Stress Less: 10 Quick Tips

  1. Write down three things you feel grateful for each morning.

  2. Practice deep breathing 3-5 minutes each hour.

  3. Listen to relaxing or inspiring music before every meeting.

  4. Eat something balanced every 3-4 hours to keep blood sugar steady.

  5. Move for a few minutes every hour.

  6. Send a positive email to someone you appreciate before checking your inbox.

  7. Be aware of the messages you’re receiving through TV, web surfing, social media and news.

  8. Build strong social connections.

  9. Prioritize sleep: at least 7 hours.

  10. Disconnect from technology and spend time in nature frequently.

The impact of stress is determined by one’s perception of the experience and the amount of resources that are available to adapt or cope. Contrary to what many believe, it turns out that trauma can make us stronger, and living a life free of stress can wear us down.

So how do you optimize your stress-related growth?

The good

Because it represents a potential threat, any change is perceived by the brain as stress. The brain’s primary function is to keep the system safe, and an energy demand when resources are low could lead to a deficit that cuts into what’s necessary to survive. When we are running on empty even molehills can feel like mountains.

Add energy through strategies such as social support, an optimistic perspective or gratitude, and suddenly challenge can be seen as an opportunity for growth. Exercise, a flu shot, standing in a long line—these are all stimulation for change that is positive when we are able to adapt to be stronger. It is our perception that determines our experience and ultimately our outcome. Change your mind, and you change your life.

The bad

When we don’t get enough sleep, lack proper nutrition or sit for long periods of time the brain begins to shift the body into conservation mode as a means of protecting itself. Suddenly, that simple task at work, the nagging colleague or family demands we usually breeze through on a good day turns us into a jerk.

If you were stranded on a deserted island with no food, being patient, loving and kind would be of no help. Killing something and eating it would. What’s worse, this type of everyday "I’m-stressed-and-tired" vibe is highly contagious, and can shift those around us into a similar state.

The ugly

Perhaps the worst stress of all is the kind we don’t even see or feel. We convince ourselves that we thrive on stress or it simply becomes our new norm. Besides, everyone is stressed so who are we to think we have it worse than anyone else?

Slowly but surely, the brain and body break down thanks to stress hormones, which, while helpful in the short-term, lead to the worst kind of internal wear and tear. The American Institute of Stress estimates that 75 to 90 percent of medical visits are stress-related. Although stress will not cause illness or disease, you can assume that it will speed up the development of anything negative that exists in your system.

Add to that the non-stop negative news cycle that convinces the brain it’s dangerous just to get out of bed in the morning, and your brain becomes hijacked by the emotional protection system that diminishes performance and destroys health over time. Unfortunately, talking about the harmful effects of stress typically just stresses us out even more. The good news is, with an adequate recharge routine in place to keep our energy up and our perspective positive, we can use stress to our benefit.