Since stress is a killer, it's vitally important to practice the following healthy ways of avoiding stress in your life, and of managing stress in loving ways.
Stress activates the fight or flight mechanism, where the blood that's normally in your brain, organs and immune system is directed into the arms and legs, readying you to fight or flee. Chronic stress keeps the body in this state, which eventually has a major effect on the ability of your immune system to keep you healthy.
Here are some tips to manage stress:
1. Don't be so hard on yourself.
Self-judgment causes much stress. It's easy for many of us to blame outside situations for our stress, such as others' rude, blaming or angry behavior, or things not going our way. But the truth is that most stress is caused by how we treat ourselves. If you start to notice what stresses you, you'll discover that judging yourself is a major cause of anxiety and stress.
Try practicing being compassionate toward yourself for being human, rather than judging yourself or others for mistakes or failures, or for others' rejecting behavior toward you.
2. Lovingly let an argument go until you can come back to the conflict when you're in a calmer place.
Being around angry, blaming and controlling people is stressful, but are you exacerbating the stress by arguing, defending or explaining yourself, or attacking back? This only serves to cause more stress. When you can, it's far better to disengage from a fight or argument and come back to it when both of you are calm.
When you lovingly disengage, you are walking away to take care of yourself — not to punish the other person (which would actually cause more stress).
3. Don't be addicted to worrying!
Do you believe that, somehow, worrying will give you control over bad things not happening? For many, this is a major false belief that causes much stress. Instead, practice developing your faith that you are always being supported in the highest good of your soul's journey.
4. Practice mindful breathing instead of shallow breathing.
Learning to mindfully breathe all the way down into your stomach, rather than shallowly breathing into your upper chest, can release much stress.
5. Take some time on a daily basis to process your feelings.
When you avoid your feelings by staying in your head, judging yourself, turning to various addictions, or making someone else responsible for your feelings, you are rejecting and abandoning yourself — which creates stress.
Getting mindfully and compassionately present with your feelings takes away the aloneness of self-abandonment and creates a sense of inner-calm.
6. Seek to understand your feelings, instead of trying to repress them.
Learn what your feelings are trying to tell you, which can create immediate relief from stress. Trying to control your feelings by any of the above ways of abandoning yourself just creates more stress.
7. Accept that you don't control of the actions of others.
Much stress comes from trying to control what we can't control. This is what the Serenity Prayer is all about:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Helplessness over others and outcomes is a hard feeling to feel, so instead, you might find yourself trying to control others and outcomes — which you can't do, and which creates much stress. Compassionately accepting your helplessness over others and outcomes creates serenity.
8. Practice gratitude. What are you grateful for?
Rather than relieving stress, complaining actually creates more stress. Instead of complaining, try focusing on what you are grateful for. You will find that heart-felt gratitude immediately relieves stress. Many of you who are reading this have much to be grateful for. You are likely not starving, not on the streets, not fighting a war. Try being grateful for the everyday things that many people on this planet don't have.
Laughter relieves stress. Even in the midst of life's challenges, it's important to find ways to relieve stress with laughter.
I'd love your comments about other ways you've found to relieve stress. What works for you?