1. Rid of toxic people. Some of the biggest stressors we have in life come from family and friends. As hard as this is, if you want to reduce stress in your life, rid of the Toxic people. Pull out the old journal and write down all the people that are toxic in your life. The bi-polars (these people take you up and down. I love you, I hate you), the criers, the takers, the down-right mean people, the users, the bull-shitters, the gossipers, and the passive aggressives.
Circle the ones you know you can get rid of first and erase them like you hit the delete button on your computer. The people who stir up drama in your life will always have drama, bringing you down a slippery slope of trying to manage their stress and your own. Some people say you are what you eat. I say, you are who you associate with. People are typically a combination of the top three to five people they associate with most. Take a moment to reflect on the people you spend most of your time with and reflect on whether or not these people are in line with your goals and values.
2. Set boundaries. I understand that there are people that you can’t or may not want to rid of that are toxic. Mothers and fathers can sometimes be toxic and very hurtful. With people that are toxic that you choose not to rid of, you must set clear boundaries. Setting boundaries means that you do not enable people to continue hurting you. Kindness ≠ Doormat. If you keep giving and giving to people, they will keep taking and taking. That is human nature; you can’t fault people for that. You can help people, but you do not need to change your schedule and do things that are harmful to you in order to help them. Once you begin working harder to help someone than they are working to help themselves, you are becoming a doormat.
3. Do not compare yourself. One of the best things that you can do to avoid stress on your journey of life is to not compare yourself to others. When you compare yourself to someone else, you put yourself in a direct line for failure. Every person’s past is different, their biology is different, their circumstances are different and there is a lot you do not know about them in general. You are in control of you and need to take the time and energy to explore who you are before you can rate yourself up against someone else, who in reality, you might really not even want to be. This does not mean that you cannot have role models and mentors. You can admire certain characteristics in people such as their motivation or integrity. You can use certain people’s life paths as a guide to help you. The one thing you cannot do is measure your success against someone else’s scale of life.
4. Set realistic goals. If you want to reduce your stressors, set goals that are realistic and attainable. Use the acronym SMART when setting goals for yourself- Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound. Many times women set goals that are unrealistic- sometimes because we are comparing ourselves to someone else, or maybe just because we are dreaming big. It is okay to dream big, but be sure that each goal you set toward your dreams is something that is realistic and attainable for that moment in your life.
5. Forgive. Let go of grudges, they hurt only you. Only you live with these negative thoughts every day, no one else. Forgive the past and everyone in it, so you can move forward. You do not have to feel forgiveness, you just do it. You deserve freedom. Remember this, if you drink the poison of anger, don’t expect the bad guy to die.
6. Stop Ruminating. Some studies have shown that women are more prone to rumination. Rumination is that thinking we have where we spend hours going over the same thing, again and again. When we face stressors, our brain immediately has memories of when we were in similar situations. The issue with women is that we tend to remember events of where we were wrong or where we messed up. We then spiral our brains down into this self-defeating, self-bashing event where we then “ruminate” for hours on what went wrong. This rumination of “things we have done bad,” becomes a pattern. Patterns get stronger and quicker over time. To reduce stress, catch the negativity before you spending hours ruminating. When you begin to think poorly about yourself or decisions, try to find support for your faulty assumption, usually there is not support for self-defeating thoughts. Then, begin to reframe your negative thinking and challenge these thoughts. Don’t turn one bad decision into a lifetime of bad choices and do not think that one bad decision means that you are bad at “everything,” learn from it and march on.
7. Do not make impulsive decisions. This goes for breaking up with boyfriends, leaving a job, firing an employee, investing in stock, anything. When women make impulsive decisions, it is typically out of emotion. Making impulsive decisions decreases our confidence because those decisions are not strong and had little thought behind them. Write decisions that you are contemplating in your journal and go back to that entry in a day or two. Re-read what you wrote, does this still sound like a good idea?
8. Tell a good story. Be cautious how to tell your life story. The more you tell your story, the more your story shapes you in the present. Often, women tell stories about their lives that show the drama that they have gone through. This drama becomes a pattern and habit for a way of living. Drama is stressful. Eliminate your own drama by reframing your life story to show strength, resilience and self-control, the more we tell and retell that story, eventually we become that story.
9. Realize you are not lucky. You earned what you have. When we feel lucky for all we have, we create an underlying stress because “luck runs out.” However, when you earned something, it is more permanent, decreasing stress. You earned that job promotion, you did not get it out of luck. Once you realize you earned what you have confidence goes up and stress due to fear of luck running out, goes down.
10. Surround yourself with positive people. Negativity truly is contagious and stressful. Pessimism alone is actually an internal stressor on the body because it not only turns on our fight and flight response, but it keeps it going for longer periods of time. Pessimists tend to think that there is a limited amount of things they can do to change a situation and thus sit in negativity longer than an optimist. Stay away from pessimists and reframe your negativity so that people who are positive want to be around you.
11. Worry once, not twice. Do not live the same pain twice, especially if the pain might be unnecessary. If you create anxiety and tell yourself that something might go wrong, and then you in fact it goes wrong, then you lived the pain twice. Once before you knew if the situation was going to end badly and then once after you found out. If you tell yourself that something might go wrong, and then you in fact it does not go wrong, you lived the pain initially for no reason. This goes for everything in life. Do not stress out until it’s time to stress.
12. Realize that you are not perfect. Perfection is non-existent. People who claim that they are perfectionists often don’t find fulfillment in life. Likewise, when a perfectionist does fail, they are very critical of themselves leading to self-defeating beliefs and a reduction in confidence. The enormous amount of stress a person puts on themselves as they work toward being perfect is damaging to the body physiologically and psychologically. Those trying to seek perfection will only cycle at the point in life they are at, whereas those who acknowledge flaws can find ways to fix them and move forward toward developing their full potential.
13. Distract yourself. Lastly, when you are faced with stressors, distract yourself with something you both enjoy and that is healthy for your body: exercise, journaling, painting, listening to music. Find ways to beef up your energy so that as you begin to take on stressors you do so with the least amount of stress possible.