business-meeting-378412_1280One of the most overlooked and under appreciated areas that a person can impact in their life is their response to stress. Surprisingly, some simple modifications in posture, habits, thoughts, and behaviors can go a long way toward reducing feelings of stress and tension.

Of course there are good and bad forms of stress, so these techniques are obviously aimed at managing and reducing the bad forms of stress…without the use of drugs, alcohol, or other forms of medication.

1. Control Your Anger: (Unchecked, anger will wear you out!)

Watch for the next instance in which you find yourselfconflict-405744_1280 becoming annoyed or angry at something trivial or unimportant, then practice letting go – make a conscious choice not to become angry or upset.

Anger, as an emotion, typically forces the heart to beat faster, your breathing to become less deep, which in turn reduces the oxygenation of your blood.

Click here to check out Effects of Anger: What Anger Does to Your Body and Brain.

Consider for a moment “why” you are angry or “what” specifically you are angry about. If you can pinpoint the central issue, you are well on your way to controlling it. Anger can typically be traced to emotions of Disappointment, Regret, and Fear (false evidence appearing real).

Next determine whether or not there is anything you can do to positively impact or influence the issue. If it’s something in from the past, the answer is probably no, unless you can somehow go back in time. If it’s something pending, and you can positively change the outcome, then clearly you should move in that direction.

If, however, there’s nothing you can do to positively effect the outcome then you should consider the words of theologian Eugene Peterson who said, “even the worst will not last.”  So don’t allow yourself to waste thought resources and energy where it won’t make a positive impact. Instead conserve your energy,  and better manage your anger emotion.

2. Breathe and Consider: (Deep inhalations oxygenate the blood!)

Well before you get to the job, worksite, school, or where ever you’re headed, take several slow deep penetrating breaths. As you inhale consider what you will likely be dealing with, and as you exhale consider how you might approach each challenge.

yoga-422196_1280Once you’ve considered everything you can reasonably think of and considered one or more possible solutions to each challenge, you should feel a sense of relief in the fact that you have prepared yourself as well as possible for the future.

Simply  having a plan, regardless how detailed or broad, will automatically reduce the likelihood of being surprised or caught unaware. The most successful public officials or celebrity personalities rehearse their answers and reactions to even the most outlandish of questions before being interviewed, which is why they often seem unflappable. 

3. Slow Down: (When you run, things don’t get done.)

Whenever you feel overwhelmed by stress, slow things down by intentionally speaking more slowly than usual. Control the pace of any discussion simply by saying, “you could be right, give me a moment to consider that.”

Because you have given the other person a small concession, they feel obligated to give you a moment to consider. You will find that in the space of less than 30 seconds you think more clearly and react more reasonably to stressful situations.

Stressed people tend to speak fast and breathlessly; by slowing down your part of the conversation you’ll also appear less anxious and more in control of any situation.

4. Complete One Thing: (A list is a collection of un-kept promises)

Jump start an effective time management strategy. Choose one simple thing you have been putting off (e.g. returning a phone call, making a doctor’s appointment) and do it immediately. Research has found that working on multiple projects part-time is less efficient than working on one item to completion.

Just taking care of one nagging responsibility can be energizing and can improve your attitude. The order is also important; it is good to intersperse difficult tasks with simplepareto-principle-693315_1280 ones throughout the day. Time boxing, Pareto  principle (80/20) or some other method for ‘chunking’ your time into segments for working on a project will normally yield the best results.

At the end of the time you’ve allotted for the task, take a celebratory break, and physically get up, stretch, and move away from the location of the work for a few minutes. When you return, you will be better prepared mentally and physically to take on the next challenge.

It’s commonly known that Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and other prolific thinkers took frequent naps while attacking particularly challenging projects. They found that when they returned to the task parts of the solution that was once evasive, was often revealed. Naps, therefor are a great tool for improved performance [1]   

5. Get Some Fresh Air: (Extended from breathing)

The rejuvenating properties of fresh air and vitamin D from sunlight have been documented by the scientific community for years. Just a few minutes in the outdoors can have a significant impact on you physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Even if the weather is less than optimal, just the sense that you are physically closer to nature is sufficient to create a sense of internal energy. Kick it up a notch or two by including the deep breathing regiment shared earlier – even five minutes on a balcony or terrace can provide a psychological jump start.

6. Avoid Hunger and Dehydration: (Stay fueled.)

Coffee, tea, carbonated or sports drinks can not compete with water for fighting dehydration. The Institute of Medicine suggests an adequate intake of water for men is 13 cups, or 3 liters, and for women 9 cups or 2.2 liters[2] 

Drink plenty of water and eat small, nutritious snacks to forestall hunger and dehydration before you’re aware of them. Failure to keep ‘fuel’ in the ‘tank’ can provoke aggressiveness and exacerbate feelings of anxiety and stress.

Simply using your brain to solve challenges or postulate solutions requires significant amounts of energy. Ask any college student who has successfully completed their comprehensive examination (Comps) or dissertation defense, how they felt afterwards, and you will typically hear words like drained, exhausted, wrung out, and tired.

7. Do a Quick Posture Check: (Reduce fatigue with proper posture.)

The American Chiropractic Association details numerous benefits to having and maintaining good posture including allowing your muscles to work more efficiently, using less energy and preventing fatigue[3]. To attain good posture, hold your head and shoulders upright and avoid stooping or slumping.

Good posture provides a sense of balance, opens the lungs to better function in the air exchange, and promotes improved circulation. Bad posture can lead to muscle tension, pain, and increased stress.

8. Recharge at the Day’s End: (Don’t skimp on sleep!)

Plan something rewarding for the end of your stressful day, even if only a relaxing bath or half an hour with a good book. Set aside work, housekeeping or family concerns for a brief period before bedtime and allow yourself to fully relax.

Don’t spend this time planning tomorrow’s schedule or doing chores you didn’t get around to during the day. Remember that you need time to recharge and energize yourself – you’ll be much better prepared to face another stressful day.

Don’t skimp on sleep! While it may seem like you’re getting a lot done if you are up until past midnight, the body has a natural rhythm that requires sufficient time not working to regain, and recharge. Sleep is the simplest method for achieving this natural balance.

When you apply these 8 tactics for controlling stress, you will discover you have more energy, you become more efficient with your time, and you enjoy an increase in productivity! All without the use of  drugs, alcohol, or other forms of medication.

References:

[1] Napping: Do’s and don’ts for healthy adults

[2] Water: How much should you drink everyday?

[3] Tips to Maintain Good Posture

~

Dr. Matthews