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Simple (Not Easy) Approaches to Stress

Updated: Jul 5

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Thinking about how to deal with all the stress in life is just plain stressful. It reminds me of those ship-shipping ships - the container being the same as the contained. Like the ship shippers, tips to deal with stress can in themselves be stressful.

Over the years I've boiled stress management down to four key principles. Four simple "containers" for approaching any situation under the sun. I'm a naturally high strung kind of person, with a tendency to fly off the handle -- I am here to tell you there is no magic bullet. These strategies are simple yet far from easy. That's because it isn't enough to just know these -- or any -- strategies for managing stress. You also have to make yourself do them. Which can be daunting (i.e., stressful). Still, the boost in self-confidence and self-mastery you get from successfully deploying these strategies is worth the trouble.

Don't Compare Yourself To Others

First and foremost: just stop comparing yourself to other people. Comparison is the thief of joy. "Normal" is just a setting on a washing machine. Everyone is unique, life is a mystery, and sh*t happens. Accepting this is freeing. So, if you make a habit of regularly comparing yourself to other people. seriously stop it. You're not them and they're not you. Just focus on being the best version of yourself, whatever that looks like. Get to know yourself, spend time with yourself in contemplation, meditation, or prayer, and be your own best friend.

Get Some Sleep!

Get some sleep! Yes, we know you're busy, but taking a nap or getting a good night's rest is worth it. Your brain and body will thank you. In fact, I suggest both: a good night's rest and a nap. Please shed the feelings of guilt for taking naps. Also, ditch the over-achiever marathons that interfere with rest. Your very life is at stake and I'm not kidding. Sleep deficiency is linked to a half dozen serious health conditions.

One Thing At A Time

This one is difficult because it seems like we are expected to multitask constantly. Everywhere you go there are TVs and music blasting in public spaces, advertising, smartphones, and a culture that favors the short attention span. Add to that the economic pressures that force so many to work multiple jobs, we are quite literally all over the place. Resist that! Do one freaking thing at a time, as much as you possibly can (including not watching TV while you eat - now that is a game-changer). I know not everyone's brain works the same way (mine is pretty weird with a few neurological quirks). Not all of us will be able to just make ourselves focus. I realize that. My strategy is really about mindset. Decide that you want to succeed and start practicing. When you first start to do only one thing at a time it may feel like things are slipping out of control. It is probably not as bad as you are making it out to be in your mind. Make lists and keep reprioritizing as you cross things off of it. You will get there. Here, I made a bundle of printable lists you can use. Feel free to message me if you'd like me to make you a custom checklist.

Practice Becoming The Observer

This one might be the most important, although honestly all of these tips are important. This practice, however, is the key to escaping the seemingly never-ending stream of stress. Become the observer at least once a day. Step back and watch your thoughts and emotions without judgment. Like leaves floating on a stream or cars driving by, just watch them and name them. Disengage from the drama of your own inner automations. Start to recognize them so they won't be automatic anymore. This takes practice, but the reward is priceless peace of mind.

These tips are -- in fact -- difficult to implement consistently, I'm not going to lie. Still, they have the merit of being simple and powerful, and if you practice them consistently (or heck, even intermittently!) it can go a long way towards taking the edge off life's difficulties. It takes willpower to prefer to practice these things over sinking into despair, but if you aren't going to prioritize you, who will? Thanks for reading, I hope the rest of your day/night is chill.


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