Stress is a killer. The American Institute of Stress says that stress increases the risk of heart disease by 40%; it also increases the risk of stroke by 50%. That's a staggering statistic. But it's not surprising. Stress bombards us from every direction: jobs, bosses, kids and their schedules, school events, teacher meetings, house repairs, relationship issues, financial worries, worries about the future, football practice, dance recitals, traffic, bad drivers (yes, you bad drivers know who you are!). It's no surprise that 44% of Americans feel more stressed than they did 5 years ago.
The interesting thing about stress is that it not something you can actually see. You can see the results of it. But stress itself is invisible; it happens on the inside. It has to do with how we think about and approach life. We can eliminate stress by making some simple life tweaks. Here are just three ideas to start.
1. Let go of things you can't control. It is pointless to worry about the uncontrollable. If an asteroid does plummet to earth one day, destroying all of mankind, that would be... a major bummer. Personally, I would find it depressing. But, since there is nothing I can do about that, it doesn't help to lose sleep over it. Neither is it helpful to worry about the economy, the weather, or other people's actions and attitudes. If it is beyond our control, it's best to let it go. It is God's prerogative to control the weather. Other people are free to think and do what they like. It is certainly nothing I can control. Truthfully, I wouldn't even want that kind of responsibility. The only thing we can really control is our own attitude and actions. That's it. Attempts at controlling anything else is an illusion. We must let it go. It will eliminate stress instantly.
2. Concentrate on one thing at a time. This is a common sense idea. However, it is counter intuitive in an age where doing 100 things at once is the norm. We call it multi-tasking. Walk into the average home today and you will see mum, dad, and their three kids watching 5 different shows on 5 different devices, while dad tries to juggle a little paper work over a fast food dinner. Phone and email notifications are continuously chirping in, with urgent reminders to check email or phone for messages... all this while attempting to have some conversational time with one another. This... This is not normal, people. Nor is it healthy. It creates a constant feeling of anxiety and division - giving everything thing in the world our attention all at once. This is not even possible, folks. It's a great way to remain stressed. And crazy. It's true that we are all busy. However, we will actually get more done if we will commit to doing one thing at a time. Motivational guru, Brian Tracy, said that studies have shown that people are far more productive when they give their attention to one project at a time. In other words, if you are going to balance the check book, go into the office and shut the door, and don't come out till you're done. Want to talk with your spouse? Turn off the phone and really listen. Life quality will instantly improve, and that feeling of stress will evaporate.
3. Breathe. Breathing is essential to life. Duh, right? It's not a big secret that people who practice breathing - slow, deliberate breathing - can lower their heart rate and calm their nerves. Physical activity speeds mental acceptance. If you're tense, begin acting in a non-tense way and your body will follow. If you're feeling stressed tomorrow, try this: take one minute and just breathe slowly. Deep, slow, and steady breaths. You'll be amazed at how it will settle you down. Sometimes slow, instrumental music can be helpful on this one. When your ears hear something that's soothing, it can help you to breathe and relax. There's some great music like this out there. Here's one that we like.