We usually think of stress as bad, dangerous and something to be avoided at all costs. In fact, we usually believe that we must find a way to reduce stress - now!
Even though I mostly agree with that opinion, it is also a fact that not all stress is harmful, and much of it is self-inflicted and needlessly adopted. You see, many times the key to our stress is…us. That's right, the thing that we call stress - also called the fight-or-flight response - is automatic and immediate as well as life preserving when someone or something is threatening us; but it's also a fact that most stress is a result of faulty beliefs concerning another person, place or thing.
You have no doubt witnessed this yourself; however, let me provide an example from my own experience. Many times when I analyze my life, one of the things I recognize is that many of the things that bother, startle, and scare me (aka, stress) have a completely opposite effect on my wife and friends. Yep, they simply don't get bothered or overly excited by the same things that nag at me. Stated plainly, they don't get stressed by the same stimulus and circumstances that stress me.
So what does that mean? Well, for starters, it shows that we will never believe, do or say anything without first having a thought about it. It is in our thought life that we either become conquerors or victims. In an effort to protect ourselves, we may also have thoughts that are over exaggerations of the circumstances we are presented with, sending our physiology into a heightened state of overload, or panic. Physically, we experience an increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, butterflies in our stomach, and possibly, a case of dry mouth.
What does this mean? Well, it means that we have become stressed; our cortisol levels are surging, and we must do something to tame this situation as soon as possible. It also means, we must start the taming of this monster in the realm of our thought life. Yes, we must change our thoughts in order to change our actions. Then, by modifying our behavior we can take control of our outcomes, our life and our health!
Below are 5 tips to reduce your stress.
Tip #1-Learn to Recognize!
Learn to recognize your individual stress signals. Your body will tell you when stress is building up to dangerous levels. Do you get a headache? Do your neck and shoulders begin to ache? Do you feel nervous? Stress signals are not exactly the same for everyone, but are often similar from person to person. Learn your signals and reduce stress with brief exercise or by changing your thoughts and activity.
Tip #2-Make a List & be Specific!
Search out the stressors that cause the aches and pains listed above. What is the threat or demand that seems too great? Is someone else making demands, or is it your own perfectionism? Specifically, list the causes of your stress and your specific responses to them.
Tip #3-Change what you can!
As mentioned above, list and mark the things you can change and then act appropriately to reduce your stress. You may not be able to change your employment, where you live or your relationship status right away, but you may be able to change the way you plan your work, life, etc. Simply planning out your day and making different decisions can effectively achieve stress reduction.
Tip #4-Just say No!
Just say "No" with sincerity and firmness. When it is not necessary to make a commitment, and you cannot handle it, politely say No Thank You!
Tip #5-Get Rest & Exercise!
A well-rested, exercised, healthy body is better prepared to reduce stress. Take care of your body and it will be in better shape to handle the chemical changes brought about by stress. Increasingly, studies are showing that a fifteen to twenty minute nap in the afternoon will reduce stress and boost productivity.
Finally, remember not to play the Blame-Game!
Basic to any plan that will reduce stress is a refusal to blame the stress on others. Others can make demands. Others can threaten. Only you can decide how you will respond. A positive response will reduce stress.
About Nolan Ferraro, Owner, Salire Fitness and Wellness
Certified personal trainer and licensed wellness coach Nolan Ferraro has been recognized as the #1 Best Personal Trainer in New Orleans.
Nolan counts Chef Susan Spicer among the thousands of New Orleanians who have gotten in shape with Salire's high-impact fitness programs like "Power in the Park" a month-long cross-training boot camp in City Park. He has also added a new high intensity interval training class, Body Blitz, at his studio. Visit www.salirefitness.com for more information on Nolan and Salire Fitness & Wellness.