Catch Stress Before It Starts


How To Prevent Everyday Stress

Wouldn’t you rather prevent a problem instead of spending time and effort managing one? Why “treat” a disease when you can avoid it in the first place?

It’s the same thing with stress. That’s right… Those who sell stress management and stress reduction tools, seminars and supplements may not like to hear this, but stress doesn’t have to ever disrupt your life if you are equipped with the tools to prevent it in the first place. Read on and get ready to live stress-free.

In the 25th Anniversary edition of my 1988 original, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff P.S. It’s All Small Stuff, I point out that stress is a perspective on life.

Voltaire wisely noted, “Life is a shipwreck, but we must still sing in our lifeboats.”

But Michael, my life is crazy, my boss drives me nuts, the kids are always sick, I can never make it to the gym and our finances are stressing me out…I don’t even see a lifeboat!

When it comes to stress, there definitely is a lifeboat. You see, the Greek philosopher Epictetus was 100% right when he observed, People aren’t disturbed by outside things and events, but by the views which they take of them.” There’s a lifeboat all right, and it’s right there behind your eyes, and between your ears.

Become Mindful of What Stresses You Out

We never go from an event to an emotion without thinking about the event first. Events don’t make you or get you upset. Delete those words immediately! Nothing but your thinking makes you or gets you upset, happy, worried, depressed or angry.

Here’s the important thing, until you think about events, you won’t have any, feelings or emotions about events. Do you think if someone shouts “boo” while you are in a coma that you’d feel fear? No, you wouldn’t because you wouldn’t be thinking anything about that event.

So it is with stress. Ready for the mind-blowing secret about stress? There is no such thing as stress unless and until you create it by your thoughts about events.

The Harmful Effects of Stress and How To Deal With It

Stress is a very subjective phenomenon. Some people experience stress manifestation with physiological symptoms such as frequent headaches, hypertension, neck and back aches, sweating, difficulty breathing, and sleeplessness. Sometimes stress manifests with psychological symptoms such as sudden attacks of panic, low sexual desire, excessive worry and guilt, quick frustration, intense anger and dizziness. It’s easy to abuse over-the-counter drugs or other types of self-medication like smoking or drinking. Or do other seemingly benign, yet harmful behaviors like socially isolate themselves, splurge on unnecessary items and gamble. These are at best poor methods to deal with what’s preventable in the first place.

The danger of ineffectively dealing with high levels of stress is that it carries an increased risk of death by 43%. But wait… that only applies to people who think that stress is harmful to their health! The lowest risk of death isn’t to those who experience the lowest levels of stress, but to those who experience high levels of stress but think it is NOT harmful to their health.

This provides insight into living a relatively stress-free life. Your stress management plan begins with changing your perception on your stressors and learning how to gain perspective. Whether you are raising a youngster, getting a business off the ground, studying for finals, dealing with a broken heart or falling in love, sure there are difficulties to face.

But these challenges indicate a life filled with meaning, engagement, emotion and learning. Do you believe things happen to you or are you fortunate enough to see that life actually happens for you? Do you focus on your skills, strengths and personal resources to deal with life’s inevitable challenges, or do you focus on your past failures and believe that there’s nothing from it? Those who prevent stress don’t see rejection. They see redirection in their lives.

Use Physical Activity To Prevent Stress

Now that you are thinking correctly, the next step is to turn to the next best stress prevention method given to us, physical activity. Next to a realistic, rational perspective, I know of nothing else that can prevent and yes, dial down, stress more than exercise. As your cardio activity strengthens and actually enlarges your heart, exercise allows more oxygen into your body, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, improves blood flow to your brain promoting calm and focus, releases endorphins thus increasing happiness and an overall sense of well-being, and reduces the amount of adrenal hormones and cortisol that your body ordinarily releases in response to stress. There’s no doubt that those who are physically fit handle the effects of acute and chronic stress free of illness or burning out.

Today, many have come to understand that hardcore, “warrior” type exercise is not necessarily the best answer to stress. In fact, I’ve learned that internal exercise like yoga

and meditation are two powerful ways to calm down and carry on under stress.

A Complete S.T.R.E.S.S. Prevention Guide

S. Smile more every day, especially at the first 10 people you see.

T. Think rationally, accurately, logically and positively. Focus on the roses, not on the thorns. Don’t give away your self-power, self-control, and happiness to anyone or anything. Don’t let any negativity get inside of your ears. Walk away.

R. Relive the good in your life, don’t keep reading the same negative chapter over and over again. The rear view mirror, always smaller than the windshield, is designed to help you do just that. Relationships and regular relaxation are critical to reliving the good. That means knowing whom to walk away from and feeling ok about it. It’s called self-preservation.

E. Eat right including such foods as asparagus, lemon water, avocado, blueberries, warm milk, almonds, salmon, spinach, and oatmeal (assuming you don’t have any allergies to these).

S. Sweat more, but not the small stuff. Sweat through regular exercise, including high intensity interval cardio and full-body resistance training, Pilates, and Tai Chi. More importantly don’t forget to exercise your mind. Include meditation, yoga, and reading into your daily routine. Don’t forget to add sleep, nature’s #1 restorative power. It’ll add the stress preventing serenity you are seeking. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to build others up at work, at home, at your church or synagogue or community center.

S. Savor your moments. Your days. Your time. These are everyday gifts not to be ignored. Fill yourself with gratitude. Focus on what’s healthy by being aware and mindful, of events without predicting gloom and doom. Slow yourself down, take some deep breaths, ands see the beauty in your daily experiences and create relaxing moments in your life, no matter how eventful your days are.

Dr. Michael Mantell

Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D. has been providing psychological and coaching services for nearly 5 decades and continues to empower positive change among his global clients to enhance life in every way. He is a highly sought-after healthcare professional coach, an executive and team building consultant, and a longtime specialist in cognitive behavioral coaching.

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