How To Deal With Stress
For the past 8 years, I’ve put a lot of effort into gaining control over stress. Any time I would feel even the slightest amount of stress, I’d self-reflect to figure out why I was feeling stressed.
I’d ask myself questions like:
- Why am I feeling stressed?
- What caused me to feel stressed?
- What could I have done differently that may have prevented me from feeling stressed?
These questions, while simple, allowed me to “step outside of my life” and look at my life from a third-person perspective.
As time went on, I felt more confident in understanding what situations and experiences caused me to feel stressed. And then in 2013, my understanding of stress in my life reached a whole new level.
2013 was the year I felt as if I lost most everything I had:
- My car had broken down and needed new brake lines, vacuum hoses, a couple sensors, and probably a lot of other things that I can’t think of at the moment. Sadly, I didn’t have enough money to fix it. I went without a car the entire year.
- I had to break up a relationship with someone I cared about due to them behaving in a way that was technically right but morally wrong.
- I was poor and realized my “career” path at the time would not get me to where I wanted to be without sacrifices I wasn’t willing to make.
You would think that after going through those events around the same time, I would have been seriously stressed out - but I wasn’t.
I mean, I still had bills to pay with no clear path to accomplish that. I was still disappointed about my relationship. And without my car, I had to choose between being stuck in the house or walking through the hood to reach my destination.
But yet, I was more relaxed than I’ve ever been.
I felt so relaxed because I couldn’t understand how it happened. It was like being in a state of shock.
How I got rid of my stress
You see, the “shock” stopped me from being stressed out initially. It acted as a short term “patch” in a way. That “patch” gave me the opportunity to self-reflect and started to see a recurring pattern.
I had a car but wasn’t prepared for the inevitable maintenance. I didn’t know what owning a car required besides putting gas in it.
I was in a relationship that wasn’t working out, but I didn’t know what made a successful relationship.
I was poor with a career that wouldn’t make me financially independent without making sacrifices I was unwilling to make. Why didn’t I know this beforehand or during my first year of this career?
The recurring theme that appeared during my stressed moments was that I did things before I was prepared to be successful at them.
Once I realized the recurring theme, the potential stress that was lingering and waiting for the “patch” to wear off, disappeared.
Because I figured out the root cause of my stress: feeling like I had no control over my life.
By discovering the root problem, I eventually found a solution as well. I started learning and preparing myself for as many “worst-case scenarios” as possible.
It was this preparation that helped me stop myself from being stressed. From that point forward, being stressed was rare because of the control I had over my life, thanks to being prepared.
How to relieve stress
Because everyone is different, there’s no way I can tell you exactly how to stop yourself from being stressed out. There are too many variables, situations, emotions, and environments that affect your unique situation.
However, I can give you some advice that to help you figure out the correct answer for you:
Examine your situation from a third-person point of view and find the recurring patterns.
Although your stressful situations may seem different, there should be a comment theme that all of your stressful situations have. By finding this pattern, you’ll eventually find the root cause of your stress.
Solving the root cause of your stress is the only way to get rid of your stress. Everything else
Tips for managing your stress levels
Finding the root cause of your stress is top priority. However, while you’re trying to find the root cause, it’s a smart idea to keep your stress levels as low as possible.
I wrote this section intending to help manage stress instead of stopping it. Our lives are always growing and changing, and there’s no guarantee that our stress triggers will stay the same throughout our entire life.
So read the tips in the section and use them as often as necessary to help manage and reduce stress levels.
1. Take a deep breath while smiling
When I was growing up, I was taught that smiling or taking a deep breath was good at managing stress. And while I’m sure that works for people, I never had much luck when I did either of those things separately.
However, once I combined them, the difference was amazing. By taking a deep breath while smiling, I immediately felt better mentally.
So, if you haven’t had good luck managing stress by smiling or taking a deep breath - try doing them together. You might have better results.
2. Start cleaning
This technique is one of my favorites when feeling stressed or overwhelmed. It allows you to be productive while giving you an easy “win”. It’s amazing how something so small, such as cleaning, can make you feel accomplished and motivated.
My recommendation for anyone using this technique is to clean things that are easy and quick initially. This will help give you a quick initial boost of feeling accomplished. Easy “wins” are extremely important for staying motivated.
Regardless of what you choose to clean, avoid anything that takes a long time and requires a lot of effort. For example, I would not recommend power washing your house to manage your stress levels.
However, cleaning dishes, mopping, and organizing are great for stress management.
3. Eat less sugar
This recommendation is a lot harder than it sounds. Sugar has been hypothesized to induce inflammation and stress on the body. And not only is sugar addicting, but it’s an ingredient in most food sold in grocery stores in America.
This makes it difficult to avoid sugar entirely unless you’re on the “carnivore diet”.
But since we’re trying to manage our stress, I wouldn’t recommend switching to a brand new diet. Switching diets is stressful on its own. And we’re trying to bring our stress levels down, not add to them.
What I recommend instead is to just eat less sugar.
This can be done by eating primarily meat and vegetables. Meat and vegetables will help stabilize your blood sugar and possibly help your mental health as well.
4. Have a small/medium goal and work towards it
Having a goal and working towards it is a good way to manage your stress levels. Similar to cleaning your house when you’re stressed, working towards a goal will give you small wins. These small wins help build confidence and motivation to tackle more difficult situations.
For example, one of my recent goals involves finishing up a renovation on my duplex. Every task I complete related to this goal motivates me to keep going.
Now, your goal doesn’t have to be as drastic as renovating a duplex. Your goal could be learning how to improve yourself, organizing your closet, or being able to do 10 pushups. There’s no rule on how to pick your goal.
Just choose something small and achievable. Then achieve it.
- DiNicolantonio JJ, Mehta V, Onkaramurthy N, O'Keefe JH. Fructose-induced inflammation and increased cortisol: A new mechanism for how sugar induces visceral adiposity. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2018 May-Jun;61(1):3-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2017.12.001. Epub 2017 Dec 8. PMID: 29225114.
- Knüppel A, Shipley MJ, Llewellyn CH, Brunner EJ. Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study. Sci Rep. 2017 Jul 27;7(1):6287. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-05649-7. PMID: 28751637; PMCID: PMC5532289.