Is it surprising to know that your body’s natural condition is to be in a calm and relaxed state?

Then why is it so hard to attain? If there’s one truth about the way we live today, it’s that our stress levels are higher than they were a century ago. Considerably higher! Why? Well, it’s because we cope with different types of stressors than our ancestors did. Realistically, life is not harder today than it was back then; today, we have different stressor points.

Today, there are various recipes for stress. With the invent of technology, one might think that most of our stress can be solved with a push of the button, when in fact, a lot of our stress stems from the technological world we live in today. Our lives have been set to hyper-spin, moving at a faster pace than ever before. Our expectations have changed, and therefore, we have this constant need to keep up, run faster, and compete with fellow humans.

So, what exactly is stress? According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response.” Changes that occur can affect our body through physical, mental, and emotional responses, even though change and stress are a normal part of life. Stress can be experienced through changes in your environment, your physical being, and your thought process. Even positive life changes such as a promotion, a new home, a wedding, or the birth of a child can trigger stress.

The human body is continually striving to achieve balance, or stability, otherwise known as homeostasis. This term can be very misleading as it implies to be in a calm state. Our bodies are continually trying to adapt to our environmental circumstances and, therefore, to achieve homeostasis through regular stillness is not realistic. Researchers have coined a newer term, allostasis, which better reflects the physiological and behavioral processes that the body undergoes to restore stability or equilibrium.

Stress Throughout the Ages

Mental or psychological events that could cause disease began as early as in Greek times, when Hippocrates and Galen proposed that the human mind and body are inseparable and connected.

Here’s a comprehensive timeline of what kinds of stressors our earliest ancestors were faced with and how it evolved over time.

Types of Stress from Pre-historic Era to Present Time:

Time Period Type of Stress
Palaeolithic Era Survival instinct;
competition for food and shelter
Mesopotamian Era Trauma and mental
breakdown; flashbacks and recurring dreams
Medieval Times Hunger, insomnia and
guilt
Renaissance Era Soldiers felt ‘Nostalgia’
due to homesickness
Age of Discovery Palpitation, nostalgia
neurasthenia, soldier’s heart,
Da Costa’s syndrome
Age of Enlightenment A sign of weakness,
aggression as root cause
Napoleonic Era Vent du boulet syndrome, cardiorespiratory neurosis, acute stuporous post-traumatic
stress,
idiotism
Victorian Era Railway spine, railway
brain
World War I Shell shock, gas hysteria
Roaring Twenties Paralysis, tremors,
liming, fixed posture, contractions
Great Depression Sense of failure and
inadequacy in men
World War II Battle exhaustion, combat
stress reaction, combat exhaustion
Age of Information PTSD, anxiety, and depression

Paleolithic Era (The Stone Age):

For the caveman, survival was a daily struggle. Each moment, vigilance and concern for personal safety was an ongoing reality. Being attacked by a predatory animal, or being challenged for your possessions or territory was of grave concern.

The dangers of basic survival were a 24/7 reality, with no relief in sight. It was a primal instinct to survive another day by being vigilant to your immediate surroundings and the hunt for your next meal.

Researchers from The University of Western Ontario studied stress, using bioarchaeological research, and concluded that stress had plagued humanity for at least 1500 years.

Their research was based on cortisol found in archaeological hair samples that fluctuate by the amount of stress experienced. They selected ten individuals from five different archaeological sites. They found that the majority of individuals lived very stressful periods in their life, suggesting that stress was a standard component of their existence.

Stress has a significant impact on health and well-being in both ancient and contemporary societies. Generally, in terms of bloodshed and warfare, it is worth noticing that perception of war and death has changed over time based on the level of exposure to such brutalities. It is considered that during the dark ages, the ancient men were used to cruelties and injustices, so they had little psychological impact due to bloodshed.

However, when reflecting back to 2000BC, in the ancient Mesopotamian Era, soldiers were reported to have recurring dreams and flashbacks of the battleground and dead comrades—symptoms associated with PTSD today. As for the earliest works of Western civilizations, Illiad, published in the 8th Century BC, mental breakdowns and traumas suffered by Achilles and soldiers.

In prehistoric times, women were marginalized and oppressed. Having no say in any matter led to low self-esteem in the age of antiquity. Early hunter-gatherer women coped with stressors by accepting the status quo. They found solace in art, music, religion, rituals, and mythology.

Middle Ages (476 AD – 1492 AD):

Greek and Roman doctors used therapeutic methods such as gymnastics, massage, diet, music, baths, and a medication containing poppy extract and donkey’s milk to treat their patients.

In Medieval times, conquest for power and control emerged, leading to numerous battles. Moreover, medieval knights were falsely depicted as bloodthirsty when studied in the medieval texts, involving worshipping of heroes and glorification of violence. As per Thomas Heebøll-Holm, researcher at the University of Copenhagen, depicts ‘modern military psychology,’ knights participated in gruesome and brutal wars at a mental cost.

Geoffroi de Charny was a trusted advisory of kings and a famous knight who authored three books on knighthood. His texts reflect how ruthless war experiences were, where their comrades were shredded by enemies, and had similarly gruesome violent punishment for the enemies. As per research and the texts of Geoffroi de Charny, war experiences made the knights develop the severe cases of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As per De Charny, the hardships of a knight were: hunger, sleep deprivation, and a sense of guilt.

In the case of women in earlier times, they were regarded as ‘second class citizens,’ due to low social status, low serotonin levels, and forced to remain submissive, their stress levels were extremely high.

In medieval ages, women were persecuted as witches and had a spiritually lower status than men. Their individuality was crushed right from the start. Females in medieval times faced stress related to their reproductive system and underwent physical mutilation due to gender-related taboos.

Renaissance Era (1300 – 1600):

In the 1600s, the symptoms of PTSD were recognised as ‘nostalgia,’ the term coined by Swiss physician Dr. Johannes Hofer, to describe the anxiety, insomnia, despair, and homesickness suffered by Swiss soldiers.

In 1621, Robert Burton, in his book Anatomy of Melancholy, identified the psychological causes of stress and depression, including fear, loneliness, and poverty. As a remedy, he proposed herbs, music therapy, exercise, traveling, and a healthy diet as a therapeutic method to treat depression.

Age of Discovery (1500 – 1700):

In 1761, Austrian physicist Josef Leopoid Auenbrugger, in his book Inventum Novum, referred to ‘nostalgia’ among soldiers, while reporting symptoms of listlessness, solitary feelings, and a helpless state of mind.

Throughout Europe, the stressful symptoms were identified with ‘nostalgia’. During the US Civil War (1861-65), nostalgia was seen as a significant medical diagnosis viewed as a sign of ‘weakness’ and ‘feeble will.’ Surprisingly, public ridicule was recommended as a cure for nostalgic soldiers.

By the end of the US Civil War, a condition known as ‘irritable heart’ or ‘soldier’s heart’ or ‘Da Costa’s syndrome’ was identified by a U.S. doctor Jacob Mendez Da Costa after he found the symptoms of palpitations, constricted breathing patterns, and related cardiovascular symptoms.

Age of Enlightenment (1715 – 1789):

During the Age of Enlightenment, symptoms of stress and depression were considered a sign of weak temperament that was inherited. It was also thought that people with such a condition should be abandoned. At the end of the Enlightenment Era, doctors suggested aggression as the root cause of stress. Few doctors recognized the symptoms due to internal conflict between actions and conscience. As for the treatments, water immersion, and spinning stool to cause dizziness were the two methods to bring back the mind in place. Benjamin Franklin contributed to the research by developing an initial form of electroshock therapy.

Napoleonic Era (1799 – 1815):

During French Revolution (1792-1800) and Napoleonic wars (1800-1815), soldiers were observed to have collapsed into prolonged stupor due to shelling, which was termed as ‘vent du boulet’ syndrome. Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe explained in the memoirs of cannonade experienced at the battle of Valmy; there was a feeling of depersonalization and derealisation overpowering due to the frightening surroundings.

In Nosographie Philosophique, Pinel highlights the case of a philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662) who was a war survivor but was mentally disturbed by his last encounter with a ‘near-death situation.’ Therefore, casualties dealt with by psychiatrist Pinel during French Revolutions led to a new description of neurosis or ‘acute sporous posttraumatic state’.

Victorian Era (1837 – 1901):

During the Industrial revolution, stress-related symptoms were not simply confined to the battlefields. In the 1800s, rail travel was prevalent, and so were rail accidents. Survivors suffered the psychological symptoms of anxiety and insomnia after such incidents, and termed ‘railway spine’ or ‘railway brain.’ As per the autopsies, after the railway accidents, microscopic lesions were observed in the central nervous system.

In the Industrial Era, women dealt with oppression. During Industrialization (1750 to 1950), there was a change in perception of femaleness, leading to a reduction in women’s stress due to traditionally-defined gender roles. Although women began working in factories, received an education, and were exposed to urban crime and technology, they faced a multitude of internal stress. Overloaded with work, ensuring they were meticulously well kept for their husbands, participating in feminist lobbying groups, and obsessing with being perfect wives and mothers, were just some of the stressor’s women endured.

World War I (1914 – 1918):

In World War I, PTSD was first recognized as ‘shell shock’ that left the troops exposed to traumatic war incidents in nervous wrecks or a nervous breakdown. As per Capt. Charles Myers, soldiers affected by war, suffered nightmares, tremors, anxiety, impaired sight, and hearing after being exposed to blasting shells in the battlefield. Over 80,000 cases of shell shock were reported in the British army alone by the end of the war. What’s devastating to note is that soldiers who experienced stress related symptoms were expected to return to the battlefield after a certain period of rest, and after receiving treatment of electrotherapy or hydrotherapy.

Roaring Twenties (1920 – 1929):

Soldiers were not evacuated altogether, but were treated with electrical current, otherwise known as faradization. It was done to reduce the motor symptoms such as paralysis, contractions, tremors, limping, or fixed postures, common in WWI.

In the post-war era, people were recovering from the trauma they had witnessed. The intensity of violence due to modern weapons was unmatched in the history of time. Many people suffered severe depression from the loss of so many.

Great Depression (1929 – 1939):

During the 1930s, there was a tremendous economic downfall in the U.S., leading to recession, unemployment, a slight increase in the mortality rate, and reduced overall wellbeing. Economic expansion during the Great Depression lead to a rise in alcoholic dependency, an increase in smoking, reduction of sleep, increased stress due to increased work expectations by working overtime in strenuous jobs causing deteriorating health, and increased mortality rate. The entire situation contributed to overall stress and lack of peace among people who witnessed WWI recently.

During the 1930s, the concept of men as the sole breadwinners were predominant. Due to unemployment, men developed feelings of failure and inadequacy, destroying their personal and professional lives.

World War II (1939 – 1945):

In WWII, Americans and British identified traumatic responses to war as ‘combat fatigue,’ ‘battle fatigue’ or ‘combat stress reaction’ this occurred due to long-term deployments. As per the National Center of PTSD, over half of the military discharges in WWII were due to combat exhaustion, or battle exhaustion.

Information Age (1970 – Now):

The present era of Information and Technology is described as ‘the age of anxiety, the age of stress,’ by Dr. Karl Albrecht. Stress is a bodily response to any demand put upon it, and technology plays a huge role in disrupting the peace of mind. At present, about 70 to 90% of visits to the doctor circle around stress, leading to cardiovascular diseases, psychological disorders, obesity, diabetes, and tons of physical and mental ailments spreading like epidemics.

As per research, stress exposure is more dependent upon inheritance across generations rather than stress experienced in a lifetime. A study, published in Hormones and Behaviourcompared the stress response of lizards living near fire ants and those without it for 30 generations. The exposure of young lizards to fire ants didn’t affect the response in adulthood. However, the offspring of lizards living in fire ant-invaded populations had a demonstration of robust stress response in comparison to the family of the non-invaded community in spite of an early age exposure to fire ants.

Therefore, the stress responses developed over generations, since the inception of humanity have not evolved out of nowhere. Moreover, the brutalities in present warfare were far more violent than the medieval times. Also, after WWII, it was declared as an age of uncertainty, leaving zero predictability in human lives.

What Causes Stress?

Hans Selye, one of the fathers of stress research, borrowed the term used in physics ‘stress’ as a force that causes strains on the physical body. For example, the extension of a metallic spring beyond a certain limit can be reshaped. In 1920, Hans Selye applied the term to all hospitalized patients who were sick, assuming their body was under stress.

In the Postmodern Era, we are bombarded with tons of information every second. In our professional lives, we are in constant competition with others rather than one’s self. In our personal lives, materialistic and social demands destroy families and relationships. Most of all, the lack of emotional management leads to physical and mental stress.
Here are some prominent causes of stress:

  1. Lack of time management and emotional management
  2. Unrealistic expectations
  3. Lack of contentment
  4. Approval seeking attitude
  5. Attempt to make others happy
  6. Lack of introspection
  7. Lack of discipline
  8. Lack of priorities or realistic planning
  9. Excessive workload to compete with the demands of society

Apart from the above, there are certain external factors that we have no control over. When humans go against the will of fate and fight essential nature, we are bound to become stressed and exhausted.

According to a few researchers, the types of stressors have changed over the years since the inception of man.  Still, the evolution of stress hormones is prevalent in humans and is coined in the N.U.T.S. situation.

  1. Novelty
  2. Unpredictability
  3. Threat to ego
  4. Sense of Control

What Are the Effects of Stress?

A popular study of ‘executive monkeys’ against ‘yoke monkeys’ clarifies how we absorb stress, by trying to control situations. The pair of rhesus monkeys under observation, were confined to chairs where they received electrical shocks after short intervals. The ‘executive monkeys’ had control to prevent shocks by pressing the lever, while the ‘yoke monkeys’ had no such control, so it became immune to the shocks. ‘Executive monkeys’ died after several years, while their pathology revealed gastric hemorrhage, duodenal ulcers, and erosions. While ‘yoke monkeys’ developed no such ulcers and survived successfully.

Therefore, stress is caused by humans as they possess the power to control. Whenever they find themselves helpless against the laws of nature, they feel stressed, exhausted, and powerless.

Stress affects the psychological, physical, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal health of humans over time. Acute stress can be easily treated, while chronic stress indicates the need for seeking professional help.

Symptoms of Stress:

As per Hans Selye’s theory, the General Adaptation Syndrome has three stages:

  1. Fight or Flight Response—it’s the first response to stress.
  2. Resistance—the body, continues to respond to stressors similarly, all focussed on stress reactions.
  3. Exhaustion—after long-term exposure to stressors, the body loses energy, and the immune system becomes ineffective, leading to vulnerability to diseases.

Here’s a list of apparent symptoms that your body develops after long-term exposure to stressors:

  1. Exhaustion
  2. Upset stomach
  3. Headaches and body aches
  4. Muscular tension
  5. Chest pain and raised heartbeat
  6. Insomnia
  7. Loss of interest
  8. Loss of sexual desire
  9. Frequent common cold and flu and other infections
  10. Nervousness, dry mouth, teeth grinding or clenched jaw
  11. Lack of desire to eat or overeating
  12. Forgetfulness and lack of focus
  13. Pessimistic attitude
  14. Poor judgment
  15. Increased anxiety

The Long-Term Effects of Stress:

The release of cortisol, the stress hormones in the blood, leads to short- and long-term effects on your overall well-being. This can be found in the following:

  1. Musculoskeletal System:
    The immediate response is sudden tensing of muscles during the exposure to stressors, while the long-term exposure leads to tensed up muscles causing tension headaches, migraines, and chronic pain.
  1. Respiratory System:
    The immediate response is hyperventilation or panic attacks; while long term exposure causes emphysema or asthma, this can lead to difficulty in breathing.
  1. Cardiovascular System:
    The immediate response is raised heartbeats, dilated blood vessels, and increased blood pressure; while the long-term effects can be elevated blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol level and stress hormones which puts your body at a risk of stroke, hypertension, heart attack, and inflammations within the circulatory system.
  1. Endocrine System:
    The immediate response is the release of adrenaline and cortisol in the blood, causing the liver to produce more sugar for more energy. While the long-term effects include the development of type 2 diabetes or thyroid problems, as well as obesity.
  1. Gastrointestinal System:
    The immediate response is the feeling of nausea, pain or vomiting. Additionally, you may suffer from heartburn, diarrhea, and constipation. The long-term effects include overeating or lack of proper diet, acid reflux, and severe chronic pain.

How to Overcome Stress

To overcome stress, there are various strategies tested over the years. For example, in medieval times, the Chinese developed strategies in acupressure. Over time, religion was an abode for comfort and solace. People found solace through physical activities like exercise, yoga, dances, sports, and art and music to direct their inner energy in the right direction.

In today’s world, stress can be overwhelming. We work longer hours, engage in more social interaction, try and perfect our home life, our children’s lives, our family/friend’s lives, and try to meet every obligation possible. It’s no wonder our stress level is out of control. To decrease our stress levels, you must make a conscious effort to implement certain factors that may be foreign or uncomfortable. You will never achieve change if you continue doing the same thing you are doing now.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no magical pill or drug that will catapult you into living a stress-free life. If you are looking to decrease stress in your life, then you need to put in the work – it’s that simple. You must change the habits that you have probably carried around for years. And, if you are not willing to dive into some uncomfortable alternatives, I suggest you stop reading this article right here.

For those who have chosen to continue, pat yourself on the back willing to learn, eager to find solutions, and more importantly, recognizing stress is holding you back.

Below are suggestions to help you break the cycle of continual stress in life. It’s recommended that you choose 6 of the 12 recommendations, and dedicate 2 months to each of the 6 chosen techniques. Select one – and only one to accomplish within 2 months! At the end of 2 months, choose a new technique, while still maintaining your current skill.

Research indicates that it takes 66 days, on average (not 21 days, as previously reported), to form a new habit or behavior. Therefore, if you commit to change or adapt 6 new skills, in 1 year from today, you will have eliminated a considerable amount of stress from your life.

  1. Start saving and lessen your debt: Make a commitment to get out of debt. Owing money, especially to credit card companies, can be one of the most stressful aspects of life. First, you need to stop creating more debt. Reduce your temptation to use your cards by either cutting them up or putting them somewhere you don’t have easy access to. If possible, increase your monthly payments on your minimum payment. A great way to incorporate this is through Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball Method. This strategy allows you to pay off bills in order of smallest to largest. Another strategy, simple, yet effective, is to empty your change into a container each night. If you want to fast track your savings, pay cash for your purchases with the largest domination of bill you have, deposit the change from that purchase in your container. You will be amazed how much money you have saved in 1 year! When my children were small, I applied this method and called it “Christmas Savings.” Every year, I accumulated enough money for my children’s Christmas presents, a wonderful dinner, and was able to keep a family tradition by sponsoring two children, the same ages as my own, with gifts for their Christmas.
  1. De-clutter (that means people too): The first step to simplify life’s chaos is to take serious inventory of what works and what doesn’t. This requires a very hard, and serious look at items, behaviours and relationships that do not nourish your life. I have found that the simplest way to determine if something should be in or out of your life is with a pen and piece of paper. Determine your source of stress. Draw two columns; one is pros and the other is cons. If the con column is larger than the pro column, it has to go – find a way to eliminate this source of stress from your life. This is where you have to be brutally honest and work towards making these changes. Remember, change can feel very uncomfortable, in fact, almost painful. But, keep in mind, if you want to eliminate stress and grow exponentially, you can’t keep doing the same thing you’re doing today and achieve different results.
  1. Learn to say, “No.”: Living in a “Yes” world is a recipe for failure. You know that, yet you continue to pile more and more stress on your plate by trying to be all things to everyone and everything. How’s that working for you? My guess is, not well. Learning to set boundaries in your life is a master skill, but one you need to learn if you want to be true to yourself. Yes, you are going to feel guilty, yes, you are going to feel rejection and, yes, it’s going to feel awkward, but once you master the skill, the payoff is euphoric, and guess what? You’re not a bad person for doing so! I suggest you read William Ury’s book “The Power of a Positive No.”
  1. Exercise regularly: In order to thrive mentally, physically, and emotionally, our bodies need to move. If you dedicate 22 minutes a day to regular physical exercise, by the end of 2 months, you will notice a considerable difference in your life. Incorporate both aerobic and weight-bearing exercises for maximum gain. Keep in mind, that’s only 11 minutes for each. If you are looking for free feel-good drugs, incorporate this technique into your daily arsenal of change and feel the effects 22 minutes will have on your life.
  1. Practice gratitude: The dictionary version of gratitude means to give thanks and appreciate the goodness in our lives. It’s a choice we make to accept the blessings we have received and feel them deeply. Regardless of what day you are having, before you go to sleep at night, know that there are at least 5 things that happened to you during the day that you can say you are grateful for. We tend to focus on all of the difficulties of life, yet we forget how many wonderful things occur each and every day. Keep a journal beside your bed. Before you go to sleep, write down 5 things that you are most grateful for that happened during your day. After 2 months of journaling, you will be amazed at what you’ve written.
  1. Schedule “Me” time through deep breathing: Regardless of how busy your life is, you have at least 5 minutes a day to schedule time for yourself. And, if you say you don’t – you’re lying! If you’re human, I’ll bet you sit on the toilet a few times a day – consider that function part of your “Me” time. I’m sure you could set your alarm 5 minutes earlier or go to bed 5 minutes later to practice “Me” time. Look, let’s be honest, if you want something bad enough, you are going to find a way to achieve it, and finding “Me” time is no exception. If all you can spare is 5 minutes per day, use that time to incorporate deep breathing in your life. Studies have shown that deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. It oxygenates the blood, and sends a message to your brain to feel calm and relaxed.  Andrew Weil has developed the 4-7-8 breathing technique that is certain to help relax the mind and the body through oxygenation.  This technique will not only help decrease stress, but will help you fall asleep faster so you will enjoy a more restful night’s sleep – watch the video here. This is a great practice to do everyday.
  1. Celebrate the milestones: As you read through your gratitude journal at the end of each month, you will see certain milestones you have overcome. Take the time to celebrate them, and you! Your commitment to improving your life by decreasing stress deserves to be recognized, rewarded, and celebrated — plan on doing something nice for yourself, within means, and within your budget. A relaxing massage can further decrease stress and provide you with much-needed pampering. After 1 year of incorporating this technique into your lifestyle, you will have celebrated and rewarded your dedication 12 times! Make sure you write down these milestones in your gratitude journal – you are so worth it!
  1. Keep things in perspective: To keep things, or situations in perspective means to look at the whole “picture,” or having the ability to see things in proper relation, or proportion to everything else. Keeping things in perspective provides a more precise and accurate account of the situation at hand. It’s often the daily hassles of life that cause us the most stress. Are you infuriated by small frustrations? Perhaps being delayed in traffic? Angry, the waiter brought you the wrong entrée? Having to wait in line? Being put on hold on the telephone (okay, that’s one I work on daily)? The list is endless. Now, think about how you respond to these events. If we put things into perspective, is it really going to matter 10 years from now? Probably not. Wouldn’t it be nice if everything went your way and you never had to deal with the inconsistencies of life? Sure, it would, but that’s not reality. What is real is how you handle each situation that tests your patience, and ultimately increases your stress level. Suspend judgment, step back, become an observer and ask the question: “Will this really matter in 10 years from now?” If not, detach yourself from the observation and know this is a temporary inconvenience and not the end of the world.
  1. MeditationMeditate, or learn to meditate daily. The science is in! A habitual process of training your mind to focus and re-direct your thoughts has been proven to lower stress levels, develop a more positive mood and outlook, promote healthier sleep patterns, decrease anxiety, and increase an overall sense of well-being. Learning how to master this one skill will provide you with invaluable benefits for many years to come. Meditation does require practice and does require repetition, though the rewards are worth it. For those folks who are new to meditation and would like to learn, I suggest you read Meditation for Beginners, by Yesenia Chavan. Yesenia teaches the reader multiple forms of meditation. After you finish the book, you will have a clear understanding of how to practice meditation daily.
  1. Eat a balanced diet: A poor diet consisting of high-fat, high-sugar, and empty calories can contribute to your overall stress. Food and food choices can be a very sensitive subject to discuss. Many people are amazed after keeping a food diary for two weeks what they actually consume. Had they not recorded every single thing they ate, they would never believe they; 1) ate more, and 2) had more processed food than they realized. Completely overhauling your current diet takes serious commitment and strict discipline to achieve the desired outcome. Most people start with good intentions, but when faced with drastic changes, far too quickly, they fail. They fail because there is too much emphasis placed on diet and change, and people feel deprived of a lifestyle they have lived for many, many years.

A change in diet should be recognized as a new lifestyle, and not something that is going to happen overnight. Start slow, but steady. Make changes gradually by eliminating particular unhealthy food that are poor nutritional choices, and replace with healthier alternatives. The secret is, never deprive yourself of foods you love, just don’t continue to eat those foods every night. For example, if your favorite treat is ice cream, count on having ice cream once or twice a week, rather than every night. Nothing is forbidden; it’s all about moderation. If you choose this technique as part of your initial 6, here’s some great news if you drink a lot of soda… In 6 months, you may lose up to 20 pounds, should you decided to replace soda with water.

  1. Participate in the Ripple Effect: The Ripple Effect is based on the understanding that we are all connected. Every action you take, and every word you say has a powerful impact, or huge consequence on your stress level. When you smile at someone, authentically say thank-you, pay someone a compliment, apologize when you know you were wrong, offer a hug, or a kind word, congratulate and recognize someone’s accomplishments, you start a ripple effect. In turn, this positive energy now begins to flow through the person who has received your kind doing, and they, in turn, flow their energy out into the world, very much like a domino effect. Humans are magnificent, powerful beings! Every time you express yourself, be it positive or negative, a new ripple begins. Each day, regardless of whether you are having a bad day or not, consciously make a concerted effort to say or do something nice for someone else. Practice this each day and watch how this affects your stress level.
  1. Learn to avoid procrastination:  One way to help eliminate stress in your life is to stay on top of your priorities. Procrastination causes you to act reactively, leaving you scrambling to catch up. A great way to combat procrastination is to make a to-do list. This is best done before bedtime, though still effective first thing in the morning. Organize your list by priority and give yourself realistic deadlines for each task.

Contrary to popular belief, humans are not good multi-taskers. Multi-tasking used to be a popular buzz word back in the day, though research as determined we are not as good as we think we are at doing several things at once. If you are trying to juggle everything at one time because you have put off what you should have already completed, and now you’re trying to play catch-up – stop! This is completely counterproductive and will help you move closer to decreasing your stress level. Instead, create a list and stick to it. If you are not able to complete a task within the dedicated timeline, that task goes on tomorrow’s list for completion.

Remember, small steps will eventually lead to big rewards. Finding the best stress relief strategies that work for you will take practice and some experimenting. Don’t give up! If you find you fall back on any of these new techniques, it’s okay – just pick up where you left off and keep trying, keep moving forward. A new day awaits you!