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Mindfulness: 5 Proven Tactics to "De-stress"

Cold and flu season are in full swing, application deadlines are looming, and major life changes are on the horizon; in other words, stress is in the air and odds are you are suffering from it. Here are 5 tactics I use to deal with my stress, hopefully some of them will be useful to you.

1. Be Disciplined - This one may seem counter-intuitive at first, as we often hear about "letting loose" as a way of combating stress. I agree and therefore advocate being disciplined about when and how you "let loose." For some, letting loose may mean developing a craft while for others it may be having a nice meal with some friends. Whatever your "letting loose" lever, make sure you regularly set aside time to use it. Personally, I like watching movies, reading a book with a nice cup of black tea or meeting up with good friends. I make it point to do at least one of these things every weekend, most often on Saturdays.

2. Prevent Spillover - When one part of your life becomes a stressor, it can very easily consume the other parts. The trick is to actively keep stressors contained to the part of your life from which they originate. I know this is easier said than done, but there are two ways in which I accomplish this. First, I temporarily disconnect myself from the stressful part of my life; that is, I distance myself from all reminders of that part of my life for at least a few hours. Second, once I have disconnected a bit from the stressor, I come up with a plan of action to mitigate / eliminate it. Indeed, with a plan, that stressor becomes less daunting and therefore less stressful.

3. Do Something Simple -  This one is my favorite because it relies on the principles I discussed in the previous two stress reducing tactics. Whether it is cleaning your room or polishing your shoes, completing simple tasks that require little interaction with possible stressors can be a great way to reduce your stress for at least a few hours. For me, polishing my shoes and ironing my shirts has become a weekly ritual to unwind and not think about anything that could possibly create stress. Find some simple tasks like these and complete them regularly to reduce your own stress.

4. Talk About It - For many, the natural reaction to dealing with stress is to bottle it up. Unfortunately, this approach merely allows the stress to fester until it "boils over" and causes us to break down. Indeed, while it may not be easy, I recommend talking honestly about your stress with the people you trust most. Be open in your conversation and prepared for unexpected advice. Your confidants will not judge, but if they care about you, they will likely tell you what you need to hear. This process of sharing and listening always helps me combat my stress and oftentimes yields a course of action to eliminate it.

5. Reduce Your Number of Stressors - This one sounds like it may be easier said than done but hear me out. While it may not seem like it most of the time, we actually have control over what stresses us out in our life. Indeed, a lot of us don't take the time to think about whether the consequences of our stressors are large enough to actually be worth stressing about. In business, worst-case analysis is often used to identify the lower-bound of the potential windfall from a business venture; that is, if the lower-bound is high enough, then the venture is worth pursuing. For evaluating stressors, we turn the logic of this approach on its head. To be clear, if the upper-bound of the negative consequences from your source of stress is too low to worry you, then it shouldn't be a stressor. Use this type of analysis when you're stressed out, and it may help you reduce the number of stressors you have in your life.

Comment if you have more ways to deal with stress.

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