Developing robust habits is an important part of a building successful life.
When habits are deeply ingrained they support you to reach your goals without having to push through limbic friction. Limbic friction is the resistance you feel when you struggle to do something new or challenging. Deeply ingrained good habits are like positive addictions.
Sometimes it’s not possible to address the underlying causes of stress head-on. Some stressful issues are the result of a choice to meet one need at the expense of another for a while. Here are some examples of what that might look like: –
- Staying in a stressful relationship for financial reasons or while you try and resolve differences
- Following a dream to create a new business, which puts you on a steep learning curve and creates financial stress.
- Hanging in there with a job you dislike while you figure out your next move.
Develop Robust Stress-Reducing Habits
Stress-reducing habits are always important but especially when you make a choice not to change the underlying cause of your stress.
1. Thought Control
An unruly mind, full of negative and critical thoughts causes a lot of stress. Taking control of your mind is a stress-reducing habit that really works. Managing your thoughts, especially in a situation where you know that your needs aren’t being met, takes practice. But it’s extremely beneficial and well worth the effort.
Only allow thoughts that serve you. When thoughts that undermine you or don’t lead you towards your goals pop up, challenge them, and replace them authentically. Your thoughts directly impact the way you feel. Better thoughts lead directly to feeling better.
Moderate exercise turns on endorphins. Endorphins are your body’s natural defence against stress. Do some form of exercise you enjoy, where you enjoy doing it. For some people that will be walking in nature. For others, it will be doing a gym session or even a yoga session at home. Any form of gentle to moderate exercise works to reduce stress. Do it every day if you can. Exchanging your usual exercise for a pleasurable physical activity like gardening or playing energetically with the kids now and then, works well too.
3. Get Enough Good Quality Sleep
Sleep is so important in keeping stress levels down and yet it’s often one of the first things to elude you when you’re stressed. When you’re under pressure with too much to fit into each day it’s tempting to reduce your sleep hours. Having more waking hours each day won’t make you more productive if you’re sleepy and stressed. It will also make what you’re doing unsustainable.
Good sleep hygiene habits are a must.
– Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool.
– Keep regular sleep hours.
– Stop working intensely at least an hour before you try to sleep.
– Don’t drink coffee or energy drinks late into the day.
– Watch your alcohol intake. Alcohol might send you off to sleep but it won’t give you a good sleep and it can leave you feeling hungover the next day.
If you’re still having trouble sleeping, practice relaxing your body, quietening your mind, and focusing on your breathing. If you have problems or a to-do list going around and around in your mind get up and write it all down before going back to bed.
Recognise when things are getting on top of you and break the stress cycle. Think of your stress levels like the heat that builds up in a pot on the stove. Ideally, you’d turn down the heat but when that isn’t possible you can take the lid off to keep everything from boiling over.
Redirecting yourself by doing something relaxing and enjoyable is an excellent way of letting some heat out of your stress, but don’t forget about your thoughts. There’s no point in spending an hour in the garden if your thoughts are still stressful because of a gnarly business problem.
You can also redirect yourself by doing something that needs to get done but is easy and low stress.
5. Cultivate Your Happy Hormones
Serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin are your happy hormones: –
- Dopamine is part of your brain’s motivation, reward and pleasure system
- Endorphins relieve pain and make you happy
- Oxytocin triggers feelings of love and connection
- Serotonin is a mood stabiliser and contributes to your feeling of wellbeing
Sleep, exercise, cuddles, healthy gut biome and doing enjoyable things increase your levels of happy hormones. If you would like to learn more about how to cultivate these stress relievers this article is a good place to start.
Hold on Tight to your Existing Good Habits
You hopefully already have a number of these stress-reducing habits in your life. If you do hold onto them tightly. Don’t be tempted to let them go in order to get more work done or because you don’t “feel” like it.
When you’re feeling stressed it’s easy to let things go, thinking that will help you feel better, but the opposite is true. While there can be a little initial relief by giving your morning workout a miss, you’ll get more long-term benefits by pushing through and doing it.
By making these habits the non-negotiables of your lifestyle you’ll be able to handle more stress when you need to. Good stress-reducing habits can make it possible for you to operate better in high-stress environments.
Everyone goes through periods of high stress at some point in their life. Good stress-reducing habits will help you through these periods, but you should always look at the bigger picture. Why are you under so much pressure? Are you on a learning curve, dealing with something new, or managing something out of the ordinary? Under these circumstances, the period of overstressing will be limited. You’ll eventually get back to less stress. If you’re stressed over something that’s a long-term part of your life and is likely to always be there, you need to start addressing the underlying causes.