60% to 80% of job-related accidents are due to employee stress level.
90% of all diseases are caused by or exacerbated by stress.
60% to 90% of doctor visits are caused by or related to stress.
To put it simply, stress is expensive. Very expensive. You pay in the form of lower energy, more illness, more medical visits and procedures, and, frankly, escapism, too.
In my eyes, one of the most valuable things I’ve ever done for my wallet (and my health) was figure out how to lower my overall stress level. Here are twelve tactics (in no particular order) I’ve figured out that worked for me.
Few things de-stress me more than simply going outside (or going to the gym) and exercising, pouring out my frustrations either through a brisk pace or through lifting weights. I just simply thrust all of that stress into whatever it is I’m doing. The end result? I’m out of breath, but I’m in a bit better shape and I’ve taken a big part of the edge off of my stress level.
Do it now! Go take a thirty minute walk. While you’re going, admire what’s around you a bit. If you think about what stresses you, that’s okay – just pick up the pace a little.
2. Figure out – and write down – your goals and values
What value does this have? What it does is it puts all of the little stresses in your life in a bigger context: what’s most important to you and what you’re truly working for. You’re not working to please your boss – those are just steps you take along the path to your bigger goals and values in life. Put those little stresses in context.
Do it now! Open up a text editor and write down the five things you value most in your life. Follow that with your primary goal in life related to each value. Give this some thought as you’re doing it, then return to them later with the intent of revising them.
3. Get some sleep
It’s easy to get stressed out when you are tired. Your patience is low. Your thinking is a bit slower. Things that seem easy when you’re normal seem almost overwhelming now – but the expectations of performance remain unchanged. You can fix all that by not staying up as late and simply getting plenty of sleep at night.
Do it now! Go to sleep early tonight so that you sleep long enough that your own biological clock wakes you up instead of the alarm clock. Start your day off normally with a shower and some breakfast, then see how you feel.
4. Keep a journal
Simply sharing the things that are stressing you out can be powerful, but often we don’t have a great place to share these frustrations. The solution is easy – start a journal. Use it to simply pour out the things that are frustrating you. The release of simply writing them all out can be really cathartic and can help you cut through the stress.
Do it now! Fire up your word processing program and start a simple journal. Work through the things frustrating you by writing them down. At the same time, list the things that you were grateful for today. Repeat this exercise each day.
5. Pray or meditate
Just last month, I wrote about the value of meditation and prayer, and it holds true in this context as well. Meditation and/or prayer can do a great deal to lower one’s stress level, while also clearing the mind to deal with the other challenges that a typical modern day provides.
Do it now! Spend a few moments in prayer or simply closing your eyes and trying to clear your mind of all thought. Remain in that state for several minutes and see if you feel a difference when you “come back.”
6. Build friendships and relationships
One of the best de-stressers I have in my life is the time I spend with my friends and family. The companionship and social interaction with others simply melts away the stress in my life. That’s why my wife and I make it a point to host or attend at least one social event of some kind a week.
Do it now! Contact some friends and have them over for a potluck this weekend. Play a game with them, or watch some football with them.
7. Get a pet
If you’re an animal lover, a pet can be an incredible source of joy in your life. As I’ve discussed before, two pets I had when I was younger brought an incalculable amount of happiness into my life. The only thing that keeps me from having one now is allergy issues.
Do it now! Find a local pet shelter, then stop by and see if any of the cats or dogs bond well with you.
Virtually every community has a great bounty of volunteer organizations and opportunities. In our community and neighboring ones, there are youth sports that need coaches and referees, parks that need volunteers to help keep them tidy, Habitat for Humanity, food pantries that need coordinators, and countless other things that I’m not even aware of.
Do it now! Find some volunteer possibilities in your local community. Start with your city’s parks and recreation department and also include services like Volunteer Match.
9. Do some stretches
Stretching and de-stressing? It actually works – stretching promotes a de-stressing response in your body. On top of that, stretching directly prevents injury and also reduces many types of pain. On top of that, it can feel really good. I’m almost always happy after a stretching routine.
Do it now! Try out some of the basic stretches over at Web MD. You can do many of them at your desk or in a cubicle or on any floor space in your home.
10. Change your surroundings
Yes, travel is one way of doing this. However, something as simple as a road trip or a camping trip or even a day spent out in the woods can accomplish the same effect. A person’s surroundings influences their thoughts deeply, so if you’re finding yourself in environments full of stress, changing those environments can really melt away the stress.
Do it now! This weekend, go take a day and spend it in a state or national park near you. Pack a couple meals in a backpack and just enjoy the change of scenery and the fall colors.
It can be a constant stressful irritant to not be able to find the items you want when you need them. The easiest way to eliminate that irritant is to simply de-clutter by getting rid of as much unnecessary stuff as you can.
Do it now! Go through every item in your home and ask yourself if this item is something you actually need to keep or if it’s just something you don’t use and is simply in the way. Deal with it honestly and you’ll find yourself removing a lot of the unnecessary in your environment.
12. Turn off the television
I can’t watch many television programs without feeling some level of emotional response: anger, sadness, “fight or flight” excitement, and so on. Commercials are constantly trying to do this, as are news programs. My solution is to simply turn off the television and find something else to do.
Do it now! Find something to do this evening that doesn’t involve turning on the television. See if you can repeat it the next night – and the night after that.