Managing Stress: Where to Start

Conquering stress is not as easy as it sounds.  If we had the resources, we could remove nearly all stressors by quitting our jobs, and buying a first class, one-way ticket to a quiet island in the Caribbean. We could spend our days sipping mojitos and sunbathing. Now, that is a stress free life. Most of us, however, can’t eliminate all of our stressful commitments with the drop of a hat. We have obligations and responsibilities– many of which we care about very much.

Managing stress is a difficult task because it comes at us from all angles and all at once: school, work, family, money, children, rush hour traffic, pets, friends, etc. I have quit jobs because they became too stressful. I’m not recommending that you do that because quitting put me in a tough spot financially. However, if you have the financial resources… it might not be a bad idea.

Achieving a stress free life cannot happen overnight.  Like any other major life change you have to make one small change at a time. If you are anything like me, you’ve probably imagined yourself waking up one morning as the calm and collected yogi, or the surfer dude who smokes a little too much reefer and is the epitome of chill.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. You might make it through a day or two, but more than likely you will revert back to your old self sooner or later. Do one thing at a time. Maybe that one thing is quitting your unnecessarily stressful job. For me, it’s changing how I respond to driving around in Miami traffic.

Changing how I respond to that one little stressor over the last week has made a huge difference and how I feel overall.  By the time I get home from my 40 minute commute, I am relaxed. I listen to good music in the car and try to focus on myself–not the other drivers. I still don’t like driving but when I get home, I’m not as tense as I used to be. Even though I’m starting to get the hang of not freaking out at other drivers, I’m not going to start dealing with other stressors as of yet. I haven’t mastered the art of driving calmly. I still have a “freak-out” every now and again, but overall the small changes are making a huge difference in my life. I hadn’t realized how much rush hour was contributing to my stress level until I started to eliminate it.

So pick one thing. Something you can manage. I think that rush hour is a good place to start because the only thing you have to change is your reaction. You aren’t dealing with other people personally. Your finances typically aren’t on the line. It is one simple change that you can practice on a consistent basis. After a month or so managing that one particular stressor, tackle something else. Keep at it untill you’ve covered most of the stressors in your life and you’ll soon be on your way to having a lot less stress.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.