Most of us know now that high levels of stress are bad for our health. High levels of stress at work can lead to poor performance, damage your relationships in and out of the office and damage your mental health.

But there are so lots things that can cause stress at work, from looming deadlines to unsuccessful launches and challenging workplace relationships to the daily commute! So, how on earth are we supposed to avoid it?

Unfortunately, stress is part of everyday life, so it’s about learning to manage it and deal with it more effectively, rather than getting rid of it completely.

So, what can you do to reduce the impact and the amount of stress in your life right now? Read on to find out.

1. Exercise

While exercise isn’t the cure for everything, it’s pretty darn amazing. It makes you feel more energized and alert, raises your endorphin levels, and gives you a great buzz. Not to mention, it helps you sleep better as well. All of these are things that can help you beat stress.

2. Get quality sleep

Have you ever been really tired and cranky? Of course, that’s a silly question, who hasn’t?  You end up snapping at people for no good reason and can’t see things clearly. Under stressful circumstances, lack of sleep will make things much worse.

The problem is, that often when we’re going through stress, we struggle to sleep as well, which exacerbates the problem. So if you’re going through hell, it’s worth taking steps to help you get some shut-eye, whether that’s meditating, having a hot bath, or even…. getting more exercise.

3. Talk it Out

You’ve heard the phrase two heads are better than one. While it might feel easier to just get on and to try to ignore everything, this isn’t a healthy long-term solution, as unresolved issues will eventually bubble up to the surface.

From my own experience, this bubbling up can take the form of stomach cramps, hives, night sweats, or night terrors. Either way, these things are your body’s way of telling you that you’re stressed and it’s time to do something about it.

Talk to someone before it gets to this point and spare yourself the added stress of ill health.

4. Journal

“We suffer more from imagination than from reality”-Seneca.

This saying is a great reminder of how powerful our minds are. Left unchecked, stressful or negative thought patterns can cause us a lot of pain. This is where journaling can be a great help.

If talking about things isn’t always easy, then journaling gives you a different opportunity to get things out in the open.

Journaling is a wonderful self-reflective tool that can help you work through difficult, painful, or confusing issues. Often, once you write things down, they don’t seem quite as bad as they seem in your mind.

If you’re wondering how to get started with journaling, you might want to read:

7 Ways Journaling Can Help Introverts Achieve Their Goals

29 Most Powerful Journaling Methods To Change Your Life 

5. Have an Attitude of Gratitude

When times are tough and we’re under a lot of stress, it’s natural to end up thinking about what’s bothering us all the time and it’s easy to forget about the things that might be going well. Sometimes to our detriment.

Gratitude is one of the most underutilized practices ( IMO). It doesn’t cost anything and you can dedicate as much or as little time to it as you want, and still get results. And there are lots of different ways to practice gratitude and make it a part of your daily life.

Take time every day to think about the things that you’re thankful for and focus on them. Whether that means writing them down or saying them out loud.

While at the start you might feel silly, or even that you don’t have much to be thankful for, over time, you will start to see more and more things in your life to be grateful for and you will feel better as a result.

6. Declutter 

Clutter can have a huge impact on your mental health. From increased stress levels to lack of focus, to relationship challenges.

The benefits of decluttering on your mind and on your stress levels are significant.

One study has found that women who reported more clutter in their homes had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol throughout the day compared to women who had less clutter.

Cortisol is a naturally-occurring steroid hormone that plays a key role in the body’s stress response. The adrenal glands release cortisol in response to stress or fear as part of the body’s fight or flight response. And while your body requires cortisol to control important functions, when there’s too much cortisol present in your blood for long periods of time, it can lead to health issues such as high blood pressure, decreased bone density, and imbalances in blood sugar. 

In short, too much cortisol is bad!

Studies have also shown that being around clutter makes it hard for your brain to focus. What’s more, constantly having to search for misplaced items and forgetting where important things are is a fast track to more stress. 

While the exact reasons are not yet known, studies have even found a link between hoarding and insomnia. And while you may not be a hoarder, a clutter-free, tidy environment will certainly promote a greater sense of peace and calm, making it much easier to get some sleep. 

So declutter your home and workspace if you want a low-stress life.

7. Accept Help 

“Until we can receive with an open heart, we’re never really giving with an open heart. – Brené Brown

Accepting help is something that many people struggle with. The reasons why people struggle to accept help are varied. It could be the result of childhood trauma; perhaps we asked for help and never got our needs met,  we might be used to being the one helping others, we may see asking for help as a sign of weakness, or we might feel we’re being a burden by asking for help, whatever the reason, not being able to ask for or accept help will lead to stress when we eventually become overloaded. 

So, how do you learn to ask for and accept help?

In order to get comfortable accepting help here are some things you might want to consider;

Generosity is a two-way street from which everyone benefits. When you deny others the opportunity to help you, you deny them the opportunity for feeling good themselves. 

Stop seeing accepting help as a selfish act and accept that it’s a normal part of life and may very well strengthen and enrich your relationships

Understand when a thought is that of the inner critic. These thoughts could be that “I’m not worthy of their time”, “I’m annoying them”, “It’s wrong to lean on other people” or some other negative thought about asking for help.  

When you recognize that these don’t represent the truth of the relationship between you and the person helping you and accept that it’s the inner critic, you can then start to quiet these thoughts and ultimately, ignore them. 

Explore your attachment patterns and understand how they may be affecting you and your ability to accept help.

According to Welldoing.org we may have secure, anxious, dismissive, or fearful attachment styles. Our attachment style is formed in childhood and relates to our relationship with our parents. Having a challenging attachment style can affect your relationships into adulthood. And according to Psychology Today, Sixty percent of adults are securely attached while 20% are avoidant and 20% are anxious.

Understanding your attachment style will help you to understand the reasons why you might struggle to ask for help.

8. Make Time for Play

As adults, we tend to lose our sense of play. But play is just as important for adults as it is for children. Playing not only brings us joy, but it can also help us with problem-solving and creativity, among other things.

In his book, Play, author and psychiatrist Stuart Brown, MD, compares play to oxygen. He explains that:

“…it’s all around us, yet goes mostly unnoticed or unappreciated until it is missing.” 

This might seem over the top until you think about all the activities in life you might consider play. From art, to books to music, to daydreaming, and more. 

Ultimately, play can lead to deeper relationships among strangers, reduce stress and it can even lead to healing.

9. Take a Life Audit 

If you’re in a perpetual state of stress, it might be time to take a life audit. 

By taking a closer look at every aspect of your life, you may find that there are things in your life that need to go. 

This could of course mean cutting out activities you’re involved in that no longer bring you the joy they used to, but it could also mean decluttering that wardrobe and scaling back on “stuff”, or even taking a break from spending time with people who leave you feeling drained or worse.

By doing this, you’ll be ensuring that you’re only spending time on what’s essential, or on things that bring you joy. 

[Related: How To Live A Happier Life With 5 Simple Shifts]

10. Learn to Let Things Flow 

Last but not least on the list is learning to let things flow. As a self-confessed control freak, I know how hard this can be. But I also know how being this way causes a lot of stress. 

You find it hard to let people get on and you don’t trust that things will work out or be done well without your involvement. You worry about everything. This is not the path to peace!

If you’re someone who likes to be in control of everything in your life, this could be causing you unnecessary stress.

While being organized and well-planned is beneficial, being a control freak or a perfectionist has many drawbacks.

As hard as it is, try to let things go, even if it’s only once in a while.

As much as we want to, we can’t control everything in life. In fact, the more we try to, the less in control we can feel.

Learn to allow things to flow. This doesn’t mean sitting back and letting things go wrong, it’s about having a certain state of mind. 

When you stop trying to control every little thing and believe that things will work out as they should, life becomes less stressful. 

Acceptance is a large part of this. Accepting that things will never be perfect, that you can’t control everything, and that sometimes things won’t work out, is the path to less stress. 

The Takeaway

Whatever it is that’s stressing you out, make a date with a friend to talk it through, start a daily gratitude practice, or treat yourself to a lovely new journal. You can never have too many and your mind will thank you.