The world is a very stressful place to live in for most people and I find that most people don’t even realise how dangerous constant stress is for their health and wellbeing. I see people all the time who have become sick because of stress and it is well known that stress is the cause of many illnesses from minor colds, stomach issues and skin rashes to more serious illnesses like cancer and heart disease.
Yet most of us, myself included, don’t take it seriously until our bodies say ‘stop it. I’ve had enough. You’re killing me.’ Until then, all the things that make us stressed, our jobs, bills and keeping up with the joneses, are far more important than our health.
Reducing stress doesn’t mean you have to give up your hopes and dreams and move to a little cottage a the end of a country lane. You can still have a great career, big goals and do all the things you want to do now, you just do them with more joy and less stress. Here’s how to achieve that:
- Own your stress. It doesn’t matter who or what situation is making you stressed, the stress is yours, not theirs. It is fully your responsibility, not theirs. This might sound harsh but actually, it is good news because it means that you are fully in control of it, not the other person or the situation. So you have the power to say ‘enough is enough’ and find a way to change the situation yourself, rather than wait for others to change it (because they won’t). It might seem like there’s nothing you can do but you can always change something, often the first step to a bigger change is simply changing your attitude and making the decision to take full responsibility for your life.
- Let go of things you cannot control. Recently someone who’s been struggling to cope in a stressful job for years told me that his job is always going to be stressful because so many things are outside of his control. Many people are in this situation and it’s crazy because things that are outside of your control are not your responsibility, you can do nothing about them. They are going to happen the way they are going to happen whether you stress or not so your stress is a total waste of energy and time. Look at the things that make you stressed, identify the ones you cannot control – work issues you can’t control, the economy or things in the news – acknowledge that they’re not your responsibility and that your stress only hurts you and then let go.
- Understand that stress is fear. What are you afraid of? Not having enough money, not being able to do everything, not being good enough, being late…. Why are you afraid of it? Has it happened before? If it’s never happened before, why would it happen this time? Often people talk about how stressed they are as if it was something to be proud of, maybe it makes them feel important, but when you see stress for what it really is, fear, you realise it’s actually nothing to brag about but rather an issue to overcome because who wants to live in fear?
- Learn to not care what others think. We live in a world where people want to be perceived successful, in other words, where the thing that matters the most is what other people think about you rather than what you think. Success for many is equal to receiving recognition from others, being known, rather than really knowing your true self and living an authentic life. An authentic life is always filled with more joy and inner peace than stress and worry. An awful lot of stress is actually fear of what others might think of us, fear of being judged by others. It’s not really the failure itself that scares you, in fact it can be quite liberating as you are letting go of something that’s not working and getting a chance to start again. What is scary and stressful for most people is being seen as a failure.
- Learn to love yourself. I don’t think there are many issues in life that can’t be made better with a good dose of unconditional self-love. Love is the opposite of fear and it is much more powerful than fear. When you learn to love yourself for who you really are in your heart, not for what you do or what others think of you, you will understand that none of the things that make you stressed really matter. Self love is also the key to learning to not give a f*!$k what others think of you and having the courage to be your authentic self. You could lose your job and everything you own but you still wouldn’t think of yourself as any less valuable or worthy than you were before because those things don’t define you, you do.
There are also many practical tools you can use to control stress, such as meditation, good diet, exercise, sleep, being organised and taking time out but your aim should be not to just control stress but to not let it get to you in the first place.