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Continuing from the article – It’s Time To Reduce Your Stress – I’ve produced a series of practical tips for you to reduce your stress. I intended to include these in the original article about stress but they didn’t fit with the flow and made an already large article even longer. If you haven’t read the previous article I suggest you do that first before reading this article.
If you are feeling at a loss regarding how to reduce the stress in your life, here’s some techniques you can apply today. All of these tips I applied to my life and have had very positive outcomes.
This is probably the single most important change. If you aren’t exercising, and this means something rigorous that makes you breath heavy for a good 20+ minutes per day, then you need to add it to your life immediately. You will know when you have worked hard enough because after you feel absolutely buggered but the adrenaline and lovely endorphins are flowing.
I’m convinced that regular exercise is the key to happiness (along with all that self awareness stuff). It creates a natural high which you don’t pay for in the morning (once you get used to it) by feeling worse like you do from other, not-so-natural highs, such as drugs and alcohol. Exercise helps you sleep better, increases your overall energy, makes you chirpy, you think clearer, can work and play longer, increases your general confidence and best of all – it keeps you living longer with less trips to the doctor (I have never taken any antibiotics in my life!).
If you haven’t adopted a regular exercise pattern then this should be your number one priority. Make sure it’s regular – aim for every second day to start. You will start to enjoy it so much that you will want to do something everyday, in fact you will crave some form of exercise and it just won’t feel right not exercising.
Personally I get quite bored of one physical activity so I try and mix my week up. I do rollerblading, swimming, weight-training, walking, jogging, bike riding, tennis, golf and wait for it…bowling! (bowling really isn’t all the strenuous though). Once you get confident in your physical health you will be more eager to try other sports too.
If you are just beginning start with what you know you can do, perhaps walking at a fast pace to get your heart rate up, then up to some jogging bursts, then maybe try some tennis or whatever takes your fancy.
The best companion for exercise is music. Music soothes the soul as they say, and I’m sure I don’t have to convince you of the powers of music to reduce your stress. For me there are few better moments in life than a speedy skate with the Brisbane river and a marvelous sunset on my right side and some high energy music (I’m a trance fan) playing in my earbuds. This is when I experience the biggest high of my life. It’s better than sex (!) and just a tiny bit better than a two-fisted backhand down the line passing shot to win the point in a long tennis rally. Just.
This won’t work for you unless you are ready and open to it, but I find that studying self development materials, and more importantly understanding, believing and putting the concepts learnt into action, is one of the best ways to reduce your stress. You realize that your worries are pretty trivial and life isn’t that complex.
I’ve managed to almost eliminate stress from my life. My next goal is to work towards a Steve Pavlina style sustained joyful existence.
I have good control over my emotions (not perfect mind you). I have strong self awareness, but I’m still somewhat a slave to certain impulses, basic drives and emotional conditioning. I always feel stronger and more relaxed with the world after working on my self development. Often things tend to drop in importance, I gain a stronger grasp over my emotional state and everything becomes calmer after new insights are gained or concepts reinforced.
In your case you will be somewhere on the levels of consciousness scale, which will determine how you should go about raising your own self awareness and improving your self development. The fact that you are reading this article means you probably are open to self development concepts and have the potential to help yourself. Steve Pavlina’s blog is a great place to start.
Eating well benefits me in two ways – the obvious, it works because it’s healthy for your body, but also I find it healthy for my mind too. Knowing that I am eating well and sticking to certain self-imposed restrictions, means that I feel good mentally and physically about my food intake. This is great because these two areas of my life reinforce each other positively. When I am eating well I mentally pat myself on the back, have more confidence and find it easier to continue to eat well. When I break from this I feel worse mentally way before my body experiences any obvious negative effects from eating badly. I very quickly get back on track because my mind wouldn’t let me stray for too long. I guess you would call this self-discipline, but I call it maintaining peace of mind.
I don’t drink alcohol. I’ve had maybe the equivalent of half a cup of coke in my entire life. I drink only water, juices, milk and soy drinks. I strive for the five vegetables and two fruit servings per day rule. I’m not a vegetarian, I do enjoy meat even though I know it hurts animals – I’m morally against it but I have not decided to change my eating habits as a result.
I have been blessed with a metabolism that can deal with copious amounts of food without gaining weight – I certainly have never needed to diet to lose weight. Overall I believe in a balanced diet and mostly I eat what I like and I know is good for me – fruit, veges, nuts, breads, a little dairy, meat and plenty of water – always drink plenty of water. I have a solid love for chocolate too, but I have trouble eating excessive amounts nowadays because my conscious won’t let me get away with it, as compared to my fun-filled, chocolate overdosed younger days.
There’s enough information out there on eating right and I’m sure you know what parts of your own diet you would like to change. Eating right comes down to discipline. When you change something for the long enough it becomes a habit and you face resistance to change it. The trick is to make all your habits positive.
This is probably the single most abused aspect of peoples lives when it comes to creating stress because of our “rushed” lifestyle, which tends to encourage not sleeping. Many decide to sacrifice sleep for the sake of deadlines, work and social outings. Not sleeping for the sake of a work deadline is something you probably already aim to avoid, sometimes unsuccessfully, but the idea that missing sleep because of a great party or a big night out may not seem like such a bad idea to you. You are probably willing to make the sacrifice, potentially wiping out your next day from being excessively tired, in exchange for a fun-filled evening. Everyone else does it and you don’t want to miss out on all the fun.
For me the decision whether or not to sacrifice sleep has always been one of opportunity cost. What do I potentially lose as a result of not sleeping well? Should I stay up to keep working longer or to stay at a party longer knowing that I’ll end up being tired the next day?
Some people operate better on no sleep than others and I’ve generally been the kind of person who always needs at least 8 hours to function properly. I also don’t enjoy that feeling of lack of sleep so 9 times out of 10 choose to get a full night sleep even if that means missing out on some potential fun (the fun factor generally drops for me as I get tired anyway).
In your case you know your body best. The only suggestion I have is that if you currently feel less than 100% take a look at your sleeping patterns and see if you can find a correlation between feeling your best with a good night’s sleep. I’m sure you will find that sleep is as important as food and exercise and deserves just as much attention when it comes to reducing your stress.
I’m sure you have heard this before – balance is key. The three factors – sleep, food and exercise – need to be in harmony. Build a lifestyle that optimizes those three variables specifically for your body, mind and lifestyle, and you will find that the other aspects of your life tend to work out well too.