When we think about what causes us stress, we tend to think about the things in our lives that fill up our days and crowd our head. We think it’s keeping the household running, staying on top of our workload, managing our finances or juggling a million other things that causes us stress. I’m not denying that, for many, our lives and responsibilities are overflowing. And yet, why is it that sometimes, for no apparent reason, things just feel more manageable than others—even if the day-to-day hasn’t changed too much? And, how is it so that there are plenty of people out there leading full and busy lives who do not feel stressed by their day-to-day? It is because how we think has a far greater impact on our stress levels than the number of tasks we manage each day. And if you peel back the layers of your stress, you will come to see that nearly all of your stress comes down to your perception of pressure and urgency and worrying what others think of you. Note the word ‘perception’, as it is key.
We may tell ourselves, for example, that we need to get all of our emails answered before we finish up for the day. Yet, the reality is we are creating urgency around that for ourselves because we might be worried someone will think less of us if we don’t get through our workload efficiently or if we don’t respond to them promptly. Being efficient and having a good work ethic are both appealing traits. Yet, if it’s (usually unconsciously) essential to you to be seen in this way, rather than having some flexibility around this, the relentless production of stress hormones inside you on a daily basis, can begin to take a toll on your health.
Too many people turn everyday tasks into almost life or death situations. Whether they have five or 500 tasks on their to-do list, they feel overwhelmed by all of it. It is probably more comfortable to believe that ‘things, people and tasks’ are the cause of our overwhelm. Yet, when we open to the possibility that we might actually be at the root of our own stress response, we can truly begin to get to the heart of our stress once and for all.
If this sounds all too familiar to you, here are five tips to help you instantly experience less stress.
1. Save urgency for when it really matters
If someone swerves into your lane while you’re driving and you need to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting them, that’s a truly urgent situation which requires you to act quickly. Look at what you can change so that less of your day-to-day tasks feel urgent for you.
2. Prioritise and delegate
Be ruthlessly honest with yourself about the tasks on your to-do list and how many of them need to be done within the timeframe you’ve set yourself. Also consider what you can delegate if you are someone who feels it’s just easier to ‘do it yourself’. You never know what someone is capable of until you give them the opportunity to step up.
3. Ask yourself if it really matters
The more things you allow to disturb your inner calm, the higher your stress levels. If you find yourself frazzled by the little things—your partner not stacking the dishwasher properly or a colleague who always seems to spell your name wrong in an email—pause and ask yourself: does it really matter? Often the answer is no.
4. Remember today is not every day
There are days that, for whatever reason, get under our skin. When you have these days, you have a choice about whether you chalk it up as a one ‘off’ day or add it to an inner tally. Both may result in the production of stress hormones, yet one will be temporary and the other perpetual.
5. Consider whose opinion you truly care about
You are going to care what people think of you, yet how many people’s opinions you care about is a choice. Caring what your inner circle think of you is entirely different to caring what your social media followers think. Be discerning about whose opinion you care about.
Nutritional biochemist, Dr Libby Weaver (PhD), is a thirteen-times bestselling author and speaker. She has just released Condition Your Calm – 90 cards to ease stress. Designed to help transform your daily experiences by explaining the biochemical, nutritional and emotional ways you can ease stress and rediscover clarity and calm—in practical and bite-sized ways.