This article will discuss what causes stress and four effective ways to reduce stress.
Stress happens when our mind gets overloaded with more than one thought or information to process. Studying for an exam and thinking about the text you just received can cause stress.
Working in your office and thinking about the argument that you had in the morning with your wife can cause stress.
Even meeting people at a party and worrying that your dress isn’t looking nice can cause stress. In short, stress happens when your mind is processing more than one thing at a time.
Following are some powerful ways to reduce stress…
1) Make a to-do list
Stress is caused when you have a lot of things on your mind- the unfinished tasks that you have to finish and the unsolved problems that you need to solve. As long as you don’t finish your tasks or solve your problems, your mind will keep bothering you about them every now and then.
As a result, some part of your mind will remain occupied with these thoughts and stress is likely to happen when you do any activity.
Writing the things down in your to-do list will free up your mind’s space and your mind will no longer bother you because it now knows that the tasks will get done. This way your chances of getting stressed will get drastically reduced.
2) Re-assure your mind
If you don’t make a to-do list, you can still calm your mind down by re-assuring it. Let’s say you were working in your office and suddenly you worried about the pipe that you had to get fixed in your apartment’s wash-room.
At this point, you are likely to get stressed because you are thinking about your work and the pipe.
If, however, you re-assure your mind by telling yourself something like, “I’ll call the plumber as soon as I’m on my way home” then your mind won’t bother you any more about it and your mind’s space that was worrying about it will get freed up.
3) Don’t try to multi-task
Trying to multi-task is giving an open invitation to stress. I say ‘trying’ because the reality is we humans can’t actually multi-task.
We only shift from one task to another and when that shifting happens too quickly, we appear to be multitasking. Can you calculate 12+67 and 98-53 at the same time? No. You first calculate one and then another.
Even if you are a maths wizard, you can’t work on both problems at the same time. Avoid trying to multi-task because it can unnecessarily load your mind and stress you out.
4) Eliminate stressors
Eliminate all external factors that may contribute to your stress. Avoid as many distractions as you can while you are working.
Wearing uncomfortable clothes, having an untidy desk at work and even having distracting posters on the wall can lead to stress because they unnecessarily occupy your mind’s space. Mess creates stress.
I heard somewhere that Steve Jobs used to paint his office walls white so that he could think clearly. Very effective because if you have something that drags your attention every now and then, you can’t really concentrate and will only end up stressed.
When stressed, relax
Stress is just a signal from your mind asking you to take a break. If you don’t respond to this signal by taking a break and relaxing, your stress levels are bound to increase. Then you’ll only be adding more stress upon stress till you finally break down.
Anything that you do which relaxes you can help. Music, meditation, sleep, a walk or just going to a solitary place free from any distractions.
Personally, I have found sleep to be the best antidote for stress. When you take a nap, your mind takes a break from the information overload and gets time to sort out the information.
Those whispers of mental chatter that you hear in your head when you’re taking a nap might be nothing but your mind sorting out the overwhelming information. That’s why you feel lighter in the mind when you wake up after the nap! The load has been reduced, the information has been dealt with.
The key is responding to stress in time and preventing it from harming you. When we don’t listen to our emotions, they scream louder and we reach a point where our stress becomes intolerable.
We all get stressed every now and then but taking timely breaks to ensure that the stress doesn’t reach sky-high levels can go a long way in maintaining our well-being.
Hi, I’m Hanan Parvez (MBA, MA Psychology), founder and author of PsychMechanics. I’ve published one book and authored 400+ articles on this blog (started in 2014) that have garnered over 4.5 million views. PsychMechanics has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, and Entrepreneur. Feel free to contact me if you have a query.