It happens to most of us every day. And most everyday stressors are things that we can handle fairly easily if we just remember a few simple strategies:
The vagus nerve is a cranial nerve that wanders throughout the body. Stimulation of the vagus nerve tends to slow your heart rate and create a calming response.
The easiest way to engage the vagus?
Take a deep breath.
Both moving your diaphragm and the exhalation part of the breath will put your vagus nerve in gear and help reduce your body’s stress response.
When you find yourself stuck in traffic and late for an appointment, how do you react? Does your grip tighten on the steering wheel? Do you start talking to the traffic, cursing its slowness and bemoaning your fate?
Let’s get something straight: You can’t control the traffic.
All of your moaning, cursing, grip-tightening, pulse-elevating behavior is not going to get that traffic to move.
So why curl yourself into a stress ball over it?
Since there’s nothing you can do about it, just relax. Being uptight isn’t going to get you to your appointment any faster and it’s likely only doing damage to your body rather than helping you in any way.
It’s hard to release control, but there is a large percentage of our stress that is directly related to trying to control things that we will never have any control over whether it’s traffic, weather, your company’s promotions policy, or someone else’s behavior.
It’s okay to take action when and where it is needed and you can actually have some influence, but learn to be okay with not controlling the things that are out of your control.
So you’re late for your appointment and stuck in traffic. You’ve tied yourself in knots fretting about being late.
There. Has that helped anything?
Let me ask you this: How many times in the past have you been late for an appointment?
And, when you were late for past appointments, did the sky fall in?
Did the world end?
Did you have a heart attack and die?
No, you were late for your appointment, you apologized for being late, and the world kept spinning like it always does.
You probably even forgot about being late for that appointment by the end of the day. Yet, the way you stressed yourself out about it, you would have thought that your life depended on it.
When you start to feel yourself knotting up about an everyday stressor, ask yourself how many times you have experienced this particular stress in the past. Then consider whether the usual outcome (everything works out fine; you forgot that you were even stressed, etc.) is worth all of the stress you’re creating in your mind and body.
One of the things that can exacerbate everyday stress is our tendency to focus unblinkingly on the source of our stress.
Find something to break up your focus on the stressor. A great way to do this is through laughing. Find a funny video on YouTube. Think of the joke that always cracks you up no matter how many times you’ve heard it.
Do something different. Start a different project or go for a quick walk around the building. Look up into the sky and remember that the thing that is stressing you out is actually a small, small piece in the overall picture.
All things do.
Just like we can’t control the rising and setting of the sun, but we can certainly count on them, so can we also count on stress rising and falling in life.
But it passes.
And it will pass more quickly if you allow it to.
Stress happens. It’s how you react to it that makes all the difference.
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Last reviewed: 26 Sep 2013