Life…it can get really messy. We live in a world that makes most of us feel unsafe and stressed out multiple times a day.
Look at our new normal. From mass shootings to the #MeToo movement, to immigration, to the drug crisis, to runaway coronaviruses. Not to mention the every day stress from health, work and family.
We’re more stressed now than we’ve ever been. We’re more advanced but somehow we’ve gone backwards.
So how do we go about changing this? How do we kick this level of stress to the curb, stop worrying, and live our best lives?
Chronic stress is dangerous, there’s no denying that. It has seriously negative health impacts on many areas of our lives. From our mental health, relationships, and productivity to . It erodes our ability to enjoy life.
Many people believe that getting rid of stress is the goal. But recent research shows avoiding stress is not the way to go.
Stress will always be here. What we need to do is learn how to adapt to it in a positive way. In fact, some stress is actually GOOD for us.
Here are 20 ways to reduce, eliminate, or transform stress into relaxation or excitement.
1. Say "I'm excited" To Engage Your Opportunity Mind-Set
There was an experiment to test how people's mindset related to stressful events influenced their performance and experience of it.
The researchers recruited 3 groups of students to the experiment. 2 minutes before they had to participate, they were told what the experiment was: They had to sing Karaoke in front of a judge, and they would be rewarded for how accurately they sang.
When the judge asked, “How are you feeling?“ 1 group was told to say “I am nervous“ aloud before entering the room. A 2nd group was told to say “I am excited" aloud. And the final group wasn't asked.
The group that said “I'm Nervous“ failed miserably and felt it was a stressful experience compared to the silent group. The "I'm Excited" group outperformed the other two by a wide margin in terms of how well they sang, and how many words they got right. Plus, they actually ENJOYED the experiment.
The difference between EU-stress, something that's challenging, and fun, and DIS-stress, the type that will slowly kill you, is perspective. You don't need “less stress“ in your life. You need more of the good kind of stress. And what you think is good stress and what you think is bad stress is up to you.
If you don’t believe me, here’s a quick exercise to help rewire what your subconscious brain thinks is “bad stress” into “good stress”.
That's it. Seriously. Everything else on this list will help your brain and body process stress as a "good thing" or to help you be prepared to enjoy life instead of worrying about it.
The difference between anxiety and excitement is a perception of safety. Basically, do you believe what you’re experiencing is a threat or an opportunity?
We live in a world that makes our brain feel unsafe, and when we're unsafe, we're terrif ied. By reframing that fear as an opportunity, we unlock the opportunity to be excited and have fun.
As someone with chronic anxiety, I never understood why some people love roller coasters.
That was until I really got myself to internalize that I wasn't going to die (using the next trick I’m about to show you). Now I love roller coasters. It’s an opportunity to feel like I’m cheating death.
2. The Build-In Biohack that transforms stress.
Speaking of how to calm yourself down with anxiety, when your brain is yelling “You’re going to die!”.
When we start to stress out, one of the first things that changes is how we breathe. Fast erratic breath signals to your brain and body that you're in danger.
By practicing slow deep breaths, you can reverse the dis-stress and let your body and mind know that you are under no immediate threat.
It’s simple to do.
3. Nutritional Supplements That Heal Your Brain
One of the first things that negative stress attacks is our brain. It leads to anxiety, depression, memory problems, and much more.
Our brains create our experience of the world, and if they're not operating at their peak, that means it’ll be easy to mistake opportunities for excitement as stressful, life-threatening situations. Getting the right vitamins, minerals, and supplements can dramatically help with repairing the damage done by stress.*
These few supplements can go a long way to helping reduce your negative stress, enhancing your eu-stress, and helping your brain feel better.*
4. Take a mental walk in nature
Being in green, natural environments puts our minds at ease.
If you can't get out to take a walk in nature, studies have found that taking a "mental walk" through nature and looking at images of green, natural environments produce the same effect.
5. Reduce caffeine
From African farmers to Wall Street executives, billions of us have come to rely on the world's most consumed stimulant: caffeine.
Caffeine is a powerful stimulant. It might feel like it helps you stay awake or feel like you're getting more done, but if you're already stressed out, it might be better to hold off on that afternoon cuppa joe.
Caffeine intake is a major contributor to anxiety, panic, and overall stress levels.
The military has also shown that more than 400mg of caffeine per day (basically 1 large Starbucks latte) can reduce performance and cause people to get less done and do it worse than if they just stuck to 1 normal cup of coffee.
Reducing caffeine intake can be challenging, but here are some easy ways to do it.
6. Don't rely on alcohol to “release stress”
Alcohol kills your energy levels in a more sinister way than caffeine does. Caffeine can disrupt being able to sleep. Alcohol changes HOW you sleep.
Having a high level of alcohol (in this case, about 2 drinks), less than 2 hours before you go to bed can disturb your sleep, making you feel groggy in the morning, and like you need a nap all day.
This isn't from the hangover, it's from the disturbed sleep.
Like with caffeine, there are easy ways to enjoy your drink in a healthy way.
Meditation is one of the most powerful things you can do for your brain. And it's one of the most effective ways to reduce the stress you're feeling.
There are over 11,000 studies on meditation now. It's not some woo-woo hippy stuff that hasn't been tested. It's science, it works, and it's easy (really).
Let me show you how easy it is.
Do this for just 2 minutes per day. After your first week, increase it by 1 minute a week until you reach 15 minutes of meditation.
This may seem a bit hard at first. The more you struggle, the more your brain is growing and the better you'll be able to handle stress throughout your day.
If you already meditate, you can improve your meditation by practicing meditation in more uncomfortable and distracting situations. This will train your mind to only focus on 1 thing, and be able to ignore everything else, even stuff that normally stresses you out.
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and Zen meditation for depression, anxiety, pain, and psychological distress. Marchand, W.R. George E. Wahlen VAMC and the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, USA. Journal of Psychiatric Practice 2012 Jul;18(4):233-52.
- A randomized, controlled trial of meditation for work stress, anxiety and depressed mood in full-time workers. Manocha, R., Black, D., Sarris, J., et al. Discipline of Psychiatry, Sydney Medical School, Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney University, St. Leonards, Australia. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2011: 960583.
Regular exercise has been shown to have many benefits. The exercises that reduce stress the most is easier than you think.
Getting just 5 minutes of exercise 6 times a day dramatically reduces stress while boosting your energy, focus, and positivity. Taking frequent breaks (about once an hour) can dramatically increase productivity too.
Our bodies build up tension throughout the day, especially when we don't move much.
Stretching helps us release that tension, and by doing so, release our stress.
Follow these steps to get a total body stretch in just a few minutes. Bonus, this can double as one of your five minutes of “exercise” from the last tip!
NOTE: If you experience significant pain during this process, stop immediately.
10. Yoga or Tai Chi
Yoga and Tai Chi are like a combination of exercise, meditation, and stretching.
They’re based on using mindful movements to stretch your body.
- Yoga breathing, meditation, and longevity. Brown, R.P., Gerbarg, P.L. Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2009 Aug; 1172:54-62.
11. Soothing music
Feeling relaxed lets your body recover from stress. Humans have been using music to relax and enjoy life for thousands of years.
If you feel like a robot slaved to your laptop, it might just be time to pop on some relaxing tunes and reconnect to the human side of life.
12. Do something relaxing that you enjoy
Taking downtime isn't just about sitting around and doing nothing.
The goal is to focus on something that relaxes your body and mind, and lets you recover from stress.
13. Spend time with friends and loved ones
Time together with friends and family allows us to reconnect, unwind and relax.
It also gives us a boost of powerful stress-relieving hormones like oxytocin, the trust hormone.
14. Get to know your extended social network
Oxytocin is released when we trust someone and feel like we've created a connection.
You can reach out to your larger social network, those "Facebook only" friends and LinkedIn connections to find new people to create relationships with.
Who knows, you might just find your new best friend!
15. Express gratitude
Gratitude is a powerful force in the brain. Gratitude reduces stress.
It allows us to be OK with the challenges we have in our lives. Gratitude helps us reconnect with people we love.
16. Practice Acceptance
In life, there are some things we cannot change.
We can stress and worry about these things until it drives us crazy, but it won't change anything. Accept the things you cannot change, and focus on the things you can.
17. Practice a habit of positive self-talk
How we talk to ourselves can dramatically change how well we’re able to assess potential threats and opportunities.
If we’re always negative, then we’re never really able to take on the opportunities for fun, excitement, and growth that surround us.
By focusing on what we don’t like about ourselves, or embarrassing, or frustrating experiences that sometimes go along with life, we blind ourselves to what’s good and positive around us.
This is a quick exercise to appreciate the most important person in your life: You.
18. Use the magic word to take control of your opportunities and eliminate stressful situations
Often we're stressed because we're in a position that we never wanted to be in. Maybe it was our boss, or our family, or our teachers that started us down the path to stress and overwhelm.
You're about to re-learn a magic word that can let you take control of your path and steer you away from the things that cause you dis-stress and towards the challenges that excite you.
Now, say this magic word with me: NO.
Here’s an exercise to help you say “No” when it matters most.
19. Work on what's important before it becomes urgent
Feeling overwhelmed can shut us down, and cause us to procrastinate.
This procrastination puts more pressure on us to make things happen, which causes us to feel more overwhelmed, which causes us to... I think you see the pattern.
Telling you "If you don't procrastinate, you'll be less stressed out." isn't really helpful, even if it's true. So, here's a process that helps you quickly break out of procrastination.
That simple exercise has been shown to reduce procrastination by up to 400% if your confidence is high, and 200% if your confidence is low.
Source: Big thanks to Gabriela Oettingen and the other researchers who have put 20 years of researching into this deceptively simple practice. Find the 20+ studies on this method here: http://woopmylife.org/further
20. Get a good night of sleep - How to sleep like a baby in minutes
Sleep is the most important piece of our day. Getting depth and quality sleep can add years to our lives, and let all the stress in our lives melt away.
But there’s a problem with that. If you’re super stressed out, I’m guessing your nighttime routine goes something like this:
If this sounds remotely like you, you’re not alone. Most people in the USA, and around the world, don’t get the recommended 8 hours of sleep.
In fact, sleep deficits were such a problem in the US military, that it was considered a threat to national security.
They funded a big project to find out how to get people to go to sleep quickly and easily, and stay asleep, even in extreme situations (think sleeping in a cockpit on a 36-hour flight). This method is based on their findings:
At the end of the day, stress can either fill you with excitement, or dread. Excitement comes if your body and mind are in the right state and fully recovered from the last bout of intense experiences.
Treating your body and mind right can go a long way to making life feel more exciting, more often.
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve learned a ton. How to transform stress into excitement, the easy way to meditate, how to bring more energy and focus into your day, how to stop procrastination, how to build new relationships, how to get to sleep in just 2 minutes and more.
Which of these tips did you find most useful? Which of these can you see using in your life?