Stress affects us all at one point or another. It’s not so much a matter of eliminating stress as learning how to live with it, and in this guide, we’ll walk you through 11 steps you can use to center your relationship with stress every day.
1. Breathe deeply (& slowly)
It’s common knowledge at this point that deep breathing reduces anxiety and stress. More recently uncovered, though, is the fact that the slowness and fullness of your breath also matters just as much.
Ancient Vedic sages and modern pulmonologists agree that the ideal breath lasts 5.5 seconds in and 5.5 seconds out. As you exhale, make sure to fully expel all the air out of your lungs, and as you inhale, draw air in fully, and try to expand your lower rib cage with your lungs.
This therapeutic breathing practice will make you feel more energetic, calm you down, and make the day’s biggest stresses seem like nothing more than passing storms.
2. Take plenty of breaks throughout the day
We all want to be as productive as possible, but pushing yourself to the absolute limit will inevitably result in burnout. To attain and maintain maximum effectiveness in your personal and professional lives, you must make rest an integral component of your daily routine.
At first, you may feel like you are resting too much. Your productivity may genuinely slacken temporarily, but as your body and mind absorb the tender care you’re providing by resting, your overall ability to achieve will skyrocket.
3. Rest with conscious intent
When you set aside time to rest, fully rest during that time without any judgment or constraints. Try to avoid thinking about all the things you have to do and all the worries on the horizon.
Fully be in the moment when you are doing something you truly enjoy. That moment will serve as a buoy, floating you through the unavoidably difficult challenges you face as the day goes on.
4. Invest in yourself
Resting appropriately is one part of the puzzle, but you need to take care of yourself in other ways as well. To be a person others can rely on and invest in, you must first clear the path by showing you’re good enough to invest in yourself.
Maybe your investment is simply buying some of your own time. Set an hourly price of what you think you’re actually worth, and don’t sweat it when that sum manages to squeak its way out of your bank account. Or, maybe it’s time to invest in that office furniture you’ve been buying or upgrade your electronic devices.
5. Ask for more help
There’s a certain admirable stoicism in pushing yourself to your absolute limits, but people born into Western cultures tend to have an ingrained problem with asking for help. Certain challenges you must face alone, but companionship is the secret salvation of every hero — think about any unnecessary responsibilities you might be able to offload to make your life (and by extension, the lives of those forced to be around you) somewhat less burdensome.
6. Consider professional assistance
Stress is something that is often hard to tackle alone. Professional counselors can teach you techniques for evolving your mindset or overcoming mental roadblocks. No amount of therapy can erase the actual responsibilities you face in life, but augmenting your perspective can make things considerably easier.
7. And, not just of the psychiatric kind
Whether therapy isn’t for you or your counseling has run its course, there are plenty of other professionals who can reduce your stress to a seemingly unimaginable degree. They’re called housekeepers, handymen, landscapers, plumbers, and all the other trained professionals in life who are paid to do the jobs other people don’t want to.
Yes, you’re right. It costs a lot to buy these services. But how much of your own potential are you squandering by getting mired down in the weeds? Society is designed to act as a supportive web in which everyone contributes and everyone prospers. You’re actually getting in the way of social harmony by not availing yourself of more services in your local community.
8. Remember to be grateful
Sometimes, our eyes are so keenly on the next prize that we forget how far we’ve already come. Psychologists, theologians, and Far Eastern mystics agree, though, that cultivating proper gratitude is the surest path to inner peace and enduring well-being.
When we’re grateful, everything comes into perspective. The overbalance toward the future that’s natural for the chronically driven is balanced by recollection of past blessings, facilitating a centered, de-stressed present outlook.
9. Take some time to completely disconnect
As you set aside space to be grateful, you might remember a lot of things you’re grateful for that have taken a back burner while you’ve been so busy. Believe it or not, the world actually won’t end if you step away from the phone or the keyboard for an hour, a few hours, a day, or even a few days.
Don’t just throw your responsibilities to the winds. Before you disconnect, shore up the situation to endure potential pitfalls, set up any necessary safeguards, then step off the grid and allow the Earth to turn on its own for once.
10. Reconnect with your roots
Allow your gradual descent into bliss to lead you toward the things that provide you with genuine enjoyment. Whether it’s places you haven’t visited in years or indulgent activities you’ve loved since you were a child, take some time to do whatever makes you feel the most “you.”
11. Find meaning in life
That’s an order — and a tall one at that. But, we’re serious: Finding genuine meaning is the only way to sustainably handle stress in perpetuity.
It’s a tall mountain to climb, but you won’t be alone. Your past experiences are all you need to guide you toward the necessary answers — it’s all about leveraging them properly.
This is a path you most likely won’t be able to walk on your own. Even with help, it could take the rest of your life.
A life lived without proper meaning, however, is not worth living, so the only thing worth doing is pouring your all into it. The more you live with a sense of meaning and purpose, the more your stress will melt away, and the more your responsibilities will seem less like burdens and more like blessings.