Stress is all around us and has a negative impact on our body, mind, and spirit. You may find that your periods and moods become erratic, you may get times of diarrhea or constipation, you are extra tired throughout the day, and/or you get sick often if you live under chronic stress – among other things. Chronic stress has been found to lead to many health problems down the road: heart disease, headaches, allergies, arthritis, depression, weight changes, nutritional deficiencies… the list goes on. To learn more about how stress impacts the body, check out this post. It is a good overview and may help you see why stress is so bad for your body long term. There are many types of stress that we can encounter in a typical day, and they all cause the same physiological changes. Some examples are nutritional, chemical, and traumatic. To learn more, check out this post all about the types and how to look for them.

This post gives you 5 steps to follow to start to decrease your stress levels today. I have made them easy to follow and act on, so results are guaranteed. Take your time when going through these and be as honest as you can with yourself. Honesty will help you get more dramatic results in the long term.

Step 1:

Start a list of all the stressors you have in your life. You can take a few days to make sure you get down all that you can. As stressors come up, jot them down. Do not judge these triggers. You are human, and humans have stress! As you go through your day, make a note of all the situations that come up that create tension, anger, sadness, or any other negative emotions. It may be easier to jot down the event at the time and then categorize it later when you have time and are feeling better. You may find that as you go through your day, there are a lot of triggers that come up for you. This is a good thing! The more honest you are with yourself at this stage, the better your results. A day may look like this:
  • Alarm made me agitated, and I was still really tired
  • Stubbed toe coming out of the shower
  • Spilled granola onto floor
  • Someone cut me off in traffic, heart rate was really high
  • Work computer was acting up and slowed down my work for the day
  • Co-worker was complaining about something in lunchroom, really brought me down
  • Perfume smell was really strong for some time today, gave me a headache
  • Got home from work and couldn’t eat a good meal, felt a little sick after having a few granola bars
  • Rushed to book club and was a little late
  • In bed unable to sleep
Everyone’s stressors are going to look different, but this is just a little example. You can add more information to each note if you notice other things too. Things like the emotion you felt and where it showed up in your body. Sometimes it can be a tension in the heart, headache, or maybe you feel lightheaded or shaky. These are good things to start to notice, so you can begin to put your own puzzle together. At the end of Step 1, you will have a detailed list of many of the things that bring you stress on a day-to-day basis.

Step 2:

Once you have written them down, go through the list to see if there are any triggers you can immediately remove from your life. Complete removal of stressors can make a huge difference in your stress levels. An example can be driving. If it is a stressor for you, ask yourself if you need to drive at all. Maybe you can walk, ride a bike, take public transit, carpool. If you do need to drive, brainstorm ways to make it better for you. Things like listening to self-help audiobooks or podcasts can be very common and relaxing for the commute. You may also want to keep reminding yourself that everyone out on the road is just trying to live their lives too. They want to get to work quickly and safely just like you, and they want to get home to their family or friends just as badly.

This example is from my own life, as you may be able to guess! Driving has brought a lot of stress to me in the past. At one point, I decided to ride my bike to work rather than drive and my moods instantly changed. I was getting a lot of exercise, fresh air, time in nature because I rode through our beautiful river valley, and I had a higher level of wellbeing because I was helping the environment rather than hurting it. All from one change. Imagine if you make a few!

Another example can be overcommitting yourself in your free time. Ask yourself if you need to be a part of everything that you are involved in. You can always cut things out if necessary. Our time here on earth is short and should be sweet!

Other things you may consider removing from your life are the activities you have said, ‘Yes, I’ll help with that.’ When you really wanted to say no. You may not be able to remove yourself from some, but it is good to remember for the future – saying NO to someone is okay! You and your time are important, and don’t let others make you feel like that isn’t true.

Step 3:

Now look through your list for triggers you can alter a bit to make them more manageable. Taking a look at some of the examples I wrote down in Step 1, here are some solutions: Alarm clock agitation – do you need an alarm clock? Is there another way to wake up? There are tonnes of apps to help you wake up slower and in a more calm state. There are ways to play music as your alarm. You can play your favourite song to get you out of bed every day. There are cool alarm clocks you can get that slowly start to light up as it gets closer to your wake up time. This way you wake up to light rather than sound. 

Stubbing the toe – this may just be a matter of slowing down in the morning. I know it is something that can be unavoidable, but by being more mindful and doing things slower, you may stub your toe less. When you do stub your toe, it is a great time to practice a calmer reaction. It hurts, yes, but taking a few deep breaths and stopping all action until the pain has subsided can help you relax faster once it is all over.

Spilled granola on the floor – slow down and when it does happen, just laugh it off. The day is not ruined by a little mess!
Work computer was acting up – there is nothing you can do in this situation. This is a perfect time to work on your reaction to a trigger. What can you do to help the situation? Is there another computer you can use? How long will it take to fix? Work on finding a solution rather than dwelling on the crappy situation and all the bad things that could come from it. Downer co-worker – this situation is hard, and can bring you down really fast. Can you change the subject with this person? Is there a way to make them feel better about what they are talking about? You may have to just get up and leave and then work on getting back to a happier place when you are out of earshot.

Cannot sleep at night – sleep deprivation is a scary thing. It is terrible for our mind and body. Sleep hygiene is a great place to start if you are having a hard time. Some examples of things you can try are: turn off all electronic devices 30 minutes to 1 hour before bed, create total darkness in your bedroom, read or do some meditation just before you go to bed to help calm the mind, and leave your bed for only sleeping and sex. There are many more, but these are a good start.

All of the above are some examples of how you can alter your triggers to make them less stressful for you. There are so many for each example and all will be different depending on each person. It may take a little trial and error to see what works and what doesn’t, and it will all get easier as time goes on.

Step 4:

Some of the categories of stress need special attention. This includes traumatic, emotional, mental, and any others where one needs the help of a professional. Take a look at your list now and see if any apply in this step. An example of this can be having an issue at work. You may have the idea that no one at work can do the work that you can do so you end up doing it all yourself rather than having help. Or say everyone in your life bothers you, maybe at that point it isn’t everyone else but yourself that is the issue.

If you are a perfectionist, a workaholic, are depressed, or if you have just gone through a devastating ordeal, you may want to seek help. That can be through any avenue you choose that resonates with what you believe.

In this case, a therapist may be the answer or you may feel more in touch with a reiki healer or homeopath. You choose what fits most with where you are in your life and your beliefs. This step will most likely take the longest to see changes, but will show big results as you improve. Always remember that you can do anything you really want, and change is possible for anyone.

Step 5:

You may have some triggers on your list that are unavoidable and that is okay. This step is all about stress management. Some stresses just happen and are totally unavoidable. For this reason, having a regular stress management routine is a great idea. This may sound totally boring, but like anything else, it is what you make it. Stress does build up in our body and mind throughout the day, so having ways to release it is priceless. Having a way to reduce stress daily is a great step to better health and can include yoga, exercise, quality sleep, nature walks, reading, mindfully sipping some tea, colouring, earthing/grounding, playing with a pet or child. Anything that makes you calm is reducing your stress. I purposely left out meditation from the above list because I think it belongs in everyone’s daily routine. Meditation immediately takes you to a place of deep relaxation and connects the mind, body, and spirit to universal energy and love. I won’t go into detail about it here because it is such a huge topic, but just understand that the health benefits are drastic and you will notice an immediate shift in your energy and emotions. You can start with a 5 minute meditation of counting your breaths. Breath in – 1, breath out – 2, breath in – 3, breath out – 4, and continue until you reach 10, then begin back at 1. Repeat for 5 minutes. When a thought flows into your mind (and they will), imagine it floating away like a cloud. That is it! It can be so simple and yet so profound.

Work these into your daily life and you will not be sorry!

Final Thoughts

These are the steps to decreasing the stress in your life. They are very actionable and you will notice a difference in your wellbeing when you have completed them. You will need to go through this list over and over again throughout the years. Our lives are always changing and so will our stressors. The more you go through this list to remove and alter the triggers in your life, the better you will feel and the less stress you will find you hold on to. Remember that stress is our reaction to events and situations in our lives, not the events themselves, so we are always in control. The next post is all about ideal nutrition for an anti-stress lifestyle, so make sure to check it out. Yours in plant love, Carly
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