An article recently posted on nydailynews.com stated that in collected data from 1983 to 2009 found that people’s self-reported stress levels have increased by 10-30% in the last three decades, and to be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if that is even higher now in 2017.
Stress has become such a normalized part of our life that many can no longer differentiate the difference between good stress and harmful stress.
So, what exactly is good and bad stress?
Good stress is something that motivates us to do better, it can often help us to accomplish greater things. Good stress is you prepping for a speech, a deadline, even the need to make a necessary decision.
Whereas bad stress can often lead us down a winding road of helplessness and despair.
Bad stress that is ongoing can often lead to health issues that impact our immune system, as our bodies never seem to get out of the fight-flight-or-freeze response, leaving us on high alert. And this, long-term, creates heavily impacting stress on our bodies. Bad stress can be things like staying in an unhealthy relationship long-term, living with a difficult person, continual high paced (stressful) workplace, taking on too many things and continuously unable to complete them. That continual saying “yes”, when you should be saying “no”.
And our love and logic to not want to “give up” or seem weak, can often unnecessarily force us into space or relationship that just isn’t healthy: body, mind, and soul. And the next thing we know we are swimming in a sea of bad stress and that bad stress is, well, stressing us out.
I myself have found myself living a life of high stress-bad stress, and I’m a yoga teacher, teaching others how to live a lower stress lifestyle. Taking on too many things, trying to please everyone else, neglecting my personal health and self-care-I was a wreck. I had become so immune to this type of lifestyle, the moments I wasn’t fueled by stress, I felt stressed out due to the lack of urgency in my life. I didn’t even know what living free of this prison was even like anymore, and this prison slowly began to turn my positive outlook into a sour, bitter angry attitude because I cornered myself into a room filled with stress and the thought of trying to get out was even more stressful.
Living a life out of balance and out of tune with my own inner needs, as I continually put the needs and demands of others’ lives before mine- with no entertainment that my needs might be more important, has on more than one occasion, pushed me to a breaking point.
Creating check-in’s and identifying your triggers or point to not cross, has helped me, and can dramatically help you to decrease unwanted stress.
But in the event, you are just not in place to make such strides-
Here are 5 ways to bring more Zen into your life.
- Take a real break. O.K., people, I’m not talking a break where you are then trolling social media, as that can create stress from the surrounding social pressures you unknowingly take on. I’m talking about you unplugging and stepping outside or going for a quick five or ten-minute walk, a quick game of go fish with the kids, sitting still for five minutes and engaging in prayer, meditation, a mind-body activity. Try doing something for five to fifteen minutes that requires very little of you other than for you to just be yourself, and be completely present. (Please take notice any unwillingness to take part in such an action, you may be stuck in a tornado of bad stress and stressed about stepping out).
- Hide your electronic devices. Like I said in the above, put your phone away. We live in a world where being over connected is a huge epidemic and is creating separation anxiety in many teens and young adults. Just the thought of silencing your phone where you might miss that next “bing” is troubling. Where kids (and yes adults too) don’t even know how to creatively play and explore or have no longer learned how to be ok with doing nothing, or being alone. The only way to break that cycle and bring more Zen into your life is to put the electronic device down and slowly back away. Have a no phone rule at the dinner table, and when talking to another in person, pocket your device and keep your hands away. And at friendly gatherings, parties, and events, just say no to that happiness sucking device. You’ll be glad you did.
- Eat food and enjoy it. I’m not talking plopping down on the couch with a bowl of ice cream and mindless television watching (although sometimes warranted). But rather, I’m speaking of having a meal (maybe with a loved one) and sitting down to eat. No distractions, no answering any calls, and taking a few deep breaths when you realize how stressful doing something like this feels (the art of doing only one thing, or nothing). Take inventory of taking small bites, enjoying the smell, texture, and taste of each bite and being thankful for the opportunity to eat such amazing nourishing food. Remember the days were mom and dad wouldn’t allow you to get up from the table to answer the phone during dinner-lets go back to that.
- Be thankful. A more grateful attitude can often lead to a better outlook on life. And when you have that, the rat race begins to slow down, and the unnecessary rushing around in hopes that it will make you feel more productive can begin to fall away. An attitude of gratitude can help you to see challenges more as opportunities and become more willing to pass the gratitude along to others to share in the wealth. Ever have someone buy your coffee for you? Pay it forward and share in the gratitude.
- Create guiltless “me” time. In a world fueled by the illusion that the more we do, the busier we are, that then the more successful we will become, has shown me that we desperately need a window of time where we can simply stop and slow down guilt free. Now the kicker here is you may have to ask for this time, even schedule in this time like you would a dentist appointment, and say no to other things to say yes to yourself. And when I first started to do this I felt guilty, but I did it anyway, and I quickly saw the results of “me time” pay off big. I was less stressed, my stomach was no longer in knots, and my temperament took a great turn.
Not all stress is bad, as good stress does assist us in moving in a beneficial direction, helping to further ourselves on many levels. Often, this leads us to act in positive ways necessary for our basic survival-like eating when we are hungry and sleeping when we are tired. But unless we recognize that we have the power to make small changes that can have a big impact, we will easily continue to slide down the slippery slope of stressful unhappiness cloaked in an allusion of what we think is necessary to be happy.
The truth is, we can be happy anywhere, it’s just the question of what we are willing to do to get there.
Hopefully, these five tips can help you begin to walk down that path a little less stressed and a bit more joyous.
And if you are looking for another leap forward away from bad stress and into a place of health and happiness in less than an hour a day. Join me in my three-week mini course Clearing Mental Clutter, where I have perfected a simple process for you begin to make those small but vital changes to your life without breaking the bank and without the need for a babysitter.
Using the HOPE Process’s three B’s: Breath, Body, Belief I take you through simple steps that you can implement into each day to make changes that have a big impact on your all-over health, happiness, and well-being. Because who doesn’t want to shed a little mental clutter and stress for happiness and success?