If it feels like everything is more stressful these days, that’s because it is. Recent research by the University of Cambridge has shown that more than a third of people feel overwhelmed by technology today, including 34 percent of tech-savvy millennials.
Decide if you want more or less of certain activities. Stress drains energy, leaving you low on mojo to achieve important tasks and reach goals. To regain your center when knocked off balance by daily stressors, thinking about how you are spending your time can help. In their book “Find Your Balance Point,” authors Brian Tracy and Christina Stein suggest that you can energize your life and feel less stressed by considering which activities are giving you the best results, and doing more of those things.
By the same token, the opposite principle also holds true. “Obviously, you should be doing less of the things that are not working for you – that are not giving you good results and are causing you unhappiness and frustration,” they write.
Think about what you should start or stop. When you’re mired in your habits at work and home, stress can sneak up on you. You may be unaware that the choices you’ve made previously in your career and personal life no longer fit, leading you to feel stressed. Tracy and Stein suggest taking the above advice one step further to think about what new thing you can start doing today to boost your happiness and take you out of your comfort zone.
Similarly, you can probably identify actions or activities that you’d be better off cutting out of your life completely. “In time management or personal management, and whenever you feel frustrated and unhappy for any reason, ask yourself this great question: ‘What should I do more of, less of, start, or stop?'” Tracy and Stein write. “You will always find the answers somewhere within yourself.”
Beware of snowballing. While it’s true that stress in small doses can actually be helpful, when stressful situations go on too long, it’s a whole different story. Research from The University of Dublin has suggested that when your brain is exposed to cumulative stress, it can damage brain structure and function.
Excessive stress has also been linked with accelerated aging, increased risk of cancer and other diseases and decreased longevity. In his book “Are You Fully Charged?” author Tom Rath compares the accumulation of stress over time in your body to what happens when snow is left to sit for too long on the sidewalk, eventually becoming too deep, heavy and icy to easily shovel away.
Rather than letting stress snowball, Rath recommends being aware of chronic stressors in your life and finding ways to change them. “Consider some of the things that regularly create stress in your life,” he writes. “Map out how you can avoid these situations in the first place, or at least minimize the daily stress they cause. Rarely, if ever, is putting up with intense stress worth the consequences for your health and well-being.”
Recognize sources of secondhand stress. If you think about some of the most anxiety-producing situations in your life right now, many of them probably involve other people. Rath refers to this as “secondhand stress” and notes in his book that you can easily “inherit” other people’s stress. “Play defense against inherited stress throughout the day,” he writes. “You have enough emotional stressors to deal with on your own, let alone if you assume the stressors of your colleagues, neighbors and social networks.”
Banish toxic thoughts. Navy SEALs exemplify exceptional resilience under unusually stressful circumstances. In the book “Stronger: Develop the Resilience You Need to Succeed,” author George S. Everly Jr. and his co-authors drew on decades of research and interviews with Navy SEALs and other highly resilient people and discovered that many of them shared the trait of “active optimism.” This quality of confidence, which allows you to believe in yourself and your ability to succeed and reach your goals, helps overcome toxic thoughts to maintain a positive attitude, even when faced with difficult circumstances.
“Our findings also suggest that a person’s attitude on the job, and possibly in life in general, are as important or more important than the working or living environment itself,” Everly writes. Take these findings to heart, and work on quashing a mindset of repetitive worry and negativity, which the research in “Stronger” found linked to burnout, job dissatisfaction, poor job performance and quitting your job.