How do I deal with stress and over thinking?

Feeling stressed out is not fun. It can slow us down, zap our energy, distract us from doing what’s important, and even paralyze us from doing anything. But taking a step back to find out what’s really going on, and then making small changes to our behavior can make a world of difference.

Try these 5 tips to manage your stress more successfully.

Tip #1. Get to the bottom of it.

Next time you feel stressed out about something, think about what happened and why you felt stressed or overwhelmed. Start with these questions:

  • Is this the first time I felt this way, or do I react the same way every time in similar situations? When you establish a pattern in your circumstances and behavior, it’s much easier to find a solution.
  • What can I do to change my reaction when it happens again: which tools can I learn to change my behavior so that I can feel that, even though I cannot control everything that happens, I can still control how I react to it?
  • Who can I ask for some help or guidance: is there someone I know in my social circle or extended family who seems to be managing stress better?

Tip #2. Give your mind a break with some exercise.

Physical exercise, even if it is targeted and short, can do wonders for your brain. How? It improves your brain’s cognitive performance, problem solving ability, and even boosts long-term memory. But even better than that: a physical challenge will turn your mind to simple things such as figuring out how to breathe correctly and how to move your body. Where to begin? Start with a mini-workout:

Tip #3. Train your brain to be more calm and quiet.

Meditating, even for a really short time, can make a big difference in the way your brain reacts to stress. It can help you deal better with the thousands of random thoughts that occupy you throughout the day and contribute to your feeling stressed, rushed, and overwhelmed. Think of it as building a habit of mental hygiene! To get started, try this:

  • Download the Headspace app: it is easy, fun, and perfect for absolute beginners. The best part: you only need 10 minutes to start.

Tip #4. Make the most of your sleep.

Even on those days when you’re more stressed than usual, don’t stay up late. It will catch up with you. Chronic sleep deprivation can be a strain on your nerves, can reduce your cognitive abilities, impact your concentration, and even reduce your IQ. Train your brain to wind down at the same time each evening in 2 steps:

  • Set a bedtime alarm on your phone to go off 30 minutes before you need to sleep.
  • Follow a simple nighttime routine that will ease you into a greater sense of calm.

Tip #5. Change your mindset for the better.

Your mindset is one of the most important aspects of your life. Why? Think of it as a window through which you see everything: the world around you, the people you interact with, and the way you see yourself. And here’s the important part: the view you have of yourself will have the biggest impact on how you lead your life. How can you improve this? By nurturing a “growth mindset” (versus a fixed mindset). If there’s something about your mindset you don’t like, you can change it for the better.

  • Reading tip: Get Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success to learn about specific ways in which you can change your attitude about your own capabilities, skills, and whatever you want to do with your life.
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