Here’s the thing about stress. It just seems to find us, and it doesn’t matter whether the threat is real or imagined because the physiological reaction will always be the same: increased cortisol, adrenaline, blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and inflammation. Oh also: sleep deprivation, weight gain, and accelerated hair loss (or gain, in places you don’t want it, like the face). To name just a few.
Here are 6 things to keep in mind when the waters get rough:
1. Ask yourself: is this urgent or important?
In his 1967 booklet on time management, Charles E. Hummel stated that we need to set priorities and distinguish between the urgent and the important. Sometimes they're the same thing, for instance, when your boss schedules a sudden meeting or the mortgage needs to get paid. Often, however, the urgent is urgent to THEM—but not you, such as when someone demands that you immediately return his call. If you constantly give in, you’ll just end up with a slew of demands, unfinished projects and a lot of frustration.
2. De-clutter your space.
I realize this is kind of a chicken-or-egg thing, because I tend to avoid paperwork (read: bills) when I’m stressed. On the other hand, that probably just adds to the problem. Take a few minutes each day to tidy your desk, or pay just one bill in the morning, and your stress levels will thank you.
Turning that frown upside down has a lot of benefits. First of all, tension shows up in our faces, making us look worn and overwhelmed, so we’ll automatically look younger and more attractive with a smile. Second, it’s contagious; how can you stay in a bad mood when you’re smiling? Third, it lowers blood pressure and increases immunity.
4. Turn off the gadgets and do something fun.
Never, even for one moment, minimize the importance of self-care. If you’re having an awful day, you probably won’t be productive anyway so stop, breathe deeply and, if you can, turn off the computer and go for a walk, stretch and clear your head.
5. Get enough sleep.
Experts recommend 7.5 hours a night, and with good reason. A few years ago, the Archives of Internal Medicine gave 153 people a common cold by nose drop. Those who got at least seven hours of shut-eye per night were 300% less likely to catch a cold. So here's the bottom-line: Sleep deprivation leads to exhaustion, which can lead to chronic illnesses and injury—and even possibly make you gain weight since sleep has a direct effect on 3 hormones that regulate appetite. Do you really need something else to get stressed about?
6. Keep it in perspective.
Winston Churchill had a saying: "The pessimist finds difficulty in every opportunity, but the optimist finds opportunity in every difficulty." As I wrote this, someone posted a message that said, “I think Life hates me today.”
Yeah, we all have those days, but there are two ways to think about this: First, nothing stays the same for very long, so you’ll get a fresh start in a few hours. Second: what is the Universe trying to tell you? Is there something to learn? Can you create some value out of this?