Stress-reduction Techniques

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Further to my previous article, 'What Causes Stress', we will take a look at stress-reduction techniques here. Anything that is not enjoyable in your life is a cause of stress, so use your emotions and mental states as guidance towards how to reduce stress. Aim at moment-to-moment happiness as much as possible, starting with reducing the things you do, instead of adding to your task list.

stress-reduction

A list of things on how how to reduce stress is really identical to the list of things that make you happy. Except that we also have to eliminate frustrations. So perhaps the advice on how to reduce stress is simple: write a list of things you love doing and make you happy, as well as smaller things that you like in everyday life. Then write a second list of everything that annoys you. Work from there to reduce annoyances and to do more of especially the small things that make you happy - since those are usually easier to realize.

But perhaps you would like some further inspiration on how to start tackling stress reduction and to do more happiness-producing things. Here are some ideas.

  1. Reduce the things you do daily. Consider leaving out anything that is not absolutely necessary or that can wait until tomorrow.
  2. Get used to thinking that idle time is important. Schedule some idle time for yourself and stick to it. Your brain needs time to process things, especially in the evening before bed. Also don't constantly feed your brain information.
  3. Simplify your diet so as to spend less time cooking and cleaning dishes. Further ideas here: No-Stress Healthy Diet Plan.
  4. Combine socializing with exercise. This works with adults but with children too. Combine your exercise with children's play time. Carry them around, go on a cycle ride with them, go on adventurous day-trips or hikes, play football, run around on the beach, do some urban street exercise, dance, jump on trampoline, go swimming together, go wall climbing, etc.
  5. Have a weekly shopping list and reduce time spent wandering around supermarkets. If possible, schedule a weekly home delivery of groceries.
  6. You may wish to reduce the sleep time your body needs. Tricks here: How to Sleep Less.
  7. Get more energy: Eating for Energy, How to Beat Tiredness.
  8. Take hot baths with a handful of epsom salt or magnesium flakes mixed in - magnesium relaxes your muscles and the mind and it is utilised by the body easier though the skin than through the digestive tract. Magnesium spray and creams can be used on the skin as well.
  9. Listen to enjoyable sounds: music, sounds of nature, calm reassuring talk, things that make you laugh, positive affirmations, visualisations, relaxation tapes.
  10. Speak less and listen less to others speaking. Speaking and language activates the left brain hemisphere which takes you out of the relaxation mode. Experiment with speaking less and see if you like it.
  11. Do things slower. Take smaller bites of your food, wash dishes slower, walk slower. Breathe. Slow down to the speed of life. This is part of learning to live in the moment.
  12. The other part is learning to make everything you do more enjoyable. Reduce stress in mundane everyday things. Think about how brushing teeth can be more enjoyable - can you do it outdoors in the garden, for example? How to make washing and blow-drying hair more enjoyable? Find the right products for your hair and learn to air dry it, use products on wet hair only and twist and bobby pin it in place for drying (elastic bands won't work).
  13. Meditation helps you to learn to live in the moment. There are many meditation groups which are free or very cheap. It is more fun to meditate in a group. Do this if you think it will be something you'll enjoy. Otherwise, don't add to your list of things to do.
  14. Waste time. Recognise that it is not healthy to be 100% efficient all the time. It is ok just to do what you feel like doing at that moment. Read uplifting fiction, lie down on the floor reflecting on your thoughts, let your mind be idle and wander.
  15. Make your environment beautiful and comfortable. Again, small things - don't try to redecorate your whole house at once. Spend 10 minutes per day rearranging things to your liking. Put candles or fruit bowls out, throw away clutter.
  16. Be ruthless in throwing things away. If you haven't used it in the last six months to a year it is just cluttering your life up. Get rid of it.
  17. Reduce time spent in social media. If you really enjoy it, schedule a specific time of the week or the day to check just your favourite sites. Don't spend time on social media when you could be doing more enjoyable things. If you like Facebook, put links on your desktop of the specific Facebook pages to check once per week. Otherwise leave it alone.
  18. Think about small things you could purchase that would save time in your everyday life. For example I have just started wrapping my hair around my head before sleep, using just a normal woolly hat since the 'doobie caps' could not be shipped to my location. The hair stays in shape, is less frizzy, and I take less time to do my hair every morning.
  19. Learn to say no and be more assertive. Talk louder, people will listen and take you more seriously.
  20. Eliminate 80-90% of things from your 'to do' list. Ask yourself whether the world will end if you don't do this, one item at a time.
  21. In your work diary, block out personal commitments and act like they cannot be altered.
  22. See if you can agree flexible work times or working from home arrangements, use health reasons if necessary as companies have to be careful to not harm your physical health.
  23. Don't get into conversations about boring, uninteresting or stressful topics. Instead of arguing against or saying let's not talk about it - which will often cause more discussion - don't answer at all. It is often more effective to hint at the conversation being uninteresting or annoying than to say it explicitly.
  24. Don't do other people's work for them. Just don't. Let their dishes pile up, paperwork, dirty laundry, whatever it is, whether it's your partner, your children or your boss. Find a way to separate your work from theirs. Unless you can make an agreement for them to help you back at another point.
  25. If you are a very caring, responsible and guilty-feeling personality, stop helping other people so much. Helping others too much can feel very patronising and your might be doing more harm than good, while exhausting yourself, even if you mean well. Wait to be asked to help first before getting involved in other people's business.
  26. How much of your time goes to doing what other people expect of you? Apart from work, which is typically, though not always, a situation where you sell your time, how much of your free time do you spend pleasing others? At least 50% of your free time should go to living your own life, according to your own ideals... You should be doing things your way. No-one owns you, whether family, friends or people you look up to.
  27. Know the triggers that make you feel stressed out. Avoid them.
  28. Slowly start eliminating anything that doesn't create happiness in your life. Make a list and brainstorm one thing on the list every day to see how to make it more enjoyable or eliminate it altogether. Then do the same with adding enjoyable things.
  29. Be less trendy and less cool. These aspirations can incorporate within them the need to please others instead of yourself.
  30. Stop trying to be perfect. No-one can and it's stressful to try. It's easier to love imperfect people anyway, since they seem more real and genuine. Many people feel that they can trust people more when they are open about having problems and not being perfect.
  31. Have some spirituality in your life. It has been shown to increase happiness. Whether it's magic mushrooms, singing in the church choir, buddhism, taoism, believing in the magic of nature, shaman gatherings or any other form of belief in positive higher powers, it will probably do you some good. As long as you enjoy it. You cannot get happy and de-stressed by doing things you don't enjoy.
  32. Go for a dip in the sea or other natural waters. Personally I find that this is one of the biggest causes of happiness of all. You get instantly grounded, mineralized, energized and if you swim in/ dip into cold waters the effect is even more pronounced - your blood circulation increases and you feel more awake than ever, while at the same time relaxed. A very different feeling from the caffeine 'energy'-rush.
  33. Spending time in nature is more important than most people think for happiness. I'm not sure why. It may have to do with healing frequencies, oxygen, negative ions in the air, or something that science has not yet discovered, but in any case animals, plants, sunshine, fresh air, etc. are certain to reduce stress levels.
  34. A hospital study showed that even having pictures of natural scenery on the walls of patients reduced the need for pain killers, and recovery times shortened. So perhaps it's a good idea to hang some pictures of beautiful natural sceneries to your walls, even if some self-conscious trendy people may consider it tacky!
  35. Whatever makes you laugh, do more of it.
  36. If you suffer from anxiety, heart-palpitations, insomnia, fatigue, mental health problems, depression, headaches, or fears, please read the relevant guidance links.
  37. Listen to more music that you like. Every once in a while find new music.
  38. Invest some money in making your living environment free of clutter and enjoyable, e.g. storage solutions.
  39. Increase sensory pleasures in your life. Nice smells, good-tasting foods, beautiful images and surroundings, pleasant-feeling clothes, comfortable temperature and air in your home, background sounds of nature or good music, etc. Take hot and cold showers, go to sauna or have a massage, stretch. In short, enjoy your body and your senses.
  40. Write about your life, frustrations, expectations, hopes and dreams. Keep writing, solutions will begin to emerge through writing, as long as you try to steer it to a positive direction, looking for solutions, instead of getting stuck in complaining about problems.
  41. Recognise that you are in charge of your life and any power you have given away you have done in exchange for something you want to have.

Remember, the best way to reduce stress is to do more of the things you love. Lack of time is a question of priorities. Do you choose your house, career, lifestyle over more free time? If high debt payments are weighing you down, look into what happens if you reduce your payments - it may not be as bad as you think. If you are unemployed, make use of the time you have to become more self-sufficient to reduce expenses - or take up voluntary work as it can be a stepping stone to paid work, and helping others is also known to make people feel happy.

More ideas for stress reduction are in this article: What Causes Stress?

This article was written on the 13th June 2015.

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