6 Ways to Overcome Chronic Everyday Stress!
Stress is a modern epidemic, there’s no doubt about that. There is an ardent need to fix the problem of stress, and yet it is an inseparable part of our life. In fact, majority of research in the area shows that the invisible stress of everyday life is far more dangerous than one-off periods of acute, recognizable stress.
How then to counter this invisible enemy? By re-organizing your life and practicing healthy habits, we say.
Simplify your life
Much of our everyday stress stems from a multitude of focus areas in life. Our lives are more connected than ever, and this seemingly convenient fact actually contributes to chronic stress. We bring our work to vacations, and family problems to workplaces, and in trying to deal with everything at once we end up complicating things further.
Simplify your life. Assess your capabilities and let of opportunities in necessary. Refrain from multitasking, rather complete one task before moving on to another. Separate the different areas of your life – work, family, friends, organizations etc – and maintain that separation strictly.
Switch from a survival mindset to a solution mindset
Solve your problems. Most of us go through our lives by surviving through multiple crises. In many cases, these problems persist because we are afraid to make the necessary changes to solve them. For example, many couples stay on in deeply unhappy marriages because they are afraid of societal judgment and change in living patterns. So we survive through these problems and everyday our stress increases.
Ditch the survival mode and adopt a solution mindset. Keep in mind that surviving through ongoing problems will only compound your stress in the long run. So when you encounter a problem, put your energy on fixing it rather than surviving it.
Mindfulness techniques are not just recipes for calmness of mind. They actually help redress a crucial symptom of chronic stress – ‘zoning out’. In dealing with stressful situations every day, we tend to go on autopilot and stop paying attention to our surroundings. This actually contributes to changing and hardwiring the neural pathways in our brain in a permanent threat-response mindset.
Mindfulness techniques like meditation re-wire your brain into living in the moment and train it to focus anew. They improve both focus and long-term memory, thereby better equipping us to deal with our everyday stress situations.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Get a good night’s sleep. Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day. Get some exercise, even if just walking a mile or two. Eat full meals and at regular intervals, and avoid junk food like sugary snacks, processed meat, and fried chips. Basically, follow a normal healthy and balanced lifestyle. The habits that are toxic for your general health are fertile ground for chronic stress also. On the other hand, healthy habits like proper sleep and exercise can reverse the negative effects of stress. Deep sleep is conducive for memory-consolidation, and exercise for dopamine generation that increases our motivation and learning capacities.
Create a support system
Connecting with other humans is an evolutionary need of our species, one which we are increasingly moving away from. Loneliness and isolation is one of the biggest triggers of stress; we tend to feel more exposed to danger and threats if we feel we are facing them alone.
Make time for your family and friends, and invest energy and thought in building lasting relationships and not just casual acquaintances. The feeling of bonding and being with close ones also increase the levels of Oxytocin in our brain. This neurotransmitter helps us build intimacy and social bonding, and creates a sense of calm and security in our minds. These are powerful antidotes to stress.
Identify and avoid stress-triggers
Identifying stressors was easier in the dawn of humanity; you saw a lion, you ran for your life – pretty simple. But life in the 21st century is not so straight-forward. Oftentimes we encounter stressors that we do not recognize as such. But they trigger the threat response in our brain and increase stress, so it is important to recognize them.
This can come in the form of even certain friends, co-workers, or even family members, whose behaviors make you feel insecure in some way. Or it can be certain situations. Be mindful of your reactions to different people and things in your life, and when you identify the stressors do everything to stay away or rectify the situation. Talking to a friend triggers feelings of incompetence? Minimize contact. A particular task is stressing you out? Get someone to help you with it.
Stress is easy to ignore, for it is happening inside your mind. But wishing away stress won’t stop its negative effects from wrecking your life. Being aware, identifying problem areas, and taking positive steps to rectify them are the only ways to prevent chronic stress from affecting you. Start doing that today!