5 actionable ways to reduce stress in your life

5 actionable ways to reduce stress in your life

Amy is an account executive a midsize company that provides customer service SaaS products to enterprises across the United States. As an account executive, Amy is responsible for maintaining positive relationships with existing clients and prospecting for new clients who are interested in purchasing her company’s services. Her boss recently instituted a new mid-year quota and Amy has found it difficult to hit the metric. As a result, she’s been feeling overly stressed and her work performance has suffered. What techniques can Amy use to reduce her stress levels and operate at peak performance? In this article we’ll go over some of the techniques that I’ve used to reduce stress when the pressure is on and operate at peak performance to accomplish my goals.

Meditation

Meditation - Reduce Stress

I know that when most people hear the word “Meditation” it evokes a thought of a Buddhist monk sitting in a mountain pass and becoming one with nature. Although this may be true in some instances, it’s definitely not true in this one. Since implementing this technique into my morning routine, I’ve noticed significant improvement in my stress levels and my ability to push through difficult situations.  Although this may sound like a subjective statement there’s actually quite a bit of science to back up my claim.

In a study conducted by Harvard University two controls groups were analyzed. The first contained participants who were instructed to meditate daily while the other maintained a routine that did not include meditation. After 8 weeks, the scientists took brain scans of the participants to see how their brains were affected. The meditation control group’s brain scans showed that the amygdala, the fight or flight part of the brain which is important for anxiety, fear and stress, shrank substantially. The size reduction of the amygdala positively correlated with reduced stress levels. Not only did the amygdala shrink but the left hippocampus, which assists in learning, cognition, memory and emotional regulation, also developed more grey matter! Who knew that meditation could change your brain composition! I challenge you to implement a 10 minute meditation practice into your daily routine and experience the positive results.

Deep Breathing

Deep Breathing - Reduce Stress

This is the technique I use most often to experience quick stress relief when the pressure is on. The act of deep breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system to come online and counter the brains natural fight or flight response. In other words, when you breathe deeply you’re body relaxes and is no longer on high alert looking for threats in your environment. As a result, you experience a reduction in heart-rate, blood pressure and stress levels. Next time you find yourself in a high stress situation, remember to take a few deep breathes and allow yourself to relax. This will help you to look at the situation more objectively and with a clearer mind.

Exercise

Exercise - Reduce Stress

Ah yes, the dreaded exercise routine. Many people may find this section repetitive but exercise is a great way to achieve a healthier lifestyle and reduce stress. When you exercise, your body increases the production of its feel good neurotransmitters called endorphins. This hormone helps regulate your mood and gives you a happy disposition. Along with the benefits it has on your mood, regular exercise helps reduce the levels of your body’s stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones if present in excess can wreak havoc on your long-term physical and mental health. Take some time each week to dedicate to exercising. This can be as little as 15-30 minutes 3-4 times per week. The benefits you’ll see from this change will astound you.

Practicing gratitude

Gratitude - Reduce Stress

Do you remember the last time you were around someone who was happy and grateful? I’m sure he or she put a smile on your face. Not only is being grateful a pleasant characteristic for people to have, it can also help you to deal with stressors in your life. In a study conducted by Dr. Randy and Lori Sansone of the Departments of Psychiatry and Internal Medicine at Wright State University a sample group of 389 adults were examined. In the experiment, participants were told to perform a gratitude exercise each morning. At the end of the study, participants were administered a survey which asked questions about general well-being. The survey results showed that participants who performed these gratitude exercises had a greater overall sense of well-being and reported reduced stress levels. Try to incorporate a 5 minute gratitude exercise each morning and become a grateful person.

Take time for yourself

Vacation - Reduce Stres

When was the last time you took a vacation? Do you remember how refreshed and relaxed you felt after? If your life is hectic and your performance is suffering it can be hard to imagine taking time off to relax. However, research suggests that taking a vacation may be just what you need to boost your performance. In a 2013 study conducted by Shawn Archor and Michelle Gielan of the Institute of Applied Positive Research, 414 travelers were administered a 34-item survey tailored to find out the connection between travel and happiness, and the effect of travel on stress and energy.

Results of the survey showed that as many as 94% of participants reported having as much or more energy after coming back from a good trip! However, not all vacations are created equal. Participants who had stressful travel experiences, reported feeling more stressed when returning. One of the top reasons for this stress was lack of proper planning. I recommend taking some time in the near future to plan out your next trip and make it as worry free as possible. I promise you, you won’t regret your decision.

Bringing it all together

After a particularly stressful day at work, Amy decided that she needed to address the excess stress in her life. First, Amy incorporated a 10 minute meditation session and gave herself some time each morning to write about three things she was grateful for. This routine helped clear her mind and approach the day with new resolve.  When she found herself in a stressful situation at work she would take a few deep breathes and refocus on the task at hand.

At lunch, she would take a brisk walk around the block to help her relax and boost her mood in the afternoon. That Saturday, Amy began planning a long trip with her friends to Costa Rica. Not only did this give her something to look forward to for the next few months but when she returned from her excursion she felt rejuvenated and ready to hit the ground running. Amy turned this new resolve towards achieving her quota and she eventually surpassed it! Amy’s approach to stress relief helped her in her professional life and it can help you too. Utilize some of these techniques in your daily life and let me know how they work for you. Do you have any other tips for our readers on how to deal with stress? I would love to hear from you.

P.S.

My book recommendation for this article is “Work Rules” by Laszlo Bock. As Senior VP of People Operations at Google, Laszlo shares his insights on how to make your work environment as enjoyable and stimulating as possible. He is one of the top professionals in the field of Human Resources and I found his perspective extremely insightful. I’ve provided the link to the book below.

“Work Rules! Insights from inside Google that will transform how you live and lead” by Laszlo Bock