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3 Simple Ways to Reduce Feelings of Stress

stress relief

Have you got endless demands tugging at you from all directions? Does your life seem to be spinning out of control? It’s easy to get overwhelmed by feelings of stress when you can’t ever seem to catch up.

Do you think bringing your level of stress under control would require a major life change? It may not be as difficult as what you imagine.  Did you realize that, regardless of your circumstances, a true sense of balance actually comes from within you, not from your surroundings?

3 Ways to reduce feelings of stress

Here are three simple strategies to help you reduce feelings of stress by building a greater sense of inner peace and harmony.

1) Make some time for you. One of the first things we tend to sacrifice when we are busy is our personal time.  Instead, we devote all of our energy and attention to being productive and taking care of those never-ending demands. Over time this depletes our energy and we begin to feel more and more burdened by our responsibilities. This feeling of being weighed down increases our perceived level of stress.

To create a greater sense of balance, having some quiet time to your self is essential.  You may be thinking: “I don’t have any time available for that,” but something amazing happens when you regularly make some personal time; you find yourself feeling happier and more energetic, your focus improves – and you still get plenty done!  Just a few minutes spent doing something that you truly enjoy can help restore your inner sense of peace and happiness. This is a great way to counteract stress.

2) Look after your personal well being. Beyond making time for things you enjoy, there are many other practical ways to reduce stress and balance your life on a daily basis.  Getting enough sleep so you actually feel rested is a great start. Replacing fast food with nutritious food and getting some form of daily exercise will make a huge difference.

Have you ever noticed that when you’re really tired or under a lot of stress, even the smallest problem can seem like a nightmare?  On the other hand, when you’re feeling well rested and centered, you’re much better equipped to handle those little ups and downs.  Caring for your physical needs is one sure way to consistently replenish your energy and emotional resource levels. This means that you’ll have the strength, patience, and stamina to handle daily challenges without becoming overwhelmed by feelings of stress.

3) Give yourself some leeway. Did you know that one of the biggest causes of stress is rigid expectations?  We all do it from time to time; get a mental picture of how our lives “should be” – and get really annoyed when our outer circumstances don’t cooperate!  One of the biggest gifts you can give yourself is a flexible state of mind.  In other words, learn how to detach from unrealistic expectations and go with the flow.

When you have a flexible mindset, you’re able to deal with problems much more effectively because you’re not working against a preconceived notion of how things “should be”.  You’re able to tap into your creative problem solving skills and move through challenges without all the drama and a frustration of the stress. So cut yourself some slack and don’t stress out over every little detail.

Changing our perspective is a good start

We see that a few minor changes in perspective can dramatically reduce our stress levels and raise our sense of well being and balance, but that’s not the whole solution. Now that you’re feeling more resourceful, you may also want to examine your external circumstances and see if there are some small adjustments you can make to help support your new, more balanced mindset.

Are there ways that you can tweak your schedule or reduce the complexity of your daily routine? Are you caught in a multitasking mindset? Have you over committed your time and resources? These are all possible sources of external stress that you might want to examine now that you’ve cleared away some of the internal sources. As is true for most things, balance is the key to overcoming stress and finding greater joy in your day to day life.

Have you sensed an increase in stress in your life?
Do you have some favorite ways to avoid stress?
The lines are open!

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59 Comments

  1. Anto June 29, 2010 Reply

    This is a very interesting post, I think everyone who lives daily stress should read it, especially the ones working in corporate or medical environments.

    To reduce my stress level, I have started doing yoga, and it has been very helpful. I think it reaches your first 2 ways of reducing stress, by making some time for myself and looking after my well being.

    Did I also mention drinking less coffee and eating more vegetables?

    Thanks again Jonathan!

    • Jonathan June 29, 2010 Reply

      Hey Anto, those are some really practical ways to reduce stress. Just shows that restoring a sense of balance doesn’t need to be complicated to work.

  2. Eduard June 29, 2010 Reply

    Hey Jonathan,

    Practical and to the point as usually. I think that a lot of our modern stress comes from the fact that we now live in a world which has a complexity we are psychologically not designed for. Our minds still process things like we live in small tribes, but we live with millions of people in the same tribe. This is why I put a lot of emphasis on simplifying things.

    • Jonathan June 29, 2010 Reply

      Excellent point Eduard. Here’s a good example of exactly what you are saying. They say that one Sunday edition of a big city newspaper like the New York Times contains more information than the average person took in during their entire lifetime 200 years ago. Is it any wonder people feel overloaded?

  3. Frank Jovine June 29, 2010 Reply

    As of late or the last six weeks, I am back exercising and eating right. I noticed that my stress level has been much lower as I am taking it out on lifting and walking.

    In six weeks I lost a total of 21lbs and still have 20 to go, but I am feeling much better!

    • Jonathan June 29, 2010 Reply

      Way to go Frank. When we are into exercise it seems inconceivable that we would ever stop. Then we get sidetracked and the next thing you know two months have slipped by and we’ve only worked out twice. It feels so good to be in shape, hard to believe how difficult it can be to stay consistent.

  4. Hulbert Lee June 29, 2010 Reply

    Hi Jonathan, nice post. Sometimes in our lives, especially as bloggers, we can get stressed out with everything that goes on and the tasks we need to accomplish on a daily basis. This can drive us insane much of like the picture you put with this post. :)

    I like what you said here on reducing stress. We need to always make sure to make some time for ourselves to relax, look after our personal well being, and give ourselves some leeway. Some other ways that help reduce stress for me is waking up early, reading, and focusing on the tasks that really matter.

    Currently, I’m trying do do less multitasking as doing that only creates more complications in my life. Sometimes I do feel like I have over committed my time and resources and I’m glad I read this article today to help me realize that life doesn’t have to be so stressful!

    • Jonathan June 29, 2010 Reply

      Hi Hulbert, we all get out of balance my friend, and yes, it can drive us insane. Blogging, especially if you are trying to make it a career, can be a huge undertaking. When we get all wrapped up in something like that it can gets real easy to neglect other aspects of life. So we make adjustments and let go of some of the stuff creating unnecessary stress.

  5. Farnoosh June 29, 2010 Reply

    Stress? Me? Never!! I am the most easy going person you will ever meet…. LOL….and then I wake up from this dream…. :)
    Jonathan, I think self-awareness is definitely really good to remember – being aware of where our body and mind and spirit is in this frenzy mad rush and then calming it down with meditation….Thank you for writing about this – maybe more specific techniques and exercises could be a nice follow-up?

    • Jonathan June 29, 2010 Reply

      Hi Farnoosh, I was just reading your latest post (excellent). When I picture you it’s always as a calm, limber (the yoga person), serene, together, organized, energetic, totally unstressed person (with a wild side of course). I guess nobody is immune, but you do project a real sense of balance.

      • Farnoosh June 29, 2010 Reply

        Jonathan, KEEP that image – it’s such a great picture, I am tempted ;)! But my husband is laughing at your response….Yoga has helped to calm me down but I have way too much energy left-over still…..Thank you for the perfect description. I have a goal now :)!

        • Jonathan July 1, 2010 Reply

          Farnoosh is a calm, limber, serene, together, organized, energetic, totally unstressed person. Slow deep breath…..Farnoosh is a calm, limber, serene, together, organized, energetic, totally unstressed person. Slow deep breath…..Farnoosh is a calm, limber, serene, together, organized, energetic, totally unstressed person. Slow deep breath…… How’s that?

          • Farnoosh August 26, 2010 Reply

            Jonathan, I came over to link to this post for my Friday post on “Punctuality” and I just saw your wonderful words for me. I love it :)! Thank you!!!

  6. Dia June 29, 2010 Reply

    Nice post Jonathan. One of the best things that I do to reduce stress is meditation and visualization. These 2 techniques help so much to reduce stress. We all need some personal time for ourselves. Thanks for sharing

    • Jonathan June 29, 2010 Reply

      Hey Dia, once we recognize that a big part of stress is perception, we must also acknowledge the effectiveness of any activity that helps us maintain a more relaxed and centered perspective. I am all for simplifying our lives where possible, but using techniques like you mentioned is something everyone can do even if they can’t find room to simplify.

  7. Jon June 29, 2010 Reply

    When your doing what you love. You’ll never be stressed out.

    • Jonathan June 29, 2010 Reply

      Well, that’s a nice thought but there are certain considerations. For example, when we love what we do it becomes very easy to pursue our passions to an extreme. This will eventually throw the rest of our life out of balance. Most of us wear many hats in life which means that we need to keep everything in perspective. A workaholic may love what he does, but he may also be creating a lot of stress on the home front.

  8. mark June 29, 2010 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    I love the “Look after your personal well being” idea. I tend to think that regularly taking a break from complex tasks and learning to say ‘no’ are the two things that help me the most.

    Also, where I can, I make an effort to complete smaller tasks so that I don’t get overwhelmed. Simple, but effective.

    Finally, I like the idea of changing your perspective. It seems likely that most people have some constantly changing priorities (obviously others will be static). As such, reevaluating your goals, values, etc. is a key tactic to achieving some balance in my estimation.

    Have a great day!

    • Jonathan June 29, 2010 Reply

      Some excellent points Mark. Learning when to say no is an especially vital skill these days.

      I’d like to say welcome to Advanced Life Skills and thank you for leaving such a well thought out comment. Totally appreciated.

  9. parker lee June 29, 2010 Reply

    “Have you ever noticed that when you’re really tired or stressed, even the smallest problem can seem like a nightmare?”

    This is something most people don’t ever become aware of. I can relate to this a lot, but more on a level where people are having a hard time dealing with others.

    To the point where the very thought of “that certain” someone, just pisses you off to the point of something so insignificant like laughing the wrong way.

    Have a great week Jonathan!

    • Jonathan June 29, 2010 Reply

      Hi Parker, I agree the personal relationships often suffer when stress gets out of hand. They say that stress over money is one of the most emotionally charged topics in marriages. It is real easy to take a thoughtless word personally when we are running low on resources and feeling vulnerable. Chronic stress is a relationship destroyer.

  10. Sibyl Chavis June 29, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan: Thanks for this post and the reminder to reserve time for myself. I think it is so important and you are right that when you change your perspective, you really can reduce and possibly eliminate any feelings of being overwhelmed. I also appreciated your suggestion to take a look at your daily routine and see if there is anything you can tweak. Sometimes even small changes go a long way. Thanks again for the great recommendations.

    • Jonathan June 30, 2010 Reply

      Hi Sibyl, I appreciate that you mentioned “Sometimes even small changes go a long way.” I think we’ve all heard the saying “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” If a small thing can put us over the edge, then it stands to reason that small changes can help restore our balance. Thanks for being here Sibyl.

  11. Kate June 29, 2010 Reply

    Hello Jonathan,
    I find exercise is the best way for me to reduce stress – which involves making some time for me and looking after my personal well being! I also have to give myself a little leeway when I don’t feel like doing a really hard workout and just want a good walk.
    I often think I don’t have time, but I agree, if we make the time we are more focused, productive and so need less time for everything else.
    Best wishes,
    Kate

    • Jonathan June 30, 2010 Reply

      Hi Kate, I totally agree. In fact I think that exercise is probably the best overall stress reduction technique for most people. It benefits us in several important ways and on many different levels. Thank you for sharing that.

  12. Amit Sodha June 30, 2010 Reply

    Hey Jonathan,

    I love the idea of making some me time. The weird thing is that even though I thought I’d have a lot more time now that I am no longer going to be working full time but my mind had already started filling in that time and I was already getting stressed about it. The making time for me was crucial to not let my thoughts run away and create the stressful feelings.

    Awesome post!

    • Jonathan July 1, 2010 Reply

      Hi Amit, they say work expands to fill the time available (at least it does for productive people anyway). I know this is certainly true for most entrepreneurs. It’s so easy to get caught up in some project or task and put everything else on hold.

      Any imbalance creates stress! It doesn’t matter if it’s physical, mental, emotional, financial, or chronological (time). Realizing that makes it obvious why so many people are stressed.

  13. Stephen June 30, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan, this is a wonderfully compact and practical article. Many people, myself included, have a difficult time coming to grips with the fact that rest, renewal, and flexibility actually allow you to get more done. I personally have a hard time stopping “being ultra-productive” to take time to renew so I can actually be more focused and productive. But by forcing myself to do it, I have convinced myself it is the best way to actually get more done with far less stress.

    Wonderful advice my friend :-)

    • Jonathan July 1, 2010 Reply

      Hey Stephen, you and me both brother. I have to make a conscious effort to stay balanced, but I think that’s the nature of balance. Think about someone walking a high-wire. They have that long poll that they use to makes constant subtle adjustments. The closer to center they stay, the smaller the adjustments. If they get too far off center, more radical corrections are required. That’s how life is!

  14. Phil June 30, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan -

    I love your simple guides to reducing stress and creating a richer life. Your suggestions are so easy to put into action and help make a practical difference. Great stuff – thanks.

    Phil

    • Jonathan July 1, 2010 Reply

      Thanks for your encouragement Phil. Whenever possible, I prefer simple. How about you?

  15. Marko June 30, 2010 Reply

    Brilliant article Jonathan… I am very interested in the topic of stress.

    Stress is a very complex issue… For the purposes of an article (that I wrote long ago) I explore over 40 resources on stress. People really do not realize how much stress is dangerous. In some cases, stress can lead to death….

    However, it is true that in some cases, stress may save your life. However, in most cases, stress is destroying our lives, our relationships and quality of life!

    Sources of stress are many, from the great changes and unfulfilled goals, to financial problems and problems with the family to the pessimism and negative self-talk. The main cause is, as you said, unfulfilled expectations.

    It is important to understand that the stress is reaction. And every reaction can be controlled!

    Those who learn to manage stress will have a great tool for the personal growth and they will substantially increase the quality of their lives!

    A great article and the points…

    Take care, Marko

    • Jonathan July 1, 2010 Reply

      Hi Marko, I totally agree on the seriousness of stress. They say that over 80% of all physical ailments are stress related. That does not include all of the emotional, mental, and relationship problems that are rooted in stress.

      Yes, stress is a very complex issue. Surprisingly, stress reduction in general is fairly simple. Don’t you love it when there are simple solutions to complex issues?

  16. Mike King June 30, 2010 Reply

    Very interesting Jonathan, and certainly from reading everyone’s responses. I see stress and I think I read from your article that its about perspective of that stress, AS WELL as the time you spend for yourself and on what. I think perspective is the most important part of that, because there are times when seriously stressful situations to some people are easy to cope with by someone else in the same situation. I like to think I manage stress well as I really don’t recognize things as stressfull. Busy sometimes sure, difficult, yes, but always neccessary, always something to learn from and always a positive outlook, no matter what the situation. Stress can be used very positively with the right mindset and approach.

    • Jonathan July 1, 2010 Reply

      You got it Mike. We actually raise our tolerances to stress when we change our perspective. Is it an overwhelming problem or an exciting challenge? Are we being pushed to the breaking point or are we building our stress muscles. Life is perception and our nervous system gets its signals from how we perceive any situation. One this is for sure, chemical intervention (as in anti-anxiety meds) is not the solution.

  17. Walter June 30, 2010 Reply

    I always felt being stressed most of the time and I think the reason is that I’m a perfectionist. I keep a daily schedule over which I’m very particular, and when such schedule is altered I get stressed.

    One method I do to counter this is to simply let go. Sometimes, we need to see the most important things in life in order to measure the worth of the things we put much premium on. :-)

    • Jonathan July 1, 2010 Reply

      I deal with the same tendency Walter. Perfection takes much, much longer than my schedule allows for. Learning to let go where it doesn’t really matter has helped me a lot also.

  18. rob white July 1, 2010 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,
    Great tips here. When I realized that I am never going to get it all done and I will never get it all done right – I was able to let go of a lot of smothering stress. What you point out nicely is that the only one that can stress ME out is ME… When we realize this we can take title back to our life.

    In the age of multi-tasking, emailing etc. etc… it is incredibly empowering to realize that other peoples urgencies are not MY urgencies.

    • Jonathan July 1, 2010 Reply

      Hey Rob, you said that beautifully. I am 100% in agreement and have benefited greatly from those very same realizations. Thank you my friend.

  19. Frank July 2, 2010 Reply

    So screaming and pulling on your hair is not a valid way to deal with stress? :-) I agree that a change is perspective definately relieves me of some of the many stresses of my day. That and Oreos with ice cold milk. Thank you for providing great information on an issue that we all face.

    • Jonathan July 2, 2010 Reply

      Hey Frank, the problem with screaming and pulling on your hair is that sooner or later you run out of hair and the stress is still there. Luckily, there is a seemingly endless supply of Oreos and milk available.

  20. Miranda Cruz July 2, 2010 Reply

    Being busy keeps me sane. Being stressed out is just part of the deal. I love to work and work keeps me alive. My stress level is, shall we say a little bit high.

    But, whenever I feel a little bit tired, I usually go to the spa to regain.

    Shallow to some but works for me.

    • Jonathan July 2, 2010 Reply

      Hi Miranda, if the spa works then it’s just as valid as any other stress reduction technique. Like I said, stress might be a complex subject but the solutions can be very simple. Happy spa day Miranda and thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.

  21. Dawn July 6, 2010 Reply

    Great tips, Jonathan! I think another way to relieve stress is to focus on the things that a person needs to do. Stress is caused by spreading one’s self too thin. It’s important for a person to identify his underlying values, meaning what are the experiences that are most important to him. Once he figures out these underlying values, he can then focus on the things that he need to do.

    • Jonathan February 25, 2011 Reply

      Excellent point Dawn, when our priorities harmonize with our deepest values then what we do seems much more rewarding and less stressful.

  22. Chris Akins July 24, 2010 Reply

    Great stress busting tips. I am also a big fan of meditation and journaling; and doing your best to align your life’s work with your life’s values.

    Chris

    • Jonathan February 25, 2011 Reply

      Hey Chris, this phrase really nailed it: “align your life’s work with your life’s values.” That’s a keeper!

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