We live in a day like no other: Everything is easy. Everything is accessible.
So why — in the name of all that is Apple — are we so stressed out all of the time? I don’t know for sure, but I have a few ideas.
Stress is a health epidemic and we need to start fighting it.
So, I’ve complied a list of six easy ways to reduce your stress. Added bonus: You don’t even need to spend $48 at Whole Foods on essential oils and flaxseed!
I’ll admit, I’m certainly no expert, but I can tell you is what I’ve learned from my own experience.
Let the stress reducing begin!
1. Mind rest, not mindless.
Recharging your brain doesn’t always mean plopping on the couch in front of something mindless. (Mindlessness is not next to godliness.)
In fact, a recent study showed that having too many distracting screens in front of your face at once can actually lower your IQ. Damaging your mind will only add to your stress.
So, rather than find mindless activities, find something that fills your mind with quiet.
Walk outside and listen; look at art. Access the abstract parts of your brain that have been sleeping and give the analytical part of your brain a chance to chill.
Expert Nugget #1: "Don't underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering." — A.A. Milne
2. Body health = brain health.
I don’t care how you feel about gluten-free this, paleo that or grass-fed whatever. You don’t have to be a health nut to be health conscious.
I don’t shop exclusively at Whole Foods, and I certainly have failed miserably at swearing off Taco Bell (curse you, XXL Grilled Stuffed Burrito).
Say what you will about eating healthy, but it has a direct impact on how you feel about yourself. How you feel about yourself also has a huge influence on your mood.
When you’re feeling good about yourself, your other stresses won’t seem quite as bad.
Expert Nugget #2: “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” — John F. Kennedy
3. Negativity is a choice.
It’s a poor choice that has become increasingly easy to make the more anonymous our interactions with people become.
Road rage has us yelling at the old lady who didn’t see the light turn green right away.
Online forums have us arguing with Internet trolls as if we’re defending a dissertation on which our lives depend.
The simple solution?
Learn these two words and make them your mantra when pointless things have you turning the Hulk-variety shade of green: “Oh well.” Really, it’s that simple.
I’ve become so much calmer and less stressed as I've learned to say those two words more regularly. Even if you don’t mean it, say it anyway. Training your brain to push out the negativity will eventually make it a more natural first reaction.
Expert Nugget #3: "What's gone — and what's past help — should be past grief." — William Shakespeare
4. Read a book.
“Oh, but I don’t have time for that! I have laundry and dinner and the dog need his medicine and —” newsflash: If you distill all of the time you spend on social media and watching TV and cut that time in half, you’ll have more than enough time.
I really believe that feeding your brain written words on a page is extremely important. Often, when we work, our minds are juggling so many different things at once.
We move between cell phone, laptop, desktop, conversations, Facebook, etc. We never really slow down enough during the day to focus on just one thing for any length of time.
Reading a book forces you to do that. Stop. Focus. Read something with some depth and do not check your phone after every three sentences (because that defeats the whole purpose).
Stop and focus on one thing for a few minutes. You’ll be amazed at how calming it is.
Expert Nugget #4: “Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason, mastery demands all of a person.” — Albert Einstein
5. Don’t stress until there’s something to stress about.
Modern technology primarily centers on making everything in our lives easier and everything we want more accessible.
Because of this, we have become increasingly incapable of dealing with life when things don’t go our way.
If we could simply take a step back and look at our life's big picture when something is causing us stress, our stressor would probably seem much smaller and inconsequential than we let it become.
Some things in life are worth being concerned about, but I would venture to say most of the things we let stress us out aren’t so important. Don’t stress until there’s actually something to stress about.
Expert Nugget #5: “One of the many reasons for the bewildering and tragic character of human existence is the fact that social organization is at once necessary and fatal. Men are forever creating such organizations for their own convenience and forever finding themselves the victims of their home-made monsters.” — Aldous Huxley
6. Make something new.
It could honestly be anything. The point here is to see something from conception to completion.
No task lists, nothing unfinished, no lingering things left undone.
Cook something new, paint something weird or write a crazy, nonsensical story. There is something incredibly cathartic in the act of creating.
Expert Nugget #6: “Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE.” — Joss Whedon
Are you catching the theme here?
The point is to throw the to-do lists out of your head and stop the multitasking. Slow down and see the bigger picture.
At a certain point, all of our multitasking, worrying and planning ahead crosses the line from productivity to productive paralysis.
It’s not just about eliminating stress to make you feel better; it’s about making you be better. All of that stress is eating away at your mental and physical health.
If you won’t take it from me, let me leave you with one more expert nugget from someone who knows a thing or two about overcoming obstacles that put most of our “stressful” circumstances to shame:
“Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.” — Helen Keller