There is it again. That feeling that has become all too common.
You reach for the bottle. It sucks that you need to keep it handy.
Your eyes glaze over as you re-read the email.
The project deadline was just brought forward two weeks. Don’t they have a frigging clue that you’re already drowning in deadlines?
Your head is about to explode, or you’ll throw up. Maybe both.
2 extra-strength Tylenol should take care of the pressure that keeps building.
There’s no end in sight. Seems like it is one crisis after another.
You’re sinking at work. No energy left for family and friends. You snap at the smallest irritation.
A decent night’s sleep would help — if that were even possible what with everything running through your mind.
And so you glance across at your colleague. Your eyes narrow.
Why isn’t she pulling her hair out?
After all, she has the same boss. Same workload.
It all has to do with genetic makeup you tell yourself. Some people can handle stress better than others.
You desperately wish that wasn’t the case. You crave some of whatever she’s got going for her.
The truth is, what she’s got going for her is not top secret. And, here it is. Just for you — the list of things non-stressed people do differently.
1. They Know How to Make Stress Work for Them
Calm people know that we are all equally vulnerable to stress, regardless of occupation or location. They are pro-active in anticipating and handling it when it occurs.
* Does it matter if its real?
Stress is “the perception of a real or imagined threat to your body or your ego.” Whether it’s real or imagined, the instant you perceive something as stressful you trigger a torrent of physical reactions.
* Use the right amount of juice
Stress is bad.
Fortunately, a certain level of anxiety is good.
Ever find yourself unable to work up enthusiasm to do something? Odds are, you’re missing the heightened drive that comes with moderate levels of anxiety — that ‘juice’ that spurs you on.
Even acute stress primes the brain for improved performance. But there’s a catch. (Isn’t there always?)
Your performance improves under acute stress but only if you allow the stress to last for a few minutes.
So, no need to stress. You can make this work for you just like the non-stressed folks.
2. They Leverage What They Know
Rather than see stress as an enemy, non-stressed people realize that our brains are hard-wired to need some level of anxiety to prompt action.
They embrace that rush of adrenalin and use it as motivation for high performance.
But and this is the big but, they manage their stress levels so that they are operating within optimal levels. This is how to achieve top performance.
Non-stressed folks have strategies in place to keep anxiety in check when it comes on strong to keep on top of their game. These strategies will work for you, too.
3. They Identify and Tailor Solutions
Most importantly, they have strategies that work for them. There are no one-size fits all. They find ones that work for them and incorporate them into their lifestyle. Here are 13 of those strategies that you can start using today.
* Apply the over-under factor
It’s normal to overestimate threats and underestimate your ability to deal with them. Non-stressed people see threats differently.
They first assess the threat to have a clear understanding of just what they are facing. How big, how bad, will they even care about it a year from now? And, what about perception?
Non-stressed people understand that in most instances (excepting events like fire, accident etc.) the circumstances are benign. It is how we choose to perceive the circumstances that determines whether we trigger stress.
Consider the following scenario:
Circumstance: The boss just walked by and glanced in your direction.
Your Perception: Cr*p! The boss just walked by and saw me sitting here staring off into space. She’ll think I’m a slacker. She has no idea I was thinking through my response to this tough email. OMG, she’s interviewing me for a promotion next week. I’m never going to get it. What am I even doing here?
Potential Reality: The boss may have idly glanced in your direction walking by as she was debating whether to get peanut butter or cream cheese on her bagel.
Why are we our own worst enemy when it comes to our stress level? We interpret a given situation or set of circumstances through the filter of our biases, beliefs, pre-occupations and fears.
As you’ll soon see, learning how to change your relationship with your thoughts will change your life.
* If you only change one thing, change this
Non-stressed people know that change can trigger stress. More importantly, they know this:
Change is constant. It is normal. It is and will be ever-present.
You, too, can keep top-of-mind that you cannot always control what happens to you but that you do control how you respond.
Accept that there are things you cannot change and, for a huge stress-relief payoff — release your emotional attachment to those things.
For example, I’m also an artist. I strive to create amazing artwork. I know that I can’t control whether someone purchases it. That realization and acceptance has made a HUGE difference in my enjoyment in showing my works.
* Use the Magic Moment
Non-stressed people know that a pause is priceless.
Do not underestimate the value of this Magic Moment of pausing before responding or reacting. It takes your game to a whole new level.
Between stimulus and response, there is space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.
This sacred pause allows you to respond without heat or anger.
* Use anger wisely
Anger is a natural response. It focusses us on issues that matter.
Non-stressed people use their anger with skill instead of launching into a tirade. They pause, they reflect and most importantly they:
- avoid righteousness
- don’t engage in fault-finding
- identify the reasons for the anger and address them
- don’t speak from a position of anger
* Play mind games
Scientific research underpins much of their strategies and how they maximize the abilities and power of their minds. For instance, they:
- reduce the effects of negative self-talk by avoiding being hijacked by their constant stream of thoughts (decentering).
- practice simple breathing techniques which interrupt and reduces stress. This also puts them in tune with their bodies which allows them to recognize the onset of stress
- practice gratitude in a structured way which offsets the natural negativity bias inherent in everyone and which creates permanent changes in the brain structure to increases overall happiness and resilience.
- develop a new baseline over time so that they can more readily return to a state of calm and relaxation.
* Take time to make time
Someone famously said that you should meditate for an hour every day and if you’re too busy, you should meditate for two hours.
I normally do my mindfulness exercises in the morning. It’s the first thing I do when I get up. I find that to be the best way to start the day. It gets me in balance before the busyness and hecticness of the day kicks off.
— Kobe Bryant
Taking time to practice mindfulness meditation actually frees up time. You develop your mental muscle and so are less easily distracted, focus is more intense, creativity and problem solving improve, relationships improve (less time spent mending fences) to name but a few.
Non-stressed folks know this. They know that mindfulness meditation is not about having a blank mind. It is about being as they already are, not trying to change into some preconceived notion of how they ought to be.
* Take care
No surprise here. They look after their health through exercise, a reasonable diet and adequate sleep. A good friend has her ‘relaxation station' which is a corner in her kitchen with a favourite cozy chair. She never does work there, she saves that corner for relax time.
* Be your own CEO
Rather than being at the mercy of events or their thoughts, whether at work or at home, calm people focus on being present in the here and now. In this way they are are the CEO of their lives, controlling what they can and letting go of what is beyond their control.
They find satisfaction and joy in the journey rather than being focussed on an eventual outcome.
They do so by doing the following:
- Keep Things in Perspective: They are realistic about what they can get done — think progress, not perfection.
- Organize: They delegate and plan strategically; they assign priorities and schedule specific times for specific activities on their to do list.
- Renegotiate: They renegotiate deadlines and priorities (sometimes possible — I can do this or that but not both by the existing deadlines. Ask what is boss’s priority)
- Stop Putting off: They identify where they are procrastinating and deal with it.
- Say it and mean it: They say no. Their time and energy are finite. They know that respect that. Even favourite things get turned down when necessary.
* Keep it simple
- Eliminate Multi-tasking: People who live with less stress focus on accomplishing one thing and then move on to the next.
- Reduce the number of decisions you make in a day. You can do so by adopting more routines such as wardrobe, breakfast, getting ready for work or bed.
* Make room
Decluttering makes a difference. You’ll feel lighter and be more efficient. Tips and tricks abound on You Tube on how to do this.
Non-stressed people are willing to unplug and be unavailable. They also manage their frequency on social media and time spent checking email.
Can you separate yourself from your phone? Put it in another room for 30 minutes? An hour?
Non-stressed people have looked at their contacts and they have eliminated or reduced interaction with the unhelpful or toxic.
* Make family, friendships and fun a priority
Spending time with family and friends reduces their stress and increases resilience. They also hug, cuddle their dog or cat…
* Get outside yourself
Shifting focus from yourself to help others, even something as simple as holding open a door, letting someone in ahead of you in line reduces stress. (But only if you don’t expect a ‘thank-you’ and then get annoyed if it doesn’t happen) Your altruism helps others, but the amazing pay-back for you in feel-good is just as big or even bigger.
4. Non-Stressed People Learn to Let It Out
People who manage their stress take full advantage of activities proven to reduce stress. Here is a sampling:
- Delight in hobbies, old or new.
- Whether you snicker or guffaw, laughter still is the best medicine. So pull up those hilareous videos on your phone and have at it.
- Smile. Yes. That simple. It works.
- Take a breather and unwind. No interruptions, just quietly sinking into a few heavenly, restful moments.
- Use your vacation time. Trains, planes and automobiles. Or, just relish the joy of spending it in your own back yard. In a block of time, or small forays, whatever you can make work with your schedule.
- Live a little! Run, dance, jump, ride, swim, stretch, or skip — something vigorous and lively.
- Luxuriate in a steamy bath.
- Shake it up. Try something fun and unexpected-a new restaurant, a new area of town, listening to a new artist.
- Explore something interesting (it might also be fun but need not be). You are recharging your system even if it isn’t ‘restful’.
- Feel your heart melt and your stress sink as you look at pictures or videos of pets or cute animals. (Who knew??? Those people with pet photos in their offices aren’t wrong)
- Recharge with a creative moment of Zen. Draw a zentangle (if you’re convinced you can’t draw you’re in for a big surprise with these!) www.tanglepatterns.com
- Relish listening to a playlist of favourite songs. And if it is relaxing music you're after, here is a mellow, zen experience for you.
- If stress is intense, hold an ice cube in your hand. The discomfort of the cold will distract and interrupt your stream of thoughts.
- Relax quotes are popular with many and may inspire you. Brainy Quotes has a great selection here.
Reclaim Feelings of Calm in Your Hectic Life
Once you take time to understand your relationship with stress then you are on your way to making stress work for you rather than against you.
Pick your favorite suggestion and get started today! Then once that’s a habit, add another technique. Soon you’ll be managing stress in a whole new way. Your stress meter won’t be shooting into the red. Instead you’ll feel empowered to tackle what comes your way and you’ll find yourself enthusiastic about starting your day and full of anticipation for all it has to offer.