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Most of us know what stress feels like—and many of us feel as though we are in a constant state of stress. But every once in a while, we come across someone who seems unruffled despite all of life’s challenges. These people certainly feel stress, but they know how to deal with it and have energy levels that never seem to dip. They know how to minimize the impact of these stressors on their body and mind.
Life is rarely possible without the existence of stressful situations. Right from the moment we wake up, the possibilities of stressful moments are endless-from getting stuck in traffic; that critical deadline that is now too close to ignore; a deal that needs to be closed; getting late for the same; not knowing where the life is headed; worries about the future of children; tending a sick parent/spouse; financial worries…the list is endless.
According to the American Psychological Association, stress is a physiological or psychological response to internal or external stressors. Stress causes changes that affect nearly every system of the body.
So how do some people seem to survive, and even thrive, through all the stress?
Start These Habits Today
1. They eat the right foods. Like we said, managing stress is as much about managing our energy levels and an important source of energy in our day-to-day life is the food we eat. This is the simple first step we can take to start living less stressful lives-eating food that is fresh, local, and high on sattva. More sattvic foods have high prana and make you feel lighter and more energized.
Fresh, sattvic fruits and vegetables are a secret for longevity as well. According to Ayurveda, consuming the right amount of food matters too, which is about the amount you can hold between both your palms joined. The food also needs to have the right balance of proteins, carbohydrates and minerals. Often the common dietary habits are found lacking in the daily requirements of proteins and minerals, and have an excess of hard-to-digest carbohydrates that can sap energy, weaken you physically and mentally, and expose our body to deficiencies and illnesses.
Avoid having sugary cereals, cakes, pastries, and too much caffeine on a regular basis. Look for healthier alternatives. Make sure you meet your daily protein requirements. People when chronically stressed, need more protein. Skipping meals for work or any other reason is a bad idea. Smaller portion sizes but regular meals can help manage your energy levels, improve mood, and reduce fatigue. Avoid highly refined foods such as white flour-based baked goods, pasta, chocolate, biscuits, sweets or foods with added sugars.
Here’s an ideal Ayurveda-friendly diet to beat the stresses and blues!
2. They practice meditation. “A few minutes of meditation can relieve all types of stress.”, says Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. If you meditate in the morning and evening for 15–20 minutes, it is good enough.” Studies suggest, regular practice of meditation can
- Moderate our physiological response to stress
- Lower the diabetic markers like oxidative stress
- Improve glycemic control or reduction of blood glucose levels, which in turn reduces the risk of microvascular complications
- Reduce risk factors for cardio vascular diseases in patients of DM2
- Relax and de-stress the mind
- Help you tap into your inner potential to achieve bigger goals
- Improve metabolism
- Increase productivity.
In addition, meditation is also associated with a reduction in biochemical markers of stress: cortisol, corticotrophin, blood lactate, ACTH, and plasma MDA.
Meditation not only keeps your stress away, it keeps the mind in the present moment. When you think about it, there is rarely stress about this very moment, it is usually about something in the future or past.
3. They breathe. If you look at the lives of monks or ancient seers, you will find a common thread which is breath-based practices that helped them live centered, happy, and stress-free lives. Breathing techniques and pranayamas steady our life force. Our life force is inseparably linked to our state of mind. If our life force or prana is high, the mind is happier and stress-free, and you feel more confident about dealing with any situation. If the prana is low, the mind is clouded, low, and full of doubts.
As prana rises in the body, one starts to feel a transformation as direct experience and not as a forced mental exercise. One starts becoming happier, creative and more in command of their mind and emotions.
4. They serve. What can also help is having an attitude of service. When you do anything, even your regular job with a sense of service, it stops being a chore or a forced engagement.
Leading Stanford Researcher Emma Seppala notes, “People who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, are more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them. In other words, social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.”
5. They plan, BUT leave room for uncertainty. Having a plan in place puts us in a proactive frame of mind. Once there is a plan, we know where we are headed and what the next step looks like. It helps minimize the stress and anxiety that come with uncertainty. But, stress-free people live with the confidence that if the plan fails, it will not be the end of the world and that they can handle the hit.
6. They are good sleepers. Sleep is a powerful way to mitigate stress. Sleep allows our body to recover from the day’s beating. It relaxes your nervous system. Having a regular sleep cycle regulates mood, helps you focus better, makes your judgment better and gives you more energy. Without sufficient sleep, you are likely to be more reactive, impulsive, and irritable. The stress can get to you under such circumstances. Cognitive impairment caused by lack of sleep can also affect the quality of your work, decisions, agility and attitude towards work.
7. They move their bodies. Regular exercise in any form gets the endorphins and all the other feel-good hormones flowing in your body, putting you in a happy, uplifted state of mind. Exercising also reduces the secretion of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Even as a practice, right before you sit down to meditate, exercising helps reduce the restlessness that prepares you for a deeper and relaxing meditative experience.
8. They practice gratitude. Gratitude comes when we know there is some power that is taking care of you, like a little bird is taken care of by Mother Nature. So far in your life, things have eventually worked out for you and despite pleasant and unpleasant events, here you are living your life and doing the best you can, because all along there was something that gave you strength. This sense of gratefulness and faith eases stress and fears.
Studies show that people who say thanks often are happier, have lower blood pressure levels, sleep better, show growth and improvement in their relationships, are better able to fight depression, and can deal with pain easily. According to Canadian researchers, the positive effects of gratitude last long. The study showed, people who wrote thank-you notes for only six weeks reported better mental health, less physical pain, more energy, and got more done every day.
A 2010 meta-review found, people who were more grateful were also extroverted, more open, hard-working, and less neurotic. They were likely to experience less depression and greater subjective well-being, which includes high positive affect (mood), low negative affect, and high satisfaction with life. High trait gratitude is also associated with more positive social relationships and better physical health, especially in regards to stress and sleep.
9. They ask for help. We usually feel more stressed when we think of all the work that needs to be done by ourselves and that we have no help. But the world is kinder than we assume and more people are willing to help than we can imagine. Taking help is also about empowering the person who provides the assistance. “People mistakenly believe it makes them look weak, but it’s actually the most professionally responsible thing to do because working under high stress can negatively impact your decision-making and productivity, increase mistakes, and damage the overall outcome of whatever project you’re working on,” shares Dr. Andrea Goeglein, a positive psychologist in this interview with Forbes.
10. They are organized. When you are organized, you feel a sense of preparedness which calms the stress you would otherwise experience. Organizing your work, thoughts, and responsibilities either mentally or by making to-do lists can help you offload majority of the stressors.
Make Room for Mistakes
Not fearing mistakes also keeps stress away. Those who are stress-free are also often fearless. Lack of fear of failure helps them get the work done instead of ruminating over imaginary “what ifs.”
Here’s how you can turn fear into faith.
Stop worrying about what people think (or even what they say!) and let go of the fear of being judged or ridiculed. Live your life authentically you and begin to feel the weight of stress lift off your shoulders!