Updated: Dec 1, 2020
A couple of years ago I travelled to Indonesia to work as a volunteer and teach English. I lived with a local family on the island of Java, together with a very nice French girl. We spent every day with the local coordinators and either we taught in the school or they took us on their motorcycle to show us around in their area. When it rained, and it rained heavily every day, we stopped at a random place and we waited for the rain to stop. Sometimes we waited for ten minutes, sometimes for three hours. Then we got home and we sat down on the porch and we spent there long hours talking and laughing and doing nothing. This is how our days went by and with the French girl we found it extremely difficult to adapt in the first couple of days. We not only had to give the control out of our hands as it was not us to decide what to do and when, but we had to sit and wait often for hours and literally do nothing.
In the western culture we live an extremely fast lifestyle, we always run somewhere. In the morning to work, to take the kids to school, then we eat rapidly and then we go back to work, then we even run to do some sport as we need to be attractive and healthy. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we run all the time?
The expectations are high, as we all want to live a full life, but what does it mean? Of course we need to work to maintain ourselves financially, we spend time with our family and friends as social connections are like a solid structure giving a baseline for our life. Besides that we want to be healthy, so we try to cook at home and exercise and sleep enough, we want to find ourselves so we try to find time for our passions and hobbies. And there are some certain tasks and administration we all need to do like transfer money, go to the bank, go to the post office, pay checks and so on. So here comes the question, when do we have time for all these and how can we fit everything into just 24 hours? Well, you can do it, but only if you do run from one task to the other.
Evolutionally, we used stress to save our lives. When there was danger, it triggered the fight or flee response of our body, which meant that we either fighted back, we run away or we froze into invisibility to get over the life threatening situation. To do so, our body mobilized cortisol, the stress hormone, pumped blood into our limbs and lung so that we can run away, so everything served survival. When the danger was over, our body stopped the fight or flee mode and switched into the rest and digest mode which should be our state of being in 95 % of our life. But it is not: when we live a life full of stress, we are actually in fight or flee mode. What causes stress today might not be the same, there are no lions attacking us these days, but we do have our angry boss and the deadlines and the expectations and the traffic jam and financial problems and difficult relationships and so on… so many things that can make us stressed! And the consequences are huge, chronic stress reduces the quality of life and triggers serious diseases and infertility.
So what can help you to ease the stress?
As I used to say, every person, lifestyle and problem is different, so we need to look at it during the coaching process what causes stress for you. Someone has difficulties to manage the stress due relationship problems while other people get stressed of their own expectations at work. But here are some tips worth for consideration.
Know your trigger – first of all, you need to identify what causes stress in your life and ask yourself why. What makes that thing so important, why is it that really makes you stressed? For example, if you are stressed when you have a meeting with your boss, why is that, what is it that you are scared of exactly? What is your biggest fear here?
Perspective – when understanding what causes you stress, try to give it some perspective. If you think back in 20 years or even in two years or a week, will this thing really be so important? Will you even remember to it?
Prioritise – yes, we will always be short of time, we can’t fill so many things into a day as we wish. So, we need to change the mind-set and prioritise what is really important and what can be outsourced or simply eliminated from your life. If you are stressed as you have so many tasks at home, at least try to make your life simpler and better organized, like go shopping just once a week or biweekly, or even try to ask home delivery.
When you are done with your priority list, apply a very old and effective technique for the bottom ones on your list: say no, draw the line there. Either you help others and you meet their expectations, or you act to take care of yourself. And if you don't take care of yourself, noone else will.
Expectations – often the biggest trigger for stress is ourselves and our expectations. Be realistic what you can expect from others and from yourself.
Relax – there are lot of great ways to reduce stress like sports, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, a walk in the nature. Try what works for you and build it into your life. And when you prioritize, make sure that you keep it in the Top 5 otherwise it won’t work.
All these tips can give you a guideline how to have healthy habits and control your stress level, and here I am to help you work out the details and tailor it for your life so that you can make a change that is sustainable and brings you a Zen life.