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Stress Doesn’t Really Go with my Outfit

“Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it.” Jane Wagner

It’s all around us. No one is immune. If it is not happening in real time right in front of you, you will feel it when you watch the latest news report or read a current magazine or hear about it from a friend or family member. STRESS.

We are all feeling it in a big way. We can’t control the news and we can’t control other people and we sure can’t control what we are taking in on any given day or time, BUT we can control how we react and how we deal with all the many facets of stress.

We think, as adults, that we are fortresses of strength when it comes to stress, but we are not.

Imagine how the children feel. Dealing with stress shows itself in many ways from bad eating habits to bad sleep, to bad decision making or no decision making to headaches or worse. Often, we don’t realize just how much stress we are dealing with on a day-to-day basis, and this is bad for humans overall.

According to, “aside from the stress we take in based on outside forces, our genetics, social support, coping style and finances add to our stress and would be there no matter what to heighten our stress levels.”

While it is true that some people are more prone to stress than others, throw into the mix the type of work you do daily, and stress can become so toxic that escaping it is almost impossible. Chronic stress negatively affects our health and without good health we are at a disadvantage.

Let’s stop for a moment, think about the most stressful thing you are dealing with and let’s try to minimize it.

“I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth diminishing your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.” Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

Stress is not a mental health disorder like anxiety or depression; however, stress can be treated as a disorder if it is holding you back from happiness or productivity or interfering with any of your daily life events. Talking with a professional may be helpful. If this is not an option for you then let’s take a look at what you can do to lower stress and pump-up happiness. It turns out that many of the same things you can do to reduce stress are all the things you can do to choose happiness.

According to a new book out now to help people in leadership positions lead better, Susan S. Freeman writes in her book, Inner Switch: 7 Timeless Principles to Transform Modern Leadership, “Our brains spontaneously generate thousands of thoughts per day, most of which are random. We believe we are conscious and rational, yet the vast majority of our thoughts are habitual and repetitive; not conscious. Our neural pathways are like train tracks, and we can be runaway trains, careening down a track at high speed without working brakes.!”

“We have had our entire lifetime to build the tracks and pathways for our thoughts. They have been laid down on top of our age, family history, education, gender, religious beliefs, and geographical location, among other things. Our tracks include our past fears and memories and our worries about the future. They reliably lead us to the same stations over and over. Thoughts and emotions are reciprocal. A thought can trigger emotion, and emotion can trigger a thought. If we allow our thoughts to spiral, soon we are going down a rabbit hole of whatever problem or feeling has seized our attention.”

Below is a list of ways in which you can manage your stress and find a pathway toward happiness:

If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” Amit Ray, Om Chanting and Meditation

13 Ways to reduce, relieve, rebound from stress:

1-Physical exercise: Walking, jogging, running, biking, hiking, swimming. Whatever your healthy, physical release preferences are, do that. Regular, physical (30 minutes or more at one time) activities can go a long way in releasing initial stress symptoms. Activities that raise your heart rate and make you take in more oxygen will help relieve some stress symptoms. Dopamine is a natural feel-good chemical that is a powerful tool you can enhance to create balance in overwhelm and stress. Dopamine is what happiness needs to thrive.

2- A healthy diet: “A nutrient dense diet may provide your body with what it needs for optimal good health and decrease your risk of deficiencies in nutrients that help regulate stress.” Following a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, low sugar, and lean protein and healthy carbohydrates will help you stay in the optimal health zone. When your body feels healthy, your mind will follow.

3- Limit screen time: As tempting as it is to escape from stress and reality through social media and the use of the “smart” devices that seem to be like a third hand, the excessive use of devices like these are associated with lower psychological well-being. It takes us away from personal interaction with people and family and isolates us right when we need to be surrounded by people the most, people we can share our stories with. The light from these devices interferes with our sleep, which is something we need most at the height of our stress. Instead, choose soothing music to listen to or read a book or meditate.

4- Supplements: “Certain supplements may reduce stress levels such as magnesium, L-theanine, rhodiola, and B Vitamins.” Talk with your doctor to find out if you are deficient in any vitamin or mineral due to stress and how to stack the deck in your favor to help combat stress. Find out from your doctor what foods can give you the nutritional boost your body needs.

5- Practice Self-Care: YOU MATTER. The underlying theme to combat stress is to take time for YOU. If you are sick in any way or feeling out of sorts on a regular basis or for an extended period of time, other than speaking with your health professional, take time out to practice doable self-care steps such as a long, slow walk, breathing deeply, hot bath or spa, surrounding yourself with pleasant scents such as lavender, bergamot, rose, sandalwood, orange blossom or from essential oils, losing yourself in a hobby, go for a massage, drink decaf tea, wash your face and massage in healing lotion. Another idea is to journal about how you are feeling. Perhaps create a To-Don’t list; listing all the things that you will not do this week or today or this month. Knowing that you set up your own boundaries is powerful and fortifying.

6- Reduce Caffeine Intake: Keep caffeine to 4 cups or less per day. Too much caffeine can harm your nervous system and your sleep which increases stress responses. Don’t forget that caffeine is not only in the coffee we drink, but also in chocolate, energy drinks and tea. Save the tea for nighttime when you are in a relaxed mindset and looking for that cuddly, warm all over feeling.

7- Spend time with those you love: Having a strong social network or social ties can help you get through stressful times. Humans are great at commiserating with one another which helps us feel that we are not alone, and humans are great at offering help to others but are awful at accepting help from others, instead, finding that accepting help is somehow a weakness. Take a few minutes to think about how it feels to offer help. Everyone wants to be “THAT” person that makes a good difference for someone else and experiences putting themselves last. Let others help you and give them the opportunity to feel purposeful to you. A healthy support system of trusted people is magical, like having a fairy Godmother.

8- Learn to say NO and Smile more: You won’t be labeled anti-social if you take time for yourself instead of filling up every hour of your calendar. Being a YES person is not heroic, it is “overwhelm” flashing in neon lights. Respect for you and your time is important to teach others about you. Smile more even when you don’t feel like it. When you smile it changes the chemical make-up of your brain. It also helps others feel better to receive a smile instead of a stone face while walking down the street or halls of your office building. Maybe go a bit further with the happiness giving and pay a compliment to someone. Sure, it takes courage but OMG the way you will feel and the good feeling you will pass along will be the best part of the whole day. I would be surprised if this didn’t help reduce stress immediately.

9- Avoid Procrastination: Believe it or not, putting things down anywhere instead of putting it away, while it is in your hand, is stressful and continues to add stress to your environment because you know all those things in random places are just waiting to go back to where they belong. Putting off making that medical bill call, putting off cleaning that closet, putting off answering that email is stressful until you clear it from your view and/or agenda. Procrastination is the enemy of happiness.

10- Take a class: Yoga, meditation, art, music, HIIT, etc. All of these classes are designed to help lower cortisol and we now know that cortisol is the hormone the body holds onto when we feel stressed. Holding all that cortisol can lead to other more serious health conditions like depression and poor psychological well-being, and belly fat.

11- Cuddle: Pet, person, pillow it does not matter so long as you are feeling safe, softly cared for or supremely comfortable. Human cuddling, kissing, hugging, can help lower stress by releasing oxytocin and lowering blood pressure. Hold your cuddle for at least 2 minutes. At the very least it will do wonders for your back and shoulders.

12- Spend Time in Nature: Breathing in the soft smell of pine trees, the grass after the rain, the wildflowers blooming, a delicious BBQ in the neighborhood. Nature is natural and gives us free access to admire its splendor through hiking and high mountain top views to swimming in natural ponds and lakes, to camping in the great outdoors. Nature promotes admiration and gratitude. Feeling grateful, out loud, on paper or in your head, is endless and changes the chemical responses throughout the body towards calm and splendor. It is hard to feel lousy when you are actively, mindfully grateful.

13- Deep Breathing: Deep breathing promotes the body’s relaxation response by counteracting the physical sensations of stress.” Count of 8 to breathe in, count of 7 to breathe out. Do this as many times as you need to, to slow down your thoughts, to promote balance, to realize that you are in control.

“What worries you masters you.” John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding - Volume I

“I do my best thinking at night when everyone else is sleeping. No interruptions. No noise. I like the feeling of being awake when no one else is.” Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places

Stress starts as an emotional reaction toward an aggressive stimulus and can easily morph into physical symptoms. When you start to feel sweaty, clammy, stressed out, try to immediately find a way to breathe deeply and calm down.

When you can get into a calmer frame of being, imagine looking at the situation that caused the negative feelings from a 10,000’ view. What do you see, who do you see, how can this view help you create options through the muddy waters?

Stress can damage us, or it can help lead us toward happiness by creating solutions to battle overwhelm. When you realize the control you have in dealing with overwhelm then stress can be a warning that something positive needs to happen now. Using stress as a vehicle toward solutions, towards a positive outcome, will create less stress about stress itself.

Action Plan

What is causing stress for you right now?

Which one of these 13 methods will you try?

In what way have you been successful in reducing or coping positively with stress?

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