Imagine you're a seal in the sea - swimming around, catching fish and bathing in the sun.
Stress is the killer whale, lurking in the depths, slowly creeping up on you.
In a moment of weakness it pounces and grabs you by the neck.
And now it has you in it's grasp you feel the stress envelop your body and mind. It makes you tired and fatigued. It causes brain fog and bad decisions. You get mood swings, hangry, annoyed and emotional.
Stress is a killer. It comes on without you even realising and can severely affect your life.
Luckily, you have 7 powerful ways to fight stress below. That killer whale is never going to touch you!
1. Learn to say no
Establishing boundaries is a way to separate work from play.
It's easy to think but hard to implement. As an executive, many people are expecting you to do things for them. You have a bunch of people relying on you and it can be overwhelming.
The best thing you can do is say no to the things which don't necessarily need to be done by you. There's already enough on your plate. Delegate tasks to others and establish when you'll be 'on' and when you'll be 'off'.
I like Derek Siver's mantra here - "If it isn't a HELL YEAH, it's a no."
Of course, there's a limit. You can't go around saying no to everything. There's probably a few things you can, though.
2. Take time to recharge
You are a cup (a very popular one) and every body would like a drink from it. The problem is, you can't pour from an empty cup. You must fill yours first.
Taking time to recharge, or refill, is important in reducing stress. You only have so much to give. A few strategies to recharge include:
Breathing - You do it already. Let's do it more purposefuly. Breathe in through your nose for 3 seconds, hold for 1, and breathe out for 3. Now do it without raising your ribcage. Focus on breathing deep into your belly. Complete ten of these breaths and tell me how you feel. This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to recharge.
Meditation - This doesn't have to be the 'ohmmmm' type stuff. Meditation can be anything which takes your mind off the outside world. It switches you off. For some, it's working on their car, for others it's going for a surf. Some just like to punch the lights out of a heavy bag.
Listening to music or reading a book - Another tool in your box which can take your mind off the outside world and take you to another place. It's a valuable thing to do every so often.
3. Be the most grateful man in the room
Taking note of the little things is a developed skill, which when mastered, can lead to a happier and mentally healthy life. This stuff has actually been studied.
In the morning, think of three things you are grateful for in that moment of time.
For example, mine this morning were:
They don't have to be big things. It can be a simple as having a roof over your head. Being grateful of things you usually pass over sets up a mental framework for the day to notice the little things which make you happy. There are tonnes which you most likely glance over every day.
And a happier person is generally less stressed.
4. Lift heavy things
There are two reasons resistance training is bloody brilliant at reducing stress.
First of all, it is meditative in nature. Just like learning a new skill, there are new movements you are doing with your body which require 100% of your focus. Adding external weights to that increases the focus needed.
Also, when you're straining to push up a weight so it doesn't crush you, there's not a chance in hell you're thinking about last quarter's financial report.
Secondly, resistance training releases endorphins in the brain. These little bad boys are the body's natural pain killers and mood elevators.
Endorphins counter stress on a physiological level. How good is that?
5. Let go of being 'invincible'
You're an adult now. You don't do any of the reckless things you did as a teenager. Driving too fast, drinking way too much or playing with fire (literally or figuratively) is in the past.
Although you don't do those things anymore, there are other things biting at you. Without the 'obvious' danger it can be easy to overlook them but it turns out adult stuff can be dangerous too. Working 60-hour weeks, not being able to sleep, looming deadlines, mortgage payments and people who depend on you.
These are behind closed doors. On the outside, it's all about appearances. The perfect household, trying to be the perfect partner and trying to be the perfect boss. You get stretched too thin with obligations and trying to prove your worth.
It's okay to ask for help.
You are not alone.
There are people whose sole mission in life is to help stressed out people exactly like you. Allow yourself to have permission to reach out. It will be the best thing you ever do.
6. Don't make mountains out of molehills
Stress is a reaction to a stimulus. It's about your perception of a situation.
The best thing to do is to have a in-built pause button. When a stressful situation arises, click pause and assess. Don't react in haste.
Many situations are able to be solved after a small amount of decision-making and delegation. Many are not worth stressing over.
There are no inherently stressful situations. People react differently. Your perception of a situation determines whether you believe it is stressful or not. Having a short stress filter in place can stop you from making mountains out of molehills.
Stress is very much down to your perception of it. If you leave it untouched then it can do some serious damage to your physical health, mental health and relationships.
Taking up a few simple strategies, such as,
- Gratitude practice
- A pause button
- Being vulnerable enough to ask for support
- Lifting weights
- Developing a recharge method
Can provide you armour against stress. It comes down to a mindset shift and putting on that armour. It may be heavy to begin with, but it gets lighter as time goes on.