The greatest source of stress in our lives is work. But unless you win the lottery (I hear you have to play to win), work is inevitable. That means stress is inevitable.
I heard it said that no one dies of a snakebite. They die of the venom. The same could be said of stress. No one dies of stress, but they die from their reaction to stressful events.
Last week I introduced you to step one of my three-step formula for relieving stress naturally. I hope you dove right in and started implementing. This week, I’m sharing the final steps in the formula.
Step Two: De-Stress Your Mind
When I ask audiences the question, “What is stress?” I typically receive answers such as “deadlines,” “traffic,” “over-commitment,” “not enough time,” and even “having to deal with “stupid” people.” These answers suggest that many of us believe stress is something that happens to us. In reality, stress is merely our response to all those external factors.
The stress response is a function of our autonomic nervous system’s flight-or-fight response. Specifically, stress is triggered by a thought or belief that we are in danger — our body then goes into overdrive producing cortisol and adrenaline to help us get out of danger as fast as possible.
In modern life, we spend far more time engaging this stress response than we do engaging our relaxation response. This has serious consequences for our health, as too much stress can accelerate the aging process, suppress our immune systems and leave us feeling fatigued and depressed
The key takeaway here is that stress begins in our minds via a thought or belief. Thus, it’s important to neutralize stress by fueling our minds with more positive, happy, gratitude-filled thoughts in order to trigger our stress responses less often.
Stress-Relieving Tips for your Mind
- Cultivate gratitude. We are going to have things go wrong in our day. It’s inevitable. We can take the sting out of these negative events by focusing on what’s great in our life. A gratitude practice will help you focus. Each evening, write down three things you are grateful for. They can be as simple as seeing a gorgeous sunrise to being complimented on your new shoes.
- Meditate regularly. A consistent meditation practice — even if it’s only five minutes a day — may help lower blood pressure, and can help us control the thoughts that can trigger stress. The next time you get stressed because your boss just added another task to your already overflowing to do list, stop and take a breath. Shake out your body, sit back down and meditate for 5 minutes.
- Learn to say no. Being overbooked, worked and committed will lead to stress. We often feel obligated to say yes to everything for fear we won’t be liked. The greatest act of stress relief is exercising your right to say no. You can explain to others that you are overcommitted and you just must say no. And yes, you can even tell your boss no, just explain that one more project will mean the quality of your work will drop. Negotiate priorities.
Step-Three: Don’t Lose Sight of Your Purpose
Each of us is more than the work we do. We are creative, in relationships, spiritual beings, and passionate. Connecting with our whole selves by fueling our sense of purpose is the keystone for less stress and more happiness.
“What’s that?” you say? What is purpose and what does it have to do with stress? As I’ve written before, purpose can be thought of as a person’s calling in the world — but it’s really broader than that. It encompasses everything from meaningful work to relationships to the hobbies that brings us joy and meaning. Purpose is the expression of our own unique spirit.
When we starve our purpose — by not engaging with our work, suppressing our creativity, or ignoring our relationships (including the one with ourselves) — we trigger our stress response. When our life is full of nothing but work and obligations, we begin to get bitter, resentful, depressed, and even angry. Fueling all facets of our life is the antidote and gives us even more for which we can be grateful.
Stress-Relieving Tips for Your Purpose
- Re-attach to your relationships. When we’re working crazy hours, we can find ourselves detached from our relationships. Each week, schedule some time with a loved to just be together, hang out, and laugh. No work talk allowed, and no checking the Smartphone. Disengage from work and reengage with those that matter.
- Get creative. Remember how much fun you had as a kid doing crafts. You might have stopped because your last creation wasn’t perfect. Or you didn’t have the time. Carve out some time to be creative and tap into your inner kid. Creativity can be cooking dinner, handwriting a card to a friend or creating a vision board. Get out the scissor and glue stick and just play.
- Get spiritual. It’s human nature to seek connection to a higher power, however that may look for you. There’s even evidence that we are hard-wired for spirituality. Yet when we are overworked and chronically stressed we can forget about our place in the bigger picture. Connecting with your spiritual roots through prayer, meditation, chanting or other forms of spiritual ritual is an excellent way to get perspective on what’s stressing you and relieve that pressure.
Managing Workplace Stress: The Takeaway
We cannot eliminate or escape stress at the workplace. It is a fact of modern life. Yet we can neutralize stress in all areas of our lives by fueling our lives with meaningful actions, thoughts, and beliefs. We all deserve to live a happy, contented life. It’s never too late to start making yours.
How will you relieve stress today? Let me know in the comments below.