Wouldn’t it be better to prevent unnecessary stress rather than scramble to manage excessive stress once it’s out of control and wracking havoc on your body, brain, and emotions?
It’s not possible to remove stress completely, and you wouldn’t want to. Stress is a natural response to potentially dangerous events. And positive stress, known as “eustress,” keeps you moving through challenges towards your goals.
With a little thought and determination, however, you can subtract many of the sources of stress from you life. Once you do, ease and joy will become the norm rather than a constant sense of frazzle.
It takes time to eliminate stress. I’ve been eliminating stressors for a while now and there’s more to go. Some causes of stress are deeply rooted in the psyche, so naturally it will take longer to remove them. Nevertheless, I think you’ll agree, eliminating the causes of stress is one of the best ways you can contribute to your own health and well-being.
21 Ways to Remove Stress from Your Life
Here are some of the stressors you can consider eliminating from you life. Not all these ideas will work for you and some may seem outrageous. But keep an open mind. You never know when a seemingly impossible idea will suddenly grab you and become the perfect possibility. As you go through the list, mark down which one’s might work for you.
1. Let go of expectations. I know, this is a big one. But the expectations we impose upon ourselves and others can cause an incredible amount of stress. For example, do you get riled up when someone’s late? Even small triggers like this can send you into stress mode. Keep track of your expectations for a week and observe how they make you feel. Then consider which expectations you can eliminate so you can feel more peace.
2. Reduce the number of deadlines you have to meet. For some people, deadlines provide positive stress. Not me! Just the opposite, the closer I get to a deadline, the more anxious I feel. I wrote about how I’ve removed many of the deadlines from my life in this post: How to Take the Stress Out of Deadlines.
3. Focus on the positive. In his book Just One Thing, Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time, psychologist, Rick Hanson, Ph.D. says:
There’s a traditional saying that the mind takes the shape it rests upon; the modern update is that the brain takes the shape the mind rests upon. For instance, if you regularly rest your mind upon worries, self criticism, and anger, then your brain will gradually take that shape – will develop neural structures and dynamics of anxiety, low sense of worth, and prickly reactivity to others. On the other hand, if you regularly rest your mind upon, for example noticing you’re all right right now, seeing the good in yourself and letting go…then your brain will gradually take the shape of calm strength, self confidence, and inner peace.
If you habitually focus on fear or negative outcomes, you may be activating your stress response system again and again and again. You may also be amplifying your stress by how you speak to yourself. Instead, focus on the positive and always encourage yourself. Read: 33 Mantras to Quickly Calm Your Stress Response.
4. Change underlying beliefs that keep you locked in the cycle of stress. Almost all of us have a few unhealthy beliefs like:
- I have to do this perfectly.
- I can’t say no. What will other people think?
- I must always be on time.
Of course, it’s not easy to change deeply held beliefs like these, but it’s possible. When stress starts to mount, take a look at the beliefs that might be causing it. Then work on changing them one at a time by using a more accurate counter belief or affirmation.
5. Eat a healthy diet. Poor nutrition can lead to mood swings and weight gain, which will only lead to more stress. Decrease sugar and junk food. Increase your intake of foods that are commonly known to fight stress, like:
- Chamomile tea
- Dark chocolate (in moderation)
- Leafy green vegetables
- Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids
- Flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds
6. Create and use zones of safety. A sense of safety averts stress. While it’s impossible to guarantee 100% safety anywhere, create some spaces where you can regularly take refuge and nourish yourself. It could be a special room in your house, a corner in your bedroom, your favorite spot in a coffee shop, or a place in nature.
7. Reduce your exposure to noise. Sound pollution causes biological changes in the body and can trigger the stress response. Think airplanes, traffic, leaf blowers, televisions, and loud neighbors, for a start. If sound is a regular irritant for you, look at ways you can reduce your exposure from installing double pain windows and weather stripping to turning off the television to using a white noise machine or listening to audio nature sounds. Try to escape from the big city now and then too.
8. Prioritize rest. Many people say their stress level increases as the length and quality of their sleep declines. Whereas people who get adequate sleep tend to report lower levels of stress. By practicing good sleep hygiene and getting in the recommend 7-9 hours, you can build your resilience to stress. Also, experiment with naps and see if you find them rejuvenating.
9. Make it a practice to single task. Multi-tasking increases stress for most people and the effects can continue even after the tasks are complete. Studies have also shown that people who multi-task are less efficient and have more trouble focusing on what’s relevant. If you want peace of mind, make it a habit to focus on one task at a time.
10. Drive less. Driving can be one of the most stressful activities you engage in. The act of driving itself tends to be stressful before you even add on changing lanes in busy traffic, braking when the traffic suddenly slows, or keeping your eye on a car that’s following you too closely. Let’s not even talk about traffic jams or road rage. Consider car pooling, bicycling, and batch your errands so you can make fewer trips.
11. Commit to a peaceful early morning routine. Did you know that an increase in early morning stress can last into the afternoon? The choices you make in the morning are especially critical if you want to keep your stress level in check. So resist grabbing for your phone or jumping online first thing. Instead, engage in a peaceful activity even if it’s only sitting in silence for a few moments while you enjoy your morning drink. Here are three ways to Outsmart Morning Stress and My Morning Routine: How I Start Each Day with Ease.
12. Change jobs. Yes, this is a big step, but if you consider the long term impact of chronic stress, leaving a highly stressful job could protect your health and extend your longevity. Remember, chronic exposure to stress can lead to serious health issues like cardiovascular problems, impaired immunity, anxiety, and depression. This is not a step to be taken lightly as any job change can momentarily increase stress. Only you know whether this is the right option for you. If you feel scared, unclear, or overwhelmed, consider working with a career coach to help you through the process.
13. Practice mindfulness. Over 30 years of research has demonstrated that mindfulness can reduce stress, improve health, and enhance quality of life. Mindfulness naturally decreases stress because it keeps us focused on the present moment instead of ruminating about the past or anticipating future events that may never happen.
14. Watch less news. Watching, reading, or listening to the news can increase stress levels significantly. I don’t suggest putting your head in the sand. Just reduce the amount of time you expose yourself to the news. Be aware of the types of information that especially causes your stress to rise. Avoid them or break away when the news becomes too intense for you. Take news free days now and then. And always remind yourself of the goodness in this world.
15. See challenges as opportunities. The way you perceive a situation and whether you feel in control can determine whether or not you feel stressed by it. So try to approach life experiences as worthwhile lessons rather than feeling victimized or powerless. Empower yourself and take action instead of feeling stuck. Even one small step can begin to make a big difference.
16. Move to a less stressful place. Some people thrive in a big city, but I do much better in a semi-rural location. Even when I lived in a big city, I found a quiet apartment at the back of a building that suited me well. Of course, when you move, you take a risk too as there are no guarantees your new location will be perfect. Weigh the pluses and minuses to see what might be best to help you reduce and avoid stress.
17. Gratitude. Research suggests that a grateful attitude improves your ability to cope with stress. Keep a gratitude journal or just think of a few things you’re grateful for when you wake up each morning or go to bed at night. Also make it a practice to evoke gratitude in your personal interactions. You can even get in the habit of feeling grateful for strangers like the checkout clerks in the grocery story, road workers, and customer service folks. They're all helping you in some way.
18. Start early. Look at your calendar at the start of each week and build in extra time to prepare and travel to whatever appointments you have. Whenever you have an appointment the next day, arrange your clothes, gather whatever papers you’ll need, and pack your handbag, backpack, or briefcase the night before. Leave early so you won’t arrive late. Use the spare time after you arrive to simply breathe and relax.
19. Take breaks throughout the day. Stop often during your work day to relax. Take a deep breath and just release your thinking mind for awhile. A sedentary life is not healthy, so try to get up and stretch or take a short walk. If possible, look out the window and connect with nature or actually go outside and feel the ground beneath your feet.
20. Speak up! Hiding your opinions, denying your needs, and suppressing your emotions leads to inner stress and unhappiness. If you feel uncomfortable expressing yourself, take a course in non-violent communication.
21. Do your own stress assessment. There are so many ways to eliminate stress. I've only touched upon a few. Make this process personal and more effective by identifying your own stress triggers, both ones on this list and ones that aren’t on this list. What stresses you out? Pinpoint the people, places, behaviors, and situations that bring stress into your life. Then, as much as you can, eliminate them one-by-one.
You don’t have to accept chronic stress as a way of life. There may be some things you cannot change right away, so start with what you can change. The simple act of taking charge and stepping into your power already will reduce your stress.
Monthly Stress Challenge: Go through this list and circle any steps you can take to eliminate stress from your life. Then add any additional stress triggers you came up with in your own stress assessment, but just the ones that can be changed. Select one item from the complete list and work on eliminating it from your life this month. Once you succeed, move on to the next.
What rings a bell for you on this list? Do you have others ways you prevent stress? I would love to hear.
My e-course, Living with Ease, The Mindful Way to Less Stress, offers a complete roadmap for dissolving stress and preventing it from overwhelming you again. The course combines mindfulness, self-inquiry, and supportive stress reduction techniques to help you give stress the boot. Check out the course details here.
Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious! Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always. With love, Sandra