We live the life that our thoughts create for us: a specific event becomes “stressful” in relation to the subjective meaning we give to it. Now, let’s be honest: perfection does not exist, and still often the pressure we perceive is coming from ourselves and our thoughts. Working on the flow of thoughts crossing our minds will allow us to address and improve the level of stress perceived.
Anything we do to keep a healthy lifestyle is dramatically influencing the level of energy we have available to manage stress, however our thoughts are the final key to regain control over our stress levels.
Let me share a few simple strategies to get in control of the direction of our thoughts. Not all suggestions work for anyone and maybe you can consider trying only a few – just find “the” right one!
- Focus on the moment. Rushing from a task to the next without even closing the previous one is keeping our brain constantly on high alert. This is the side effect of multitasking. In the medium run constant multitasking is proved to worsen our average level of attention and therefore make us LESS productive and – ultimately – less in control. Furthermore wondering our mind around makes us less happy than when we stay in the moment. (see TED video) Staying in the moment allows us to really appreciate the best of what we have, not look at what we miss. Staying in the moment, enables us to see the positive side of a situation more easily.
I confess I am multitasking-dependent and I am still training this point, however I indeed see the benefit of it. Focusing 1 hour to write an article is not only more productive, it is even more fulfilling!
- Declutter. Reduce any physical distraction element around you and reduce the mess level. This will help you to focus, to get things done and to reduce the multitasking attitude. I do work much better when my desk is clean. I do work much better and more concentrated, if I stop procrastinating – at the end leaving on the to do list multiple small or big items is a way to messing up our living space. The sense of peace and accomplishment once we close tasks will influence remarkably the stress level.
- Manage your worries. Give a name to what concerns you. Define the facts. Then consider: what is the worst that can happen? What is the probability that it will really happen? What can you do to prepare for it? Then do it. As you do “something” about it, you will be regaining control over events instead of them controlling your thoughts. As I am very rational, this approach helps me a lot – bringing back how I perceive a situation to a probability event, already gives me the feeling I can manage my stress using quality management tools I feel comfortable with.
- Put things in perspective. Life is too short to get busy with nonsense. So any time something makes our stress increasing, pause for a moment and think: am I paying too much attention and energy to this situation/ person/ event in relation to its impact in my life?
For example: stuck in traffic… I can already foresee I will be 10 min late in the office. I start getting tense, I am expected to be on time. At the end after much sweating and possibly a speeding fine, I manage to be 7 minutes late. And the people I was supposed to meet are having a coffee, very relaxed, and the meeting would not start for another 10 minutes. Now: was the amount to be paid for the fine worth it? Will my job be at risk because I was 7 min late? Think over it…
- Exercise gratitude – help people. Warning- this is contagious. Being kind to someone makes us feeling better. If someone is kind to us, we feel cared for and hence better, more worthy. Witnessing an act of kindness is making people feeling better. So not expect to get – just start giving something small to change your world and release happiness hormones.
People who spend time caring for others enjoy a good doses of oxytocin, a powerful hormone which is helping recovering from stress (especially our heart) and increase our resilience towards stress.
- Meditate, pray. Take time – 10 minutes will do as well. Choose a quiet place and sit comfortable but keep your back straight. Focus on your breathing. This is the only thing you need focus upon during the meditation session. Initially you will realize that your mind is full of thoughts – just try to resist from being distracted and concentrate on your breathing. It is not easy and will require some dedication and training to really be able to focus on your breath only. A good way to find stillness – if suiting you – is as well to pray. This is very powerful as strongly linked to our deepest believes and allows us to connect to different level of “greatness”.
Finding stillness within ourselves may actually be scary as we are left with “nothing do to” and we are forced to look inside and identify what really does not work in our life. As long as we are not sorting out what does not work, we will not be able to concentrate on meditation or pray.
Still, meditating will allow you to find a place of stillness inside ourselves. Interesting to note that medium run the memory levels even improve!
Disclaimer: This text is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Pls. consult your general practitioner or health care provider for guidance about a specific or suspected medical condition related to the topic covered.
If you want to learn more about what was covered in this article:
The leader who had no title, Robin Sharma, 2010, Simon &Schuster
Ho to stop worrying and start living, Dale Carnegie, 1944, Simon &Schuster
Be excellent at anything, Tony Schwarz and Jean Gomez and Catherine McCarthy, 2011, Simon &Schuster