No matter what you’re doing with your life — chasing your dreams or raising a family (or both!) — finding yourself stressed and exhausted is relatively common. Ultimately though, there are at least a few things that you’re doing that could cause the normal level of stress to skyrocket out of control. So, rather than adding an unlimited amount of things to your list that can end up overwhelming you, here are a few things you can NOT do to help reduce your stress level.
#1. Stop consuming sugar, caffeine, and nicotine
This is probably the single most significant piece of advice that I can give you. As someone who tends to self-medicate with caffeine, I consume probably 3 to 4 times the amount of sugar than most people per day. It becomes a wild ride in my body, struggling to keep up with the insane sugar roller coaster that I put myself on just to get a little bit of caffeine.
Nicotine does the same thing. It slowly integrates yourself into your body and physiology that quitting is akin to ripping off your own arms and accepting the fact that you’ll be a wreck for a few weeks. And that those weeks will be painful.
No matter the source of immediate dopamine, any of these three things can set your body into motion to cause more stress when you come crashing down. It can cause bouts of exhaustion, confusion, anxiety, unproductivity, and any number of other things, not to mention the harm of these things on your flesh suit. Stop doing these things and not only will your body slowly begin to recover from the abuse, but your anxiety and tension are also likely to go down.
#2. Stop the negativity
This negativity can stem from a few different ways. If you’re someone who focuses on failures, or even any significant slight, that’s a form of negativity. Leaning toward tearing yourself down verbally or mentally is also one of the worst kinds of negativity.
When you negatively speak about yourself, it can become habitual, mapping new paths in your brain that will help to reinforce these terrible thoughts. The more that you say it, the more that it becomes easier to believe — no matter how biased and incorrect that they are.
Try to actively change the way that you speak to yourself, to both yourself and others. It may seem strange to say some of these things, but this too can slowly become a habit and become a great way to help build you up, rather than tearing you down and causing you even more stress.
#3. Stop sitting in the dark
There’s a reason that the winter blues can hit and can hit you hard. A lack of vitamin D can cause a range of symptoms starting with depression. Working night shifts or sitting inside in a darkened room can produce the same effect.
If possible, you can avoid this by getting some sun, obviously, but if that’s not possible, you can install sunlight bulbs. They simulate actual sunlight and can brighten up your space. I have one in a lamp, so I only turn it on when I need it, like working late or after a stint of being sick and holed up for a little while.
#4. Stop overloading your schedule
When your schedule is overflowing, the stress can get amped up big time. If you’re worried about a significant project, two dozen emails, and a day’s worth of errands crammed in a single day, there’s every chance that stress will get to you. Even if you have fun things jammed in between work and sleep and family, it can become exhausting.
The best thing that you can do for this is to learn to say no. The first step is to define the parameters of your time clearly — work should stay at work, your home life should remain at home. Other than that it’s your discretion. Learn to say no to keep from overflowing your plate.
There’s no real way to tell you how to do this, you have to learn to do this on your own. It’s difficult, I know it’s one of my weaknesses. Just remember that you don’t have to feel guilty for placing your boundaries.
#5. Stop avoiding exercise
Exercise is one of the best ways to naturally boost mood, focus, and endorphins, a natural deterrent for depression and anxiety. With more exercise, it becomes a habit, not only hardwiring your brain to more easily get you to exercise but for your body to naturally create more happy hormones anyway.
Stopping stress and depression through exercise is widely known and prescribed by medical professionals. It doesn’t take much. Adding a few laps at your college pool, taking a walk with the kids around the neighborhood, or a small gym membership can make a big difference.
Sometimes, just eliminating a few things from your life can help to keep stress at bay, even for a small amount of time. Whether it’s only taking away your caffeine or just making sure to carve out a reasonable amount of time for sleep, taking proactive steps to reduce your stress can help to propel you forward in your life. Once you’ve made the first step to relieving some of your stress, it’ll be time to take another until you find your life has become more manageable.