“Stress is a killer.” Yes, we all say it, but how many of us really believe it? If you’re like most Americans, you probably just accept stress as an inevitable part of life. Stress, the thinking goes, is the price we pay for our jobs, houses, cars, and relatively comfortable lives. To some extent, that’s true. After all, no success, job, or family has ever been—or ever will be—stress-free. And you certainly can’t control big-time stressors like the economy or a parent’s degenerative illness.
That being said, it’s also true that most of us are paying a much higher “stress price” than we have to, and this lifestyle is incredibly unhealthy. Stress prevents you from enjoying your current blessings, and it can also trigger long-term effects including high blood pressure, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Now, you may think I’m crazy when I say that it’s in your power to reduce the amount of stress in your life, but it’s true! (And it’s also imperative that you do so for the sake of your health, happiness, and future.) In this post, I’d like to share two stress-reducing strategies that have worked for me.
Strategy number one is as simple as changing the way you think about something that’s causing you anxiety. For example, when I was first starting out as a leader in my family’s company, I was literally making myself sick over several types of emergencies that I had to deal with: store managers quitting without giving notice, store break-ins, and employees stealing from our company. Thanks to the Tony Robbins tapes I’ve blogged about before, though, I learned that I could reframe how I thought about these problems. Instead of treating them as five-alarm, code-blue emergencies I shouldn’t have to deal with, I chose to see them as part of my job description.
That change of perspective made a huge difference in how I reacted to and managed these situations, and the same can be true for you. By retraining yourself to act differently in difficult situations, you can drastically improve your quality of life. Whenever you don’t have the power to change a stressful situation, try to view it as a challenge instead of as a hardship. Come up with a game plan for how you’d like to react and visualize yourself doing so until this more positive behavior becomes second nature.
Another way to reduce the amount of overall stress in your life is to identify the two or three things that cause you the most grief on a consistent basis and do something about them. Actually, I’ve found that these “problem spots” are often deceptively small. We don’t realize how big of a difference the so-called little things can make in our overall contentment levels, so we allow them to continue being thorns in our sides.
In my book, I use the example of a clean house when I talk about taking control of your everyday stressors, because I think it’s something a lot of people can relate to (and if not, something of similar magnitude probably bugs you). Let’s say that whenever your house isn’t vacuumed, swept, and put away, you feel stressed, so you spend a large chunk of your after-work hours straightening and scrubbing. It doesn’t end there, though, because you now feel bad about not spending the time with your family, and that type of guilt eats at you for days. Here are the stress-reducing suggestions I give in my book to help you break free of this hypothetical cycle:
- Hire a housekeeper. It may not be as expensive as you think. In fact, you could pay the housekeeper with the “guilt money” you’ve been spending on buying “stuff” for your children to make up for the time you don’t spend with them.
- Get family members to share the load. Why is all the housekeeping your job, anyway? You may need to have a frank discussion with your spouse and kids about dividing up the chores so you’ll all have more time to spend together.
- Rethink your need for super-cleanliness. Which is more important: getting the floor mopped three times a week or spending the time relaxing with your spouse or reading to your child? You may well decide you can overlook a little dirt!
Obviously, this is just one example among thousands of things that might cause you to feel stress rather than serenity. (And yes, it’s true that you’ll never be able to make your life totally stress-free.) But hopefully you can see that with a little thought and motivation, you can make changes that will drastically impact your happiness, and by extension, that of the people you care about.