Stress is something Danny Baker knows well. He has some advice on how to overcome it, too.
Having suffered from life-threatening bouts of depression for four years which led to alcoholism, drug abuse, medicine-induced psychosis, near-suicide attempts and multiple hospitalizations before my eventual recovery at the start of 2012, feeling stressed out is something I’m very familiar with. Part of my recovery involved learning how to reduce my stress levels, and thanks to a lot of therapy and personal development study, stress is now a burden that I rarely carry.
In no particular order, below is a list of 15 things you can do to feel less stressed out. They’re relevant to everyone, regardless of whether you suffer from depression or not.
- Know what your stressors are.
If you don’t know what your stressors are, then it’s very difficult to go about reducing your stress levels. So take some time out to pinpoint exactly what’s stressing you out, and then go about eliminating as many of those stressors as possible.
- Cut down your workload.
There are only 24 hours in a day, which for most of us, unfortunately, isn’t enough time to do everything that we want to do. So work out what really matters to you, focus your efforts and that, and forget about the other stuff.
- Break huge, seemingly insurmountable tasks down into much smaller ones.
You can apply this sort of thinking to most large tasks that cause you to feel stressed out at the mere thought of accomplishing them––such as losing 50 pounds (perhaps break it down to a pound a week), or running a marathon (maybe aim to run an extra mile a fortnight).
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I mean this on two different levels:
- a) Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your friends and family. You’d be there for them if they needed you, right? So odds are that they’d be there for you, too.
- b) If you’re feeling so overwhelmed that you feel you may be slipping into anxiety, depression or another mental illness, then have the courage to seek professional help. Start by seeing your local GP and take it from there.
- Take time out to relax.
Reducing your stress involves peppering your life with things that relax you. For me, this includes reading, playing basketball, watching sport and listening to music––and I make sure I spend at least 1-2 hours doing these things each day.
Research suggests that regular exercise––even a brisk walk––can increase the level of brain serotonin and brain endorphins, both of which have “mood-lifting” properties––and this can definitely help reduce your stress levels.
- Give yourself permission to say “no”.
If you say “yes” to everything, you’re going to have so many things to do that you’ll likely find yourself feeling overwhelmed very, very quickly. So once again, prioritize what really matters to you, and give yourself permission to say “no” to some things. It’s not being rude – it’s basic self-preservation. And when you protect yourself in this way, you’ll find you have more energy to give to the things that really matter to you––and that’s when you’re the happiest version of yourself you can be.
- Prioritize getting a good night’s sleep.
Have you noticed that everything just seems more difficult when you have a rough night’s rest? So make getting a good seven or eight hours of sleep a goal for your day. If you know you have to be up at seven, then start getting ready for bed at around 10:30. Stop doing whatever you’re doing, and start winding down by doing something relaxing – like reading a book, meditating or listening to classical music.
- Strive to become more organized.
If you leave tasks that need to get done to the last minute, you’re almost guaranteed to burden yourself with stress. When this happens, one of three things usually occur: you either don’t get what you need to do done; you get it done poorly; or, you do get it done, but you sacrifice sleep to do so. Regardless of what happens, you’re creating a lot of stress and anxiety for yourself.
On the other hand, if you take the time to be organized and plan ahead, you can eliminate a lot of this pressure you’re putting on yourself (just ask any high school student who blitzed their A levels).
- Stop comparing your life to others.
Life is not a race. There’s no need to worry about what everyone else is doing, because it isn’t relevant to us. So forget about it and just focus on living the happiest existence you can––and in the course of doing so, you’ll feel much less stressed out.
- Be mindful of what you’re grateful for.
I think being mindful of what you’re grateful for helps put everything in perspective. It’s not about trivializing the difficulties you’re currently facing––it’s about having them sit side-by-side with all the good things that are taking place in your life as well. When you do this, you’re much less likely to feel stressed out, because you realize that things probably “aren’t as bad as all that”.
Millions of people around the world swear by how well meditation helps them relax and unwind. They must be on to something, right?
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, outsource whatever you can, whether that be in your personal life (for example, by hiring a gardener or a cleaner), or your professional life (for example, by hiring a part-time assistant).
- Challenge your thinking.
A big source of stress for a lot of people comes from thinking “maybe they’re not good enough” to achieve one or all of their goals. But if you’re able to challenge those negative thoughts by reminding yourself of all you have accomplished in the past and why you are “good enough” to achieve what you’re going for this time, then you can strengthen your confidence, and thus eliminate a lot of your stress.
- Ask yourself, “is what I’m stressing out about going to affect the big picture?”
I think doing this exercise really helps you put things in perspective, and not sweat the small stuff. I suspect you’ll be surprised at how many times your answer is “no”.
What about you? What are the things you do to make you feel less stressed out?
If you enjoyed reading this post, you may also like Danny’s book titled “MY RECOVERY BLUEPRINT – How I overcame depression in three straightforward steps and how you can do the same.” Grab your copy from Amazon here.