Stress can cause health problems, reduce productivity and lead to bad decisions. But mentally strong people use these 6 key strategies to stay calm.
We all know that stress can be bad for us and is one of the leading causes of many health problems we experience. But stress can also put a strain on our relationships and decrease our performance in every area of our lives. However, a certain level of stress is actually essential to our productivity and wellbeing. Stress isn’t all bad, it’s prolonged stress that can be damaging.
So how do we make sure we only experience good intermittent stress and avoid the long-term stress that leads to health, wellbeing and relationship problems? Well here are six strategies that mentally strong people use to help stay calm under pressure.
1. They practice gratitude
Many studies have found benefits to being grateful and appreciating what we already have. When we focus on what we lack, we feel negative, however, focusing on our blessings helps us to stay positive. Developing a practice of gratitude can transform the way we think about our lives. A practice might involve writing down three things you are grateful for every day in a journal. Or it might be everyone at the dinner table stating what they are grateful for before eating. Find a gratitude practice that fits your life and then do it every day.
2. They choose to focus on positive thoughts
Because constant stress is what causes the damage, we can interrupt it by taking time out to focus on something positive. When we are in a spiral of stress, anxiety and negative thinking this can be hard. However, taking a moment to think about one thing that is positive about your life, from a relationship that makes you happy to the pretty flowers outside the kitchen window, you give you a break from stress. Doing this regularly breaks the constant stress and shifts us into healthier, intermittent stress instead.
3. They breathe deeply
This has become such a cliché when we are under stress that we sometimes think it is too simple. We think, ‘Taking a deep breath won’t help me cope with this huge pile of stuff I have to get through,’ but actually, breathing is powerful and can really help us stay calm. When we are stressed, our body goes into a fight/flight response flooding us with stress hormones. When we take a few deep breaths, we signal to the body that there is nothing to fear and we go into rest/digest mode instead. This lowers our heart rate and helps our muscles relax. It is easier to think clearly and make good decisions from this place of calm.
4. They take regular breaks
Being in a state of high alert all the time can mean we are constantly stressed. Our bodies need down time in order to keep healthy. When we are stressed, our bodies cannot digest our food properly, or make essential repairs. We sometimes treat our bodies as if they were machines. Instead, we should think of them more like we would a world-class racehorse that needs regular exercise but also good nutrition and rest to stay functioning at its best. Taking a break and getting enough sleep doesn’t make us weak – it is essential to staying strong. Being rested also improves our performance and decision making.
In Sweden, many companies are switching to a six-hour workday, because they find that just as much gets done in this time as in eight or more hours. It also means their employees get enough time to rest and enjoy hobbies so they are happier at work. Being busy is an epidemic in many societies at the moment and people wear their busyness like a badge of honor. But being too busy all the time actually means we are stressed out, less productive and storing up health and relationship problems for the future. It can be hard, when you are stuck in a culture of busyness, to be the one who chooses to take a lunch break or go home on time, but it is worth it and our increased productivity will speak for itself.
5. They reframe their perspective
While we cannot control outside events, we can control how we react to them. We can choose to reframe the situation. For example, when we feel like everything is going wrong in our lives we can consciously choose to look for the things that are going right. When we get some perspective we feel less overwhelmed and more able to deal with the things that are actually going wrong. We can also choose how we react when things don’t go our way. It’s rare that stress and worry will help. For example, if you are stuck in traffic on the way to an important meeting, stressing out won’t help. It would be more beneficial to stay calm, call ahead and explain the situation. Then when we arrive we may be late, but at least we are not late, sweaty, and missing half our hair.
6. They ask for help
Many of us believe that asking for help is a weakness. We think that people will think less of us if we can’t manage everything all on our own. But actually working together and supporting each other makes mores sense. When we share problems and activities, we can benefit from the skills of other people and they can benefit from our talents. It makes sense to pool our resources.
Asking for help in a situation also allows someone to give us a more objective interpretation of the events. Often when we are in the middle of a difficult situation we can’t see the wood for the trees. Someone else might quickly be able to see the best solution. Asking for help can be scary sometimes, but it benefits the asker and the asked. People love to be asked for their help and advice. It makes them feel valued and boosts their self-esteem. So asking for help is a win-win situation.
So, when you are feeling stressed, take a moment to try one or more of these strategies to stay calm. As well as helping you to be more productive and make better decisions in the short term, you will be benefiting your long term health.
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