If there is one thing that we can agree upon, it is the fact that our lives are filled with a lot of stressors, and the stress levels are increasing by the day. Given that we are all susceptible to stress, the key differentiator is how we respond to that stress. We discuss below some of the strategies that the most successful people have used to manage the stress they are exposed to.
1. Know when to unplug
The factors that trigger stress for each of us are different, and it helps if you keep tabs on the things that trigger high levels of stress within you. “Know thy enemy” is the motto here as you can detect when stress is creeping up on you.
At that moment, it is best to initiate coping measures before the stress redlines. This could be taking a walk in the park, turning off your gadgets periodically (such as at night) so that your mind and body can get a break, and so on.
Knowing when to unplug is an important way that successful people use to manage stress, and adopting this strategy will help you too.
2. Ritualize your day
Stress often results when unexpected things happen. To limit the chance that unexpected things will happen, start ritualizing your day so that everything that happens is expected at the time it happens.
For example, dedicate a block of time during your workday for returning calls or checking emails. In this way, you can focus on your high-priority tasks during the hours when you are most productive and then open yourself to external factors once your key priorities for the day have been attended to.
Another example of ritualizing your day in order to minimize stress is provided by former President Obama. He revealed that he wore only blue or gray suits in order to avoid having to expend valuable mental energy thinking about what he will wear each day. To him, our mental energy for each day is finite and he didn’t want to spend any of it on trivia (like what to wear). By reserving that decision-making energy for the crucial tasks he had to attend to, Obama was able to minimize the stress that could arise from being exhausted by having so many things to make decisions about.
Take the cue from someone who has run America as President for a decade and start ritualizing your day as a way of managing the stress you face.
3. Practice Gratitude
Lots of successful people manage stress by practicing gratitude. This can take the form of starting your day by listing 2-5 things you are grateful for in your day or life. This isn’t an attempt to go Oprah on you, but studies have shown that practicing gratitude orients you to be positive and lowers the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Once your body and mind are “positively charged” by practicing gratitude, you will be less likely to be stressed out by the things that go wrong during your day.
4. Recharge your brain frequently
Remember what President Obama said about having limited energy to make decisions each day? Those energy reserves can run low when your day is not yet done. What happens in that case?
In the same way that you top up the gas in your car while on a long trip, so can you recharge your brain so that you can remain productive all day long. One way to do this is to have a 15-30 minute nap during the day (around lunchtime, for example). Studies have shown that a nap that lasts about 15 minutes can give you an additional 3 hours of peak productivity, so there is no more excuse for you to be grumpy and unproductive in the afternoon!
Other ways to recharge the brain include doodling (even while attending a meeting) and constructive daydreaming. Research other techniques that may work for you and implement them. Remember, a brain with a decent reserve of energy is better placed to cope with and manage stress.
5. Establish healthy boundaries
It is important to have boundaries in your work and life in general. For example, do you sleep with your phone on and are expected to answer work emails at any time of the day or night? If you answered yes, then you know how not having boundaries can significantly increase the stress to which you are exposed.
It therefore follows that establishing and implementing some healthy boundaries in all spheres of your life can help you manage the stress to which you are exposed.
6. Practice meditative breathing
Whether you have healthy boundaries, have ritualized your day and even practice gratitude, there will be a time when you will feel stressed. What do you do in such a case?
Meditative breathing can be the answer you need in the moment. It involves taking slow, deep breaths so that your nervous system can calm down and your body can let go of its stress response (fight or flight mode).
When you get good at meditative breathing, you will be able to stop stress in its tracks each time it occurs.
7. Focus on what you can control
Lots of people become incredibly stressed by devoting all their attention to the things they cannot control in their lives. The resultant feeling of helplessness worsens their psychological and physiological state in the short and long term.
A more helpful approach to take is to keep your attention on the things that you can control. For example, the current pandemic has caused a lot of stress to everyone, but those who choose to focus on the things they can control during the crisis are coping better with this stress.
For instance, someone who says they will stay at home, use sanitizers frequently and take all other steps available to avoid being infected will be less stressed than another person worrying about the overwhelmed hospitals and the high death rates.
Another crucial benefit of focusing on the things you can control is that you have the opportunity to take action and move things in the direction you want. Action on its own reduces stress since it focuses your mind on solutions rather than on problems.
8. Use self-talk to bolster your confidence
Confident people are better able to manage stress since they know that they have the capacity to deal with whatever situation triggering the stress. For example, it is easier for a confident person to set and enforce boundaries in their life, so they will easily say no to a request for help which may make them fail to deliver on the objectives they had set for themselves.
Self-talk has to with the things you say to yourself. These can be positive or negative. Boost your confidence by framing things in a positive way instead of beating yourself up for every mistake. Tell yourself that you are getting better in everything you do, and list specific examples to give yourself concrete examples to prove this point. As your confidence grows, your stress threshold will also increase accordingly.
Stress is an integral part of life. We all need to have a toolkit of different coping mechanisms so that we can thrive despite the stressors to which we are exposed. The higher you go in your business or career, the more stressful the situations you will be exposed to, so consider one parameter of your success as being able to cope with all the stress inherent in your job, business or even relationship. We have shared some strategies used by successful people to manage stress in the discussion above. Share in the comments below any other technique that has worked for you!
To Your Success,