18 Simple But Powerful Ways to Overcome Stress and Get Back Into the Flow
learning how to overcome stress is really about learning to live in the flow, so that you develop long term habits that allow you to navigate whatever arises in the future effortlessly as well.
“I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.” — Zora Neale Hurston
As we work longer hours, become more engaged in social events, take care of all the members of our family, meet all our obligations, get busier and busier, and try to become self-actualized, figuring out how to overcome stress in life can be overwhelming.
We’ve learned that there are so many triggers in our life that exacerbate the challenge of nonstop stress. Here are 18 daily lifestyle choices you can make to shift quickly back onto the path of destressifying. Experience teaches that if you try too many new techniques at once, you’re likely to fail, stop trying, and slip away from mastering how to overcome stress. So be smart: Select one—only one!—and own it until it flows effortlessly through you. Then move on to the next technique that resonates with you.
1. Simplify: The first step in learning how to overcome stress is to look at all the moving parts in your life. Find items, behaviors, and relationships that distract you more than nourish you and prune your life down. Don’t do it all at once— that will create more stress. Take five minutes every morning or evening, identify something that’s taking up space in your life, and release it. Six years ago, after I realized that I was holding on to many material things that added little or no value to my life—old birthday cards, trinkets that no longer had meaning, printed-out e-mails, clothes that no longer fit—I committed to a program of releasing one thing every day and cleaning my closet as the seasons changed. This program was my first step in understanding how to manage stress. These rituals have become liberating as I feel lighter; comforting as order returns; and even rewarding as my unworn older clothes get gifted to Goodwill. In the process, I have become less attached to many of my material possessions, and that has freed up some space in my mind.
2. Get comfortable with no: Saying yes to life opens you up to more opportunities, expanded horizons, and more abundance in every area of your life. But if you live every moment with an open door policy, you’ll quickly feel the stress of this abundance. Don’t shift your abundance consciousness—instead pick one day a week where you say no to everything. In order to overcome stress, create more definite boundaries and un-commit yourself from overreaching obligations where your needs probably won’t be met and most likely you will not meet someone else’s needs either.
3. Evolve a relationship: Every month, using the Five Realms of My Life Personal Worksheet (found in my book Destressifying) and your deep knowledge of your needs and the Five Realms, commit to shift, repair, or end a relationship that doesn’t serve you in its current state. The process may take you a few weeks, but once the relationship is actually meeting your needs, the benefits will be exponential as someone who once absorbed much of your thoughts no longer takes center stage in your mind or pushes your buttons. A good relationship will naturally help you understand how to relieve stress.
4. Start saving and lessen your debt: Make the commitment to get out of debt. Owing money, especially to a credit-card company, can be one of the most stressful aspects of your life. If you have a constricted relationship with money, reach out to master of abundance T. Harv Eker, author of Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, who has inspired hundreds of thousands around the world to be their best versions of themselves financially. You can also find very helpful debt-management guidance from any of Suze Orman’s or Dave Ramsey’s numerous books. And if you are looking to manage your wealth at a higher level, don’t try to do it yourself. Focus on your skills that made the money to begin with, and reach out to a wealth-management firm with integrity, a long-term goals-based orientation, and solid core values that align with yours. This is not meant as investment advice—this is pure destressifying. You can really overcome your stress by removing the challenges that brought it on in the first place. Make the commitment today to shift into abundance consciousness.
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6. Celebrate: Take the time at the end of each month to celebrate another successful 30 days of overcoming stress, meeting your needs, heightening your emotional awareness, communicating consciously, and moving closer to self-actualization. Oftentimes when the month ends, you may roll right into the next month without skipping a beat. This feeds the nonstop swirl and the relentless intensity of daily living. If instead, you break your year into 12 celebrations where you reward yourself with an experience, a trip, or a treat you’ve been desiring, prepare a special dinner, pay off some debt, or put some money into savings, then you will fulfill many of your unmet needs as you close the loop and move closer to self-actualization. In addition, take some gratitude time each day—even if it’s only a minute—to celebrate your small wins in managing your stress and your blessings. (See technique #13.)
7. Get perspective: Don’t dwell on solving situations you can’t control, such as weather, traffic, flight delays, what someone else might be thinking about you, and the like—it just creates unnecessary stress. Solve one small problem every day that is within your control—something easy, like taking a walk, putting some attention on a neglected relationship, reading a few pages of a book, going to an exercise or yoga class, putting the cap back on the toothpaste, taking out the trash, cleaning a room or your car, washing the dishes, paying bills, watching a training video, doing the laundry, or bettering yourself in some way—to remind you what is within your ability to influence. This “win” will reinforce your moving forward and will actually fuel the meeting of your Esteem Needs with greater consistency.
8. Go to bed: Lack of sleep is a huge stressor. There are a few hundred reasons we don’t go to bed early and sleep restfully through the night, but the most common are the food we ate for dinner (usually too much caffeine or alcohol), the evening urge to stay online or watch TV (catching up on e-mail or mind-numbing social media), and the fact that we resist slowing down after 7 p.m. (often just beginning our evening dining and socializing). Set a target to be in bed by 10:30, and start by going to bed 15 minutes earlier every week until you get there. If you’re learning how to handle and overcome stress, this is one of the easiest places to start.
9. Exercise regularly: We know the value of getting our blood flowing and the nourishing chemical and hormonal response we experience from a good workout. In order to thrive physically and emotionally, and overcome our stress, the bodymind needs to cultivate strength, flexibility, and balance. Daily exercise of at least 22 minutes (the minimum threshold for capillary development) makes that possible by building our resilience, and it releases physical tension. Exercise also allows the mind to release anxiety—and you don’t even need to leave the house to do it. Every TV content provider offers free programming for physical workouts, Pilates, yoga, and dancing.
10. Create a nourishing environment: Ideally, one of the steps you are taking toward destressifying your life is decluttering. Clutter in the home can create stress for everyone who lives there. A messy home equals a stressy home! If you can make the commitment to manage your stress by creating all your physical spaces with balance and nourishment, your outer world will begin to mirror your inner destressified self. Being in any space that you consider calm, orderly, and reflective of your values will support you in your projects, relationships, and choices. You don’t need to jet off to Tahiti right now to overcome stress—even making regular trips to tranquil places in nature where the sounds, sights, aromas, and “vibe” continue to nourish and relax you can have a powerfully destressifying long-term impact.
12. Cultivate self-referral: If you think life is rushing at you too quickly, remind yourself that the world comes at you at the speed and frequency you choose. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing outside circumstances and obligations control your inner dialogue and that you’re at their mercy. Develop clarity regarding what is within your control and what is not. The outside world will only bring us temporary happiness—true, long-lasting happiness rests within. As the famous 12-step prayer reminds us: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” By developing your understanding of these teachings, you cultivate your own innate empowerment and will begin to know how to stress less about things beyond your control.
13. Practice gratitude: Having a daily gratitude practice allows you to reduce stress by seeing the magnificence in each moment and can shift your sense of internal optimism or pessimism to a more life-affirming place. Seeing the silver linings in each moment allows you to be more creative with your problem solving and shift from a “poor me” mindset to a “lucky me” perspective. Throughout your day, ask yourself, “What am I grateful for?” and “Who am I grateful for?” In the realization of your good fortune and blessings, you’ll feel the positive effects of your actions and connect to greater joy in your life, which has the effect of helping you to overcome stress.
14 Get in tune with the rhythm of life: There’s no such thing as a daytime raccoon, and there’s no such thing as a nocturnal human. Just like plants, most birds and mammals, and the majority of diurnal creatures on the planet, our bodies are wired to rise with the sun, be productive during the 12-plus hours of sunlight everyday, and wind down when it sets. People who say, “I’m a night owl” are confused or conditioned with a non-nourishing behavioral pattern, and these patterns can cause large amounts of stress when unmanaged which will later need to be overcome. When we can align ourselves with the rhythms of nature—the daily, lunar, tidal, and seasonal— we are not struggling against universal forces of nature. We are flowing with them.
15. Keep breathing: If you find yourself in the throes of chronic stress, where you are living in a state of emotional fight or-flight, then most likely your breathing is probably pretty shallow or erratic and your sympathetic nervous system is calling the shots. Making a conscious decision every hour throughout the day to take a few deep, relaxing breaths in through your nose—and long, sighing exhales out through your mouth—to activate your parasympathetic nervous system will offset the initial surge of the sympathetic nervous system and the subsequent constricting physical effects. This is a powerful tool in mastering how to overcome and manage your stress. Additionally, just 16 seconds of deep breathing fills your body with nourishing, calming oxygen and activates your relaxation response by quickly introducing a pattern interrupt into the first few conditioned waves of emotion or tension. Proactively practice 16 seconds throughout the day at 10 a.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m., and whenever you find yourself in an idle moment—in your car, waiting in a line, while you’re on hold, and so on.
16. When you’re going through hell, keep going: These words attributed to Winston Churchill during World War II can be a subtle reminder to keep leaning, keep moving in the direction of your dreams. destressifying works, and it works in a relatively quick period of time if you trust the process. We know that the most successful people get clear on their plan and give it 40 days to unfold. It’s been said that Thomas Edison failed more than 15,000 times in his attempts to create the incandescent light bulb and that Michael Jordan—the greatest basketball player to ever live—missed 50 percent of all his shots. But small irritations and blockages never stood in their way for long. They understood the “forge ahead” mindset. And if you choose to keep going, even when it looks pretty dark out there, you will rally those around you to support your efforts. Sometimes, if you’re trying to figure out how to overcome stress, you just need to get beyond it. So keep destressifying, keep practicing, and as Churchill also is reported to have said, “Never, never, never give up.”
17. Go back and change things: Oftentimes, once the regrettable comment leaves your lips or the unfortunate decision begins to take hold, you may shut down and ruminate on it for hours, days, months, and even years. But you are never really stuck. Even though your actions are carved in stone, you can always revisit the scenario and apologize, request another chance, and recast the trajectory of your words and actions. By taking control of the situation in the present, we can understand how to manage our stress over things that are past.
Chapter 2, verse 47, of the ancient Indian text the Bhagavad Gita says, “We have total control over our actions, but no control over the fruit of our actions.” And yet we spend so much time in the fruit—the part we can’t control. Instead, let’s go back in and perform new actions, make new decisions to shift our lives from where they are to where we’d like to be.
18. Remember the power of your ripple: Every word you say and every action you take has a powerful impact and huge consequences, whether that causes or helps you overcome stress. When you smile at someone, authentically thank them, pay them a compliment, apologize with remorse, ask for forgiveness, forgive them, offer a hug or a kind word, congratulate them on a job well done, or recognize their accomplishments, you start a ripple of energy that takes on a life of its own. They in turn flow their energy out into the world, and so on . . . and on. Every time you express yourself in a word or deed, a new ripple begins. You are a magnificently powerful being.
Remember the power of your ripple.
This piece on how to overcome stress is excerpted with permission from the book Destressifying by davidji.
About The Author
davidji is a mindful performance trainer and author of “destressifying: The Real-World Guide to Personal Empowerment, Lasting Fulfillment, and Peace of Mind.” You can find him at davidji.com.