Stress affects us all. We feel stressed if things are not going well for us and feel anxious about our future. We also feel stressed if things are going well for us and feel fatigued by staying on top of things. Stress is not something that we can escape. It’s part of the pressure of living in a society where there are scarce resources, few safety nets, and frequent political, economic, social, and technological change. We all have developed our own way of dealing with stress, but not all ways are positive. Let’s first identify negative ways of dealing with stress before looking at 3 stress-reduction techniques to try.
How NOT to Deal with Stress
The stress response can easily be switched off with chemicals that change our brain chemistry. Drugs and alcohol are often used as a go-to source for an immediate shift from fatigued to fantastic. Often the only way to overcome a compulsive addiction is to go to a recovery center like harris house that will provide a structured addiction recovery process.
- Bottling it up:
By bottling up our emotions of apathy, grief, fear, lust, anger, and pride, we can manage to get control of a distressing situation. Although our troubling emotions appear to have gone, they have only disappeared out of sight, tucked away in our subconscious minds. Eventually, they will surface, often in a violent and disruptive way. We might, for instance, come down with a serious illness or behave in a destructive way.
- Acting out:
Besides suppressing our unpleasant emotions, another way of managing them is to express them, venting our anger and frustration out on others or ourselves. Usually, this expression is harmful. We may either harm ourselves or other people. We might harm ourselves by overindulgence in comfort foods or we might harm others through emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.
How to Manage Stress Better
- Borrowing spiritual practices:
There are many practices arising out of spiritual traditions that you can use in a secular way. Some common examples are meditation, mindfulness, and contemplation.
- When you meditate, you sit on a chair or on the floor with your back straight. You can then either try a focused or unfocused meditation. Focused meditation includes concentrating on a mantra, an image, or a sound. Unfocused meditation includes watching your breath, becoming aware of your inhalation and exhalation, or watching your thoughts, observing your thoughts with detachment as if they were clouds floating across the sky.
- When you practice mindfulness, you become intensely curious about a present moment activity, giving it all your attention. You stop reflecting on what happened in the past and stop anticipating what might happen in the future. If, for instance, you are walking, you try to notice everything around you, as well as notice your own breathing, heartbeat, and muscular tension.
- When you practice contemplation, you think about something as deeply as you can. This idea might be an affirmation or a passage from a philosophical or religious book. For instance, you might contemplate a passage from Marus Aurelius’ reflections on stoicism or you might contemplate a passage from the Bible, Torah or the Bhagavad Gita.
- Pleasant diversions:
A pleasant diversion can be any activity that takes your mind away from your daily stressors. It could be a recreational diversion like socializing with friends, going to a nice restaurant, or watching a movie. It could also be a constructive diversion like swimming or spending time on a favorite hobby.
- Rest and recuperation:
If you are moderately stressed out, then a hot bath, reading a pleasant book, going for a leisurely walk, or taking a long nap may be all that you’ll need to feel fully recharged. If, on the other hand, you are highly-stressed, then a vacation would probably work better in helping you feel calmer and more in control of your life.
Stress is not something that we can entirely avoid. Still, using stress-reduction techniques can help us mitigate stress, making difficult events appear more tolerable. A sensible goal is not to get rid of stress altogether and to remain calm and detached about everything happening around us regardless of how chaotic it might be. This is an unrealistic ideal. Instead, it is enough to strive to edge past distress toward eustress.