A little stress can be good for you. It keeps you engaged and makes you feel alive—such as when you are finishing a project you are passionate about, or learning a new skill. But long-term, chronic stress can take a toll on your health.
If you stop and realize that stress is something you create based on your reaction to life circumstances (and not necessarily the circumstances themselves), you can play a big role in reducing your stress level.
Dial down your stress with this list of out-of-the-box tips.
1. Take notice of your happiest days
Do you ever have a day that seems like it was professionally choreographed just to please you? Everything flows perfectly. You can’t believe how effortlessly your day is unfolding, and you just feel great.
Take notice of what you are doing on that day. What has made your outlook so bright? If you can pinpoint the specifics of what makes you happiest (getting a good night’s sleep, anticipating a date night, finishing a project), you can proactively replicate some of those things.
Doing what makes you naturally happy alleviates stress. Capture what brightens your days by writing it down. Soon you’ll have your own go-to recipe book for a less-stressed out, more contented you.
2. Wait it out
Sometimes uncontrollable variables—from a grumpy mood, to too little sleep, to an oversize workload—take their toll. On days when your energy is low or you feel overwhelmed, it’s easy to fuel your stress with negative thoughts. Choose instead to notice your state and decide to wait it out, knowing tomorrow you will feel completely different. The power of a new day (and a good night’s sleep) can truly change your entire state. Sometimes waiting out your stressed frame of mind is your best option.
3. Go straight to acceptance
Acceptance means simply surrendering your expectations and going with the flow. If you find yourself getting stressed because your mornings are complete chaos, or your dog just chewed up your favorite pair of shoes, try acceptance as a stress-reduction strategy.
We all have expectations that crash up against reality. We think life is supposed to unfold in a certain way, and when it doesn’t, our unmet expectations stoke our stress. When you accept that some days will not go as planned, you can laugh and enjoy the ride instead of getting yourself even more stressed.
4. Try on the shoes
We are often told not to compare our lives to others, but you can benefit from a little healthy comparison. If your tight family budget is causing you stress, give yourself a sense of perspective by reflecting on those who have much more difficult challenges, such as illness, loss of a loved one or unemployment. This tactic isn’t about getting morose; it’s about putting your problems in perspective, while having empathy for others. A little reality check now and again will remind you not to sweat the small stuff.
5. Recharge your routine
One novel way to tackle your stress level is by completely mixing up your routine. If your life has slipped into a bit of a rut, try changing everything about your day to give your mind a mental reprieve.
Go to work by a different route, eat out if you normally eat in your office break room, surprise your spouse with a mid-week outing, or take a half day off work to do exactly what you want to do. Your increased awareness can lead us to some solutions for improving your circumstances and reducing stress.
Try some of these steps and actively take your stress level down a notch to enjoy your days more.
Sandra Bienkowski is a regular contributor to Live Happy and the founder and CEO of TheMediaConcierge.net.