compliments. I am glad you enjoyed this post.
      Eliminating stress is easy, but the first step is always trying to figure out what actually stresses you out. No stress = peace and tranquility.

  8. Great post, again! I’m with Avani on this one… most of my stress (when I have any) comes from conflicting, important goals. I often feel there isn’t enough of me to go around because I’d like to devote 100% of myself to each of the causes that matter to me: Homeschooling my son, helping others through the blog, being a supportive wife, being a good friend and sister, etc.

    Having to compromise, and be less than 100% present, stresses me out at times. I just have to remind myself that life is that way. We can’t live in the extremes and absolutes… we exist somewhere in the middle and compromise is balance.

    • Hi Lisis,
      You know we women have the tendency to be SuperWomen…and thats where we end up screwing up everything. We need to all understand that we are only human…and multitasking and doing everything isnt fruitful for the ones we do it for nor for us. Cause each and every task at hand turns out incomplete or not satisfactory. Hence, slowing down and taking one step at a time works best. It eliminates stress and makes life more simpler. But yes trying to deal with stress is an ongoing battle…hence one baby step at a time.
      Your approach is just right towards stress….striking a balance between the extremes and taking the middle road does considerably reduce the anxiety of stress in all situations of our life.
      Thank you for this wonderful comment lisis. Appreciate it.

  9. Stress really does cause havoc! This post was excellent…an in-depth look at what stress does to us and how to practice “damage control” against it.

    Thank you, Zeenat!

    Karen

  10. Hi Zeenat! Super presentation on stress here. Your posts always have profound information given in such a tender, loving way!

    So, ok. Stress. To me, it’s an evil little snake. It can slither it’s way into your day even when you think you shut the door. This morning I was journaling about what a lousy nights sleep I had now for two nights in a row. While on the surface I’ve had two days of not consciously SEEING or feeling the snake’s presence, voila, it’s in bed with me!

    Thank you for the lists here. It appears that #2 and #5 are fueling Monkeymind (who, by the way, LOVES snakes!). I’m glad I read this post early in the day. I have time for a reassessment and some sneaky extermination. Bless your heart! YOU are a big part of my support system!
    hugs
    suZen

    • Hi Suzen,
      I like the analogy of the snake and the monkey…very apt :)hhhehehheh but i giggled all through your comment. Now now don’t be upset…i am laughing cause you do have an awesome sense of humor….;)
      But stress with its evil evil eye needs a strong mind like yours to banish it AWAAAAYYYY! So banish awayyy…and smile 🙂
      Big hug..

  11. Great post truly. Setting goals is the blueprint to achieving financial success. Most people tend to look at their dreams as completely unattainable. The key is to take bite size steps each and every day which will one day lead to success. Faith is essential to staying motivated when times seem right. Faith is the bridge that connects you to your dream. Keeping the faith as you discover how to think positive can only benefit you. Without it, you become lazy, unmotivated, and insecure.

    Nice post!

    • Hi Jonathan,
      A very valid and important point-Faith. Its is truly one of the core reasons anyone ever goes through life with a smile. Sometimes realizing its faith and sometimes not. But when you realize, that’s when the magic begins. Life comes out with all new meaning and opportunities isn’t it!
      Thank you for this very important pointer. Faith with a positive attitude are a sure shot formula for success.

  12. Thanks for this — that’s a great point, that stress is often a result of a want or need that we don’t feel okay telling others about, and then resentment builds up inside us when it goes unmet. It’s a great exercise, I think, to just try focusing your attention on what you want if you’re feeling stressed, because a lot of us are hardly paying attention to that at all (rather than the priorities of our employer, spouse, and so on).

    • Hi Chris,
      Glad to see you here. And thank you for such a thoughtful comment.
      Our needs are often our greatest stresses, cause if left unmet due to external pressures, lead to severe internal turmoil. And that turmoil can be severely poisonous to our being.
      Hence, Needs need to be met promptly to avoid such negative repercussions.

  13. Facing stress is a touch battle. What you have touch on this article are sure to relieve any stress of life. However, it takes courage and dedication to master these virtues.

    The only thing I’m capable at the moment is to smile often and laugh more. I hope I won’t disappoint you with this. 🙂

  14. Hi Zeenat .. I think you should have floss your teeth first, and then laugh for 5 minutes .. I did that! Good ten points.

    I used to suffer from stress that tore at my insides, as I struggled to do everything – just not possible .. fortunately I was able to eliminate it. I now just do what I need to do – I’m not perfect and now is not an easy time with my mother and uncle, but I just get on with things as best I can.

    I’m in the process of sorting a few things out – that will make life easier and more organised then I’ll be happier and won’t fret.

    Thanks for the good points –
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

  15. Hi Zeenat! Always glad to provide a giggle. Humor is critical in my life – it is my major survival tool. I looked at the two Thespian masks. The Drama one scared the pants off of me. I chose the laughing one – it is part of my totem!
    Hugs back at you!
    suZen

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  17. It is really helpful article. I really like it. Everybody experiences stress. Stress comes from many sources: work, life, money, friends and family. Each person will have a different strategy that works best to manage stress effectively. The trick is to find which works best and make a habit of it. Forming a habit involves repeating an action several times, until it becomes a routine response.
    Make laughter a habit, for example. Or practice visualizing a calming image every day, regardless of whether stress is a factor or not. Once these actions are habits, they will help to dispel the negative effects of stress, and also promote clear thinking.

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  19. Hi Zeenat,
    Your presentation is very contextual in Indian Psychology.
    A very good orientation/training could be plan on this basis,which can change the direction of life of stake holders.My BEST WISHES.

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  21. Thankyou Zeenat, this is just what I needed today 🙂