Part IV: How to Prevent Stress

A recent study from the American Psychological Association shows only 55 percent of people who feel stressed make an effort to manage it. For many of us, we’re too stressed to deal with our stress.

Much of today’s literature on stress deals with managing it once we feel it, but can we do anything to prevent it in the first place? If you want to stop the process before it starts, just remember one word: Bore. That doesn’t mean you should be one; it’s an acronym, and here’s how it works:

B is for Body Balance. If our bodies aren’t healthy we are bound to be stressed. There are many ways to create more balance in your body, but start with two things:

  1. Exercise. Studies show that 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise daily helps to reverse the stress response. Exercise releases endorphins which are neurotransmitters in our brain that create a sense of happiness, suppress our appetite, and release sex hormones. Not bad for preventing stress.
  2. Stay away from mood foods: The three mood foods, alcohol, sugar and caffeine, are precisely what we go for when we’re stressed, and yet they make us susceptible to it. All three mood foods do the same thing: They bring us up and then drop us down. Consume these foods sparingly. Make them special treats, and enjoy other, healthier foods that support your body.

O is for organize. If we crash into our day without focus chances are we will feel chaotic. Things come up that surprise us all the time, but we can have some control by organizing our time and space. Try these two ideas:

  1. Clear your workspace. Every morning should begin with a few minutes of organization. Go through any mess you left from the day before. Make sure things are neat and accessible to you before you begin your day.
  2. Use your to-do lists. You’ll remember from the last article on stress that you need two lists, one for the day and the other for the week. Don’t forget your ABC rule. An A next to all that must get done by noon, a B for everything that you need to accomplish by the end of the day, and a C next to anything that can wait until tomorrow.

R is for reminders. Most of us stress over minutia. In the big picture of our lives most of what we worry about won’t matter in a year or even a week. So keep reminders of what really matters in your life close by. Adorn your workspace with pictures of people or places you love. Make sure you change them every couple of months so that they don’t fade into the background of your workspace. Take a look at them periodically during the day to remind you of the big picture.

E is for Express. We all know that by keeping our emotions bottled up we either explode or implode. Both lead to stress. That said, complaining doesn’t really help either. Instead, try a free write. Take a piece of paper and sit down someplace quiet. Without picking your pen up off the paper, write everything you are feeling. The key to a free write is not to think. Don’t craft sentences. Don’t worry about grammar. Just write. You’ll know when you are done because you’ll have nothing else to say. Then tear it up. That’s part of the catharsis.

Being a bore doesn’t take a lot of work or time, and if we want to avoid the stress trap of feeling it but doing nothing to take control of it, we can start with simple prevention.