Whether it’s a job interview, talking to your crush, or speaking in front of an audience, we have all gone through the uneasy feelings that cause us to panic when dealing with stressful situations.
While we can’t be completely immune to stress, we can learn to prevent it from harming our performance and ruining our lives. The best way to deal with stress isn’t what you do when you are stressed but rather how you live your life. In the lines that follow, I share seven proven habits you can incorporate in your life right now that can help you go through stress with great composure.
Visualize Your Response to Stressful Situations
Stress is the reaction of the amygdala that triggers a fight-or-flight response. It’s an automated system that acts before we’re even aware.
Challenging events or perceived threats trigger a stress response, mainly because of our internal dialogues, therefore creating mental images of your response to a stressful situation is an effective coping strategy.
Visualization or mental rehearsal is the process by which one forms a clear mental picture of the desired goal. The mental image you create needs to be as clear as possible. Where are you? Who is there? What is the challenge?
When you continuously run an activity in your mind, you are better prepared to stay composed when the situation occurs. From athletes to corporate executives, visualization has proven critical in helping them navigate stressful situations unshaken.
Practice the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
The 4-7-8 breathing technique is among the most popular breathing exercises, with many proven benefits for stress reduction and relaxation. Developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, this breathing technique has been dubbed the “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.”
Find a comfortable location where you can stay undisturbed for at least five minutes and do the following.
- Close your lips, and inhale through your nose for a count of four.
- Hold your breath and count to seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, and count to eight.
This completes one cycle. Experts advise starting small, so five to ten cycles are great starting points.
Form the Habit of Exercising Regularly
Exercise is critical to keep stress under control by releasing endorphins, which are chemicals that act as pain relievers and happiness boosters. They are also called “feel-good” chemicals. The simple habit of walking, even for five minutes, can help strengthen your ability to calm your nerves and help reset your mood when faced with stressful situations.
Learn to Let Go of Expectations
This may sound counterintuitive, but too much expectation can be a catalyst to stress. In step one, you’ve visualized your outcomes as plainly as possible. But once you leave your room, you face reality; nothing is as beautiful as you saw it in your mind, your friends, your inner voice and everything around you give you a gazillion reasons to doubt yourself. You can easily surrender and give up without even taking the first step. Thus, to face stress, learn to remove all expectations and enjoy the present!
Spend Time with People Who Empower You
We’ve all been in the company of those individuals who possess the unique ability to absorb our energy the instant we meet them.
This phenomenon is explained by emotional contagion where someone’s emotional state triggers like-emotions in the people they come in contact with. If you want to build the emotional maturity required to face stress unphased, surround yourself with energy-givers.
Develop Healthy Sleeping Habits
Poor sleeping habits make it challenging to deal with stressful situations. Research shows that chronic sleep deprivation leads to high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart attack, and damages the immune system. You may want to change your sleeping habits if you want to navigate stressful situations with equanimity.
Include Mindfulness Meditation in Your Weekly Routine
Several studies show that meditation can trigger changes in the emotional centers of the brain, making it easier to manage stress and anxiety. A five-minute guided meditation at least twice a week will go a long way.
Accept That It Is Okay to Experience Stress
If deep down you hold the belief that stress is only reserved for a handful of unfortunate individuals, then you cannot get won’t be able to face the negative emotions it generates. So, to prevent stress from paralyzing your life, you must acknowledge it and make peace with it.
Anxiety is experienced differently by different people. While I can’t speak for every single case, I believe these techniques help you develop the emotional capability to endure stressful situations unshaken. Remember, for these strategies to be valuable, start instilling them in your life now, not when you are in the middle of the storm.