Stress is a complicated and multi-faceted topic. We all have stressors in our lives, and they’re all different, and we all deal with them in different ways. And while it might be temporarily comforting to daydream of a stress-free life, the reality is that that’s never really going to happen.
While some stress can be good—like the acute stress in the gym that leads to fat loss, muscle growth, and strength gain—too much of it can be detrimental to not only your mental well-being but to your waistline as well.
The trick again, though, is not to try to eliminate all the stress from your life, but rather to learn how to better manage it.
Step 1: Identification
The first step is to identify the stressors in your life. After all, it's difficult to start managing your stress without knowing what's causing it. Interestingly, it can sometimes be enough to identify something as a cause of stress to start the process of lowering its impact.
Be honest with yourself. While it might be difficult to admit that certain things are causing you stress [like a pet that you love but that causes mischief], it’s important to correctly and thoroughly identify them so you can take the appropriate steps to dealing with them.
Step 2: Elimination
I know I said it’s impossible to remove all stressors from your life, but it’s not impossible to remove some of them. Give your life a good, hard look and identify some things that are causing stress that you really just don’t need to deal with. This can be as simple as turning off certain notifications on your phone, or as difficult and complicated as ending a relationship that’s run its course.
These things can be easier said than done, but in the long run, removing unnecessary stressors from can make a large and lasting difference.
Step 3: Alteration
When learning to deal with stress, it’s important to remember one very important principle: how you react to your own stressors is what really makes the difference.
Things happen in our lives, both expected and unexpected, that cause us stress. Being cut off in traffic. Being yelled at by your boss. Having your best friend make terrible life decisions despite your well thought out and valid arguments. While it would be most people’s reaction to respond to these things angrily and emotionally, what does that change? Does yelling at the person who cut you off have any effect on them or their driving? Not really. They likely won’t even know you’re doing it. But you do have the ability to choose to just let it go.
[Sorry - it’s in my head now, too…]
Again, this is easier said than done. Quite honestly, though, simply understanding the fact that the stress you feel in a given situation is a function of how you respond to the stressor can take you quite a ways in overcoming its effects.
Step 4: Meditation
If you’re still reading after that last word, thanks! I, too, know what it’s like to completely shut off at the mere mention of something like meditation, but let me say this: it works.
Next week, we are going to explore the idea of meditation in more detail, but I want you to come away from this understanding a few main points first:
- Meditation has nothing to do with religion, and can create actual, neurological change in your brain.
- Much like strength training, the benefits of meditation come later. Meditation is not the same as relaxation.
- Meditation is NOT about trying to “clear your mind.”
- Yes, you can meditate.
- Yes, it will be beneficial.
That’s all for now folks. Tune in next week when we go a little deeper into how meditation works and some quick, easy ways to implement it into your life (without ascending any mountains).