Other stress management tools
Meditation is not the only tool that you can use to manage stress, although it is an important one. Some other factors that are useful in reducing your stress to manageable levels are:
Planning well, and being organized are very powerful tools for managing stress. When you anticipate what the future might bring then you can be prepared for it. I particularly recommend Steven Covey’s book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People,” which is the most deeply thought-out book I have read on the topic. It has radically transformed my own life.
Taking regular exercise and eating healthily
Exercise generates endorphins — natural opiates that bring a sense of well-being and energy. The health of your body has an effect on your mental and emotional functioning. Remember that your brain is a physical organ, and needs good nutrition to function effectively.
Avoiding stimulants and depressants
Some of the most anxious people I know drink several cups of coffee a day. They often don’t seem to want to make the connection between the behavior and the mental states they experience. Taking stimulants when you are already over stimulated does not, to me, make much sense.
Depressants, such as alcohol, can seem like an attractive way of unwinding and relaxing. And for many people the regular consumption of small quantities of alcohol is probably quite healthy – both physically and emotionally. But when you are under stress, alcohol inhibits the dream sleep that you need to process the information overload that you are dealing with.
Taking time out for a “healthy” obsession can be very beneficial. I don’t mean passive activities like watching TV. I’m thinking here of creative and active pursuits. When I worked in community education in Scotland (a very stressful job) I found that making time to dabble in sculpture was a useful way to deal with my obsessive tendencies.
Instead of spending my time worrying about whether my presentation was going to go well the next day, I would play around with exactly how I was going to cast a certain piece I was working on. Giving yourself time to play is a magnificent way to beat stress!
Remember that you don’t have to make several changes in your lifestyle simultaneously. In fact, doing so is likely to lead to emotional reactions and backtracking. Small adjustments in your lifestyle can lead to big changes in your experience. And once you have made one change, it will give you the confidence to make more.
So these lifestyle changes can be incremental. Not only that, but one change can support another. If you start exercising, then you might naturally find that you want to eat better, for example.