Not all stress is bad. A little bit of pressure can bring about great things, such as wonderful ideas, life changes that are of benefit, and trying harder at the things we want to accomplish.
But if stress is a problem in your life and you’d like to decrease its presence in your day-to-day existence, stop doing these things now.
Don’t Focus on What’s Wrong
This step is two-fold. When you feel stressed, it’s easy to focus in on the minutiae of a situation and mull it over and over in your mind. What ends up happening is that you are thinking mostly negative thoughts and very few positive ones.
The problem with this is that you must keep reliving whatever went wrong or whatever you’re stressing about. That’s like compounding the stress over and over. Unfortunately, that type of thinking can cloud your ability to see ways to fix the situation or move on from it, which is ultimately what will help the most.
The other side of this is that if you are focusing on the negative of a situation, you don’t have room to see the positive. And, again, that can cloud your view on how to fix the problem or reduce the stress.
Some techniques you can use to get out of a cycle of focusing on what went wrong are:
- Whenever you have a negative thought, force yourself to come up with two or three positives to offset it. Eventually, the positive thoughts will come to you first.
- Use meditation to free yourself of as many thoughts as possible. That can reset your mind, so you’re able to think of the positives.
- Do something you love and then spend a little time in gratitude about what you love about it.
- Write down some general things you’re grateful for. Then think about the situation at hand and try to extrapolate positives into it.
Finally, negative thinking can trigger your brain to react with stress hormones, making your stress worse. That’s because the brain interprets those bad thoughts as real, life-threatening events. So, learning to be optimistic can have long-term effects on your stress levels.
Don’t Put Off Exercise
Exercise is a potent stress-reliever, but when we’re under stress, it can be one of the first things we shove to the wayside. While it’s understandable that it happens, it’s possibly the worst thing you can do. Try to maintain some form of exercise at all times, whether it’s a full-blown workout or a simple walk after dinner or before breakfast.
The endorphins released during exercise help fight stress, but you also have time to clear your mind of negative thoughts and focus on your body or your environment, and that ties into the section above. Exercising gives you time to dissociate from concentrating on an adverse event or situation.
Don’t Say Yes to Everything
When you’re under stress (and perhaps when you aren’t), it’s essential to be meticulous about your schedule. Don’t overburden yourself with places to be and things to do. That only increases the sense that you’re always behind, always forgetting something, and always in trouble.
If there’s a particular thing you’re saying yes to that you notice increases your stress, cut it out of your life if it’s possible. Pare down your schedule until it’s manageable and includes plenty of free time to do things that help you destress.
Don’t Keep Toxic Friendships
This might be the hardest thing on the list. Friendships are lovely, stress-fighting relationships, but sometimes they can also add to stress. If you have a friendship that adds stress to you once in a while, that’s not necessarily a reason to cut it off, but if the majority of interactions you have with someone make you feel bad or stressed, you should consider decreasing or eliminating your contact with that friend.
Doing so doesn’t have to mean that person is at fault or that the two of you didn’t do enough for the friendship. It simply means the way the you are interacting during this season of your lives is more harmful than helpful to you. With gratefulness for the friendship and how it added to your life in the past, it’s okay to gently let it go.
Don’t Let Good Sleeping and Eating Habits Fall by the Wayside
Of course, if you’re feeling stressed and wish to indulge in a sweet treat or a late night watching of a feel-good movie, that might be just what you need to feel better and move on. But if you’re chronically stressed, don’t turn to comfort food and late nights as long-term coping mechanisms. If you do, you’re only feeding the stress.
Good sleep quality and quantity is essential to maintaining an even-keeled mood. And food is incredibly important too. The antioxidants in fresh fruits and vegetables are powerful inflammation-fighters, and that can help the stress-fighting feel-good hormones do their jobs.
Additionally, healthy gut flora is crucial for maintaining good mental health, and when you eat sugar and processed foods, that gut flora can be depleted.