According to scientists, stress is the number 1 cause of mental and physical problems in humans in the 21st century. I think we are so stressed because life today is much more complicated than previously: there are too many options, too much stimulation and everything goes so fast. Way too fast.
If you go to the doctor because of your weight, he tells you to reduce your stress.
If you go to the doctor because you cannot get pregnant, he tells you to take care of your stress levels.
If you have a heart attack, your doctor tells you to work out your work-life balance to reduce your stress and tension.
If you have headaches, the doctors prescribes a vacation.
Conclusion: stress is caused by doctors!
I would be very stressed if for every physical problem I had, the doctor told me I needed to lower my stress levels. Strangely enough, doctors keep saying that many of our problems are caused by stress, but people still prefer to take a pill and not take control over their own health. Shame, shame, shame!
I believe that stress is really bad for us and it lowers our value as parents. When parents are stressed, they do not have the right emotional intelligence required in their parenting:
- They do not recognize their own feelings
- They cannot control their own feelings
- They cannot recognize others’ feelings, and
- They cannot support others (their kids) with their feelings
So they fail in all four areas of emotional intelligence. When stressed, people switch to “survival mode”, in which they only take care of their immediate needs and are unable to parent well. As I have said before, when you are on a plane and there is an emergency, and the masks fall, you are asked to put the mask on yourself first before helping your child. It makes sense, because when you are under pressure yourself, you are not effective.
So, if you want to be a better parent (if you are reading this, you are already a good parent, but you can always improve), it is very important to reduce your stress levels.
Here are the first 10 tips to help you adopt a stress-free lifestyle.
Tip #1: Keep records
Our memory is a very tricky thing. We seem to remember the strong feelings and forget the sequence of events that lead us to stress. Keeping a record of our feelings is a good way to find the correlation between things. For example, if you keep a record of your period, you can predict that closer to your period you are tense. The recording technique is very helpful in cases of depression or any lifestyle changes – we cannot change anything if we do not know what caused it to start with.
Tip #2: Take a deep breath
In all forms of Yoga and meditation, breathing is fundamental. When we are stressed, it immediately affects our breathing. Breathing deeply and slowly can calm us down. Meditation is healthy for you and is very simple to do. When you are stressed, just count your breaths for a while. Take deep breaths and count them slowly up to 100.
Tip #3: Get enough sleep
Sleep is essential to our growth, our development and our mental state. Sleep time is when your brain sorts and files the day’s events and gradually relaxes. If you feel tired and grumpy, lack of sleep might be the only reason for your feeling. People who do not sleep enough find that their resistance to pressure drops significantly. The brain, when tired, has to work very hard to keep you alert for your usual functions, so instead of handling the stress, it pushes it away and in so doing, creates more stress later. Find out how long you need to sleep to feel fresh and allow yourself enough time every night. When you do not sleep enough, you steal time from yourself.
Tip #4: Stay away from medications
Medications to help with stress do not really change the cause of the stress. Unfortunately, doctors prescribe them too often and too quickly and they have too many side effects that only make matters worse and increase the stress levels in the long run. Some of the side effects are sources of stress in themselves: tiredness, loss of energy and libido, nausea, memory loss and lack of focus. Remember, getting rid of the symptoms is not good enough. You need to take care of the cause. Do not fool yourself into thinking that the temporary relief is a solution. If you do have to take medication, do it only as a last resort and make sure it is for a short term. If your doctor says something like, “Here, take this for the rest of your life”, question it!
Tip #5: Minimize your caffeine intake
Coffee makes people very stressed. If you drink too much coffee or other drinks containing caffeine (coke or tea), eliminate or at least restrict the amount of caffeine in your diet. Many of my clients find through the recording technique that there is a connection between the amount of coffee they drink and their stress levels. Surprisingly, when they do not drink as usual, they are nervous and feel upset. If I drink tea or accidentally have an iced coffee in the afternoon, my heartbeat increases like I am running a marathon and I cannot sleep. If I do go to bed, I hallucinate for hours. Since I do not drink caffeine much (3 times a month probably), I react badly to it. I am convinced that my body reacts to it in the same way when I drink it in the morning, though I do not feel it as much. If you are stressed, stay away from too much caffeine and keep in mind that withdrawing from caffeine will take time and may be stressful in itself.
Tip #6: Take care of things Now!
Remember that maintenance is important. If you need to take your car for a service, you take it for a service, so you do not end up with serious problems. What you do not take care of today, you will have to take care of tomorrow twice. Practice preventative maintenance. If you want a stress-free life, take care of yourself, your relationship, your interests, your work and your possessions as soon as you need to.
Tip #7: Fix things Now
Some people are stressed with things that do not work property, but they still put up with them. Usually, after you choose not to put up with something and you fix it, you feel silly that you had not done it before. When we bought our current house, the keys we were given by the previous owners were not easy to use. Every time we opened or closed the door, we had to fiddle with the key to make it work. After about two years of living in the house, my parents came to stay with us. The second day they were here, my dad took our keys, sprayed them with oil and put them into the keyhole. He played with them for a minute and the keys worked perfectly after that. Boy, we felt stupid for putting up with it for two years! If you are not happy with something and it is bothering you, fix it or change it NOW.
Tip #8: Plan ahead
Planning is one of the greatest cures for stress. Many people do not plan their life and wait for external circumstances to control what happens to them. Plan ahead as much as you can. Do not wait for the light on your fuel tank to remind you that you need to fill up your tank. Do not ever use your last stamp. Stock yourself with emergency supplies and plan your next trip to the shop in such a way that you will not feel like you are missing things.
Tip #9: Use your waiting time
Waiting is very stressful for many people. Understanding that waiting is part of life is important. When you go to the bank, to the doctor or any other place, you might have to wait. Take something to make it easy for you to wait. Talk on the phone, read a magazine, plan your shopping list. If you are driving in your car, practice for a speech or an interview, record your homework on your MP3 player or work out your vocals. If you are driving with kids, play games, learn your times tables, do spelling tests or play trivia. Talk to the kids about your childhood and plan your next camping trip, count purple cars or just update them about the day’s schedule. Why wait if you can use your time for something useful?
Tip #10: Turn off your mobile phone on important occasions
People have reached a point where they cannot leave their mobile phones and free their mind to do other things. Events are not special anymore. You sit in the bus and the phone rings and everyone checks whether it is their phone or that of the person sitting next to them. Some people take their mobile phones to the toilet or, worst of all, to sleep! The most embarrassing and stressful thing is to be at a special event like funeral, wedding or important meeting and hear your mobile ringing. Turn it off and do things without interruptions. Whenever you take part in a special event, imagine you are at a meeting with your favorite idol or in a ceremony, about to receive a lifetime award. Turn your mobile off, or put it on “silent”. It will save you many stressful moments.
For my next part of “Tips for a stress free lifestyle”, join me next week. You can come visit or subscribe to my RSS feed.
This post is part of the series Tips for a Stress-Free Lifestyle: