Let’s face it, stress happens. Many factors contribute to stress in our lives that are out of our control. It would be nice if life worked out the way we wanted it to. But trying to control the situation and hanging onto but “what ifs” gets us nowhere. Like a hamster on a wheel, we keep circling around but remain in the same place. Learn 5 actionable steps you can take to reduce stress.
A couple of questions to consider:
- What CAN I do about the stress in my life?
- How CAN I better handle stressful situations?
You see we may not always be in control of what life throws our way, but we are certainly in control of how we react. Here are 5 actionable steps to reduce stress in your life. Keep in mind no size fits all but one or two of these ideas may prove beneficial.
1. Live By The Four Agreements
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is a must-read. I was given this book over 15 years ago and it dramatically changed my outlook on things. Here are the four agreements in a nutshell:
- Be Impeccable with your word– Speak the truth to yourself and others. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Speak your truth!
- Don’t take anything personally- What people say and do is really about them, not you. It’s usually a reflection of their internal or external struggle. Even when it feels personal, it’s not about you. Truly, very little in this world is ever personal.
- Don’t make assumptions- This is a big one. Never, ever make assumptions. Ever. Period. End of story. Don’t ever assume you know what another person’s intentions are. Always clarify and ask for what you need. (E.g. What do I know to be true? What needs clarification?)
- Always do your best- Strive to always do your best. But know your best looks different every day. Life happens so do the best you can within the situation you’ve been given. Be compassionate with yourself.
2. Do What Centers You
Practice what centers you in life. Prayer, meditation, reading, nature, journaling, painting, etc. And be intentional in making it part of your every day or weekly routine. Start by taking 5 minutes each week for quiet time. Heck, start with 2 minutes if the thought of 5 stresses you out.
The point is to start. Build upon it. Once it becomes integrated into your weekly routine, start adding one more minute or doing it more than one day a week.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, ample evidence exists to support the benefits of mindfulness. Do what works for you and be consistent.
3. Move Your Body
Movement doesn’t mean an hour in the gym. Ask yourself how you can maximize movement in your day. Park further and walk further. Use stairs, not the elevator. Have walking meetings. Do 10 sit-to-stand movements at your desk every hour.
Make it fun. Turn on your favorite song and dance in your living room. Make it challenging. Walk in place during commercial breaks and see how many steps you can get each time.
Always be on the lookout for opportunities and gaps within your day where you can move more.
4. Breathe Deep
Do some deep breathing, no Shallow Hal here. Unlike little kids whose bellies stick out, adults tend to suck it in. By doing so we don’t allow our lungs to fill to their full capacity. So the next time you take a breath be intentional to really fill up your lungs.
Take a deep breath in through your nose. Imagine you’re filling up a balloon in your belly. Inflate that imaginary balloon as much as you can. Let your belly hang out. Hold it. Slowly release all of the air out of your mouth. Deflate the imaginary balloon all the way. Repeat a few more times.
5. Eat Quality Food
We all need to eat to survive. But don’t just eat to eat. Nourish your body with quality food. 100 calories of almonds and 100 calories of M&Ms may both be 100 calories. However, it’s like filling your car up with a gallon of premium oil versus a gallon of sludge. Highly-processed foods create inflammation in the body. Pick nutrient-dense, whole foods that grow in nature.
Make sure labels list whole foods as the first three ingredients. And of course, fewer ingredients on labels is always better. If you find that you tend to be a snacker or have emotional cravings, stock up with healthier choices. Making the healthy choice an easy choice is key when that 2 p.m. slump rolls around.
Need some ideas on healthy snacks? Grab my FREE 7 Healthy Snack Recipes E-book before it’s gone.
Bonus #6 Get an Ally
Hire a coach, join a group coaching program, surround yourself with people who support and encourage you. Social support is one of the best ways you can thrive as an individual.
If you’ve ever heard of The Blue Zones, which examines the 7 places in the world where health, longevity, and happiness are exceptionally large, one common theme is social engagement. We as humans need a healthy social network. Find your tribe and stick with them.
Your Turn to Practice Reducing Stress
Now it’s time to turn insight into action. I’d love to hear from you about the 5 actionable steps to reduce stress. In the comments below tell me:
- Which one of these steps resonates the most with you?
- How will you put it into practice today?
Remember, life is all about choices. And as the Serenity Prayer goes: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
I encourage you to shift your mindset to what you CAN do about the stress in your life. You’ve got this!