Some tips for restoring your equanimity:
Stress overload fuels most of diseases afflicting modern humans. Even children and teens aren’t immune. A stressor is anything that activates a person’s stress response.
1. Make a list of what’s going right.
2. Write down three sources of stress you’re able and willing to change.
3. Identify ways you have reasonable control over those situations. If the commute to work makes you feel hassled, would you feel more relaxed on public transportation? What if you left earlier or later? Can you work at home some days?
4. Check in with your thoughts. Are they contributing needlessly to your sense of stress? How can you put a positive, but realistic, spin on them? If the inner chatter sounds like, “I’m so stressed. I can’t handle this. I’m freaking out,” stop. Try, “I have a lot to do. It will take time, but I can do it. Right now, I’m going to do this one task.”
5. Exercise every day. Physical activity is a great way to let off steam. Solutions that eluded you at work or home may suddenly become clear.
6. Learn to say no. For some of us that’s not easy. You may need to figure out why you feel so responsible. Give someone else a chance to rise to the occasion.
7. Schedule time to unwind and to play. That’s not the same as television time. Learn to relax and enjoy yourself. You’ll be a better person for it. Sleep eight hours a night. If you don’t, you’ll add to your stress load. See the next chapter for tips.
8. Treat yourself. Get a massage, practice yoga, take a dance class, and soak in a hot tub. If co-workers, friends, or others try to schedule things during those times, tell them you have an appointment.
9. Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation activates the stress response.
10. Eat a whole-foods diet. Junk food activates the stress response. Take time to leisurely prepare and savour a meal. Put flowers on the dinner table. Notice how much better this approach feels than gobbling a sandwich in the car or at your desk.
11. Seek social support. Hug someone. When you do, you release an antistress, bonding hormone called oxytocin.
12. Spend time in nature. You needn’t drive to a national park. City gardens and parks do just fine. Put a plant on your desk. Watch trees, birds, and squirrels outside your window. Gaze at the stars. Jump in a pile of leaves. Make a snow angel. Natural environments reduce stress and enhance overall well-being. Ready access to green spaces can buffer the negative health effects of stressful life events.
13. Pet a friendly animal. Science shows it reduces stress.
14. Manipulate your senses. Soften the lighting. Listen to soothing music. Wear fabrics that comfort you. Surround yourself with peaceful colors—green, blue, and pink. Infuse the air with calming plant essential oils (lavender, orange, jasmine, or any other scent that makes you feel relaxed and happy).
15. Learn to meditate. Try mindfulness meditation (paying attention to the present moment) and recitation of a mantra (a repeated sound). Numerous studies show that regular meditation reduces perceptions of stress, decreases stress hormones, reduces the risk of many stress related diseases, and helps people become less reactive to potential stressors. You’ll find short meditation exercises throughout the book.
16. Breathe. Slow, deep breathing immediately turns up your parasympathetic nervous system and dials down the sympathetic nervous system. Even though the autonomic nervous system is also called the involuntary nervous system, you do have some control over it.
17. Stay optimistic. Believe that things will improve. Make that possible.