When I ask people how they’re doing, I’m most often told that they are feeling stressed. They have so much going on in their life, time is moving fast, days seem to run on autopilot, and they don’t know how to reduce their stressors. It is important to recognize that external stressors will always be in our life. We need to understand the perspective that these situations and circumstances are almost always outside of us, and thus, out of our control.
Learning how to reduce stressors isn’t about some magic cure-all that completely eliminates stress from your life – it deals mostly with perception and the science of being aware of your thoughts. Our awareness and perception of these stressors is one of the most important ways to manage them. In this article, I am going to talk about reducing stressors by creating boundaries and recognizing when changes need to be made in your life. I am also going to discuss reducing stressors by taking care of yourself and being proactive so that you can handle stress better, as well as how to shift your perspective. Many of the practices that need to be put into place to reduce stress actually deal with shifting perspectives. In other words, your situations aren’t what is causing you stress, it’s your thoughts – and thus, your reactions to those situations.
Awareness & Perception of Stressors
Our stressors are almost always external. They are usually not in our control, and that in itself is a stressor for many people. We need to let go of the desire to be in control of everything. In order to reduce our stressors, we need to be aware of what is triggering us to feel stressed, and why. When you can identify the external stressors in your life, you can prepare to manage them better and work through them. However, if you think of something as “stressful” before you even experience it, you are programming this thought into your mind and creating stress before it even occurs.
Our perceptions of stressors also come from our thought programming. Society today believes everything is stressful, and everyone is stressed. It’s so extreme these days that you may even hear people almost bragging about how busy and stressed out they are. This is certainly not something to brag about, and it’s not healthy for our mind or body! Our immune system is not designed to be under stress 24/7. In fact, living in this state for a prolonged period of time leaves us prone to illness.
Our perceptions of our circumstances and situations create our thoughts, which then creates our feelings of stress. All circumstances and situations are neutral until we decide to assign a feeling to it. This is the most important piece of becoming aware of our stressors, and being able to take a step back before immediately reacting with thoughts and feelings of stress. So, understand that the universe is just unfolding, everything just is. Whatever stress we may feel is because we are assigning negative thoughts and feelings to our circumstances and situations.
Very often, people will have feelings of stress when they don’t set boundaries. Setting boundaries in your life – whether it is boundaries with your job, someone in your life, or something else – if you are feeling stressed because someone is overstepping and taking advantage of you, you need to set boundaries and stick to them. You may need to do some work to understand that some of your stress may be coming from not setting these boundaries. This lack of boundaries allows and enables others to overstep, and put us in situations that we are uncomfortable with.
You have to recognize and take ownership of the fact that you and only you are in control of yourself and in control of your reactions. When you recognize that you are reacting with thoughts and feelings of stress without even really thinking about it, it is important to really think about what is going on in your life and if you can change your perspective, or if you need to make larger changes.
If you don’t love your job and believe that you will always be stressed, find a new job. If you don’t love your relationship and believe that it will always cause you stress, step back from that relationship. If your friends cause you to feel stressed, you may need to make better friendships. Oftentimes, people feel stressed because they feel stuck and they don’t know where to go. Making changes in your life and getting out of your comfort zone can be challenging, but they are necessary to you being able to live a better life. This is also where a life coach can come in, as a life coach assists you with finding the direction you need – helping you to identify where you’d like to make changes in your life and becoming your accountability partner to guide you on this journey.
Proactively Manage Stress and Stressors
Your self-care routine is crucial to managing your stress levels. You have to define how you take care of yourself! Experiment and find what works for you. Unfortunately, society has identified grabbing a beer or a glass of wine as something to manage stress, which in reality, these beverages will only harm your nervous system and create more feelings of stress. Alcohol also plays a role in weight gain, low mood, and imbalanced hormone levels (including your stress hormone, cortisol).
When you feel triggered, become aware of your breath. When you are stressed, you will almost always take shorter breaths, and they will start to become shallow – your body will begin to tense up because you are not giving your body the oxygen that it needs. Pause and take slow, deep breaths – this will tell your body and your mind that everything is okay. This also allows you to take some time before reacting and responding to a stressor. This type of grounding and breathwork is very simple and doesn’t need to be done for long, but it’s incredibly effective as it works to put the heart and body back into rhythm, which restores your nervous system and immune system function. Bringing your body back to homeostasis through breathwork has profound benefits on mood, sleep, weight, and so much more.
Some amazing ways to proactively manage stress are daily meditation and breathwork to bring your body and nervous system to homeostasis. Daily exercise will also create those endorphins and allow you to better manage your reactions to stressors. Eating good, whole, nutritious foods allows your mind to be in a better state. Getting enough sleep is also crucial to your ability to manage your reactions – never forget that the sleep is the time we give our bodies to heal and restore! When you prioritize proactively managing your stress, your life will drastically change.
If you would like more resources for managing stress, or would like an accountability partner in managing your stress, let’s chat!