The art of dealing with life stress

We’re not saying we’re experts on coping with stress and anxiety. But Toggle® does offer renters insurance, which protects you from things like property theft and damage. Which can definitely cause you stress and anxiety. Actually, come to think of it, we sort of are experts on dealing with stress! So allow us to offer some handy-dandy stress management tips. Take it or leave it, but again, we’re experts.

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Keep everything in perspective
Stress is something we all need to manage at every stage of life. The good news: Every single source of trouble or worry seems a lot tinier in the rearview mirror. Keep that in mind, and you’ll be way ahead of the anxiety-management game. Of course, if keeping stress in perspective were that easy, people wouldn’t write blog posts about it.

Keep in mind that your stresses are completely valid. You might think your life isn’t as hard as someone else’s. And you might be right. Of course, your life is also harder than someone else’s, so it’s all relative. Bottom line: Your life is the only one you’re living, and your stresses are yours to deal with.

The benefits of belly breathing
This title could almost do without the word “belly.” After all, belly breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, is something we’re literally born doing. If you happen to have a baby handy, go get it and watch how their little tummy inflates and deflates with each breath. There you have it: perfect diaphragmatic breathing.

Problem is, as we grow older, daily stress and the social pressure to suck in our gut forces our breathing up into our chest, making each inhalation more shallow. Ironically, you can relieve stress caused by this shallow breathing by reverting back to deep, rhythmic belly breathing. It lowers your heart rate and your blood pressure, too. So how do you do it? Again, it’s so easy even a baby can do it.

  • Start by lying on your back with your knees bent.
  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly below your rib cage.
  • Take deep breaths, inhaling slowly and deeply through your nose so that it fills your belly. The hand on your chest should remain still while your belly hand rises. If your chest hand rises, you’re doing it wrong.
  • Contract your abdomen and force the air out gently through your mouth. Again, your belly hand should fall back to where it was.

It’s that simple. If you do yoga, you’ll recognize this child-type of breathing, but professional athletes will tell you that breathing like this improves performance in a big way. It delivers more oxygen when your body needs it mosts and expels CO2 more efficiently.

Congratulations, you’re on your way to being a better breather and a happier human. And you can feel good about that.

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Photo by My Life Journal on Unsplash.

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Help others and help yourself
Some will argue that any altruistic act is a selfish one — that people only do good for others to feel good themselves. To those people, we say: Who cares?!

Look, volunteering does immeasurable good for the lives of people in need. But forget about all that; let’s talk about the good it does for you! You’ll meet people. And because those people are doing good, chances are they’ll be good people! And let’s face it, we could all use more good people in our lives.

There’s a saying: “Get out of your head. It’s a bad neighborhood.” Worry, self-doubt, self-pity, anxiety — spend too much time dwelling on those feelings, and they take root deeply. But if you use that time focusing on someone else’s needs, you literally steal time from those feelings. Before long, they shrivel up and die.

You might learn something new. Maybe you’re helping the elderly or disabled manage their bills. Maybe you’re helping make hats or blankets for newborns or cancer patients. Maybe you’re helping manage animals for pet therapy. Whenever you do something new, you stand to learn something new. Maybe that new thing is about you. And maybe that new thing becomes your life’s true purpose and passion.

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Exercise. Because duh.
We’ll keep this one brief. If you’re not aware of the benefits of regular exercise by now, we’re not quite sure what else to say. 

Okay, here’s one thing to say: It’s very easy to put off exercise because so many of its benefits are realized over time. The exception is how it makes you feel afterward. Exercise releases endorphins, which fight stress and literally make you feel good. And you can feel that way even after your first workout, no matter what speed feels good for you. A brisk walk, some light dumbbells, an Olympic-distance triathlon it’s up to you. Remember, comparison is the thief of joy.

In a nutshell: Exercise. Do something to raise your heart rate today. Then do it again tomorrow. Repeat until every single thing in your life becomes infinitely better than you ever dreamed it could be. Then wake up the next day and do it again.

Go with the flow
You’ve heard the term “in the zone.” Chances are, you’ve felt it at some point. Psychologically, that feeling is called “Flow State.” It’s achieved when you’re completely engaged and immersed in an activity so that everything else, including your sense of the passage of time, seems to disappear. Think of it as your own personal autopilot.

Usually, the activities that lead to flow combine physical activity and some form of mental effort or problem-solving. It might be found fixing a machine, doing artwork, playing a team sport, bicycling in an urban environment — anything that engages you physically and mentally.

Not only do these activities help when dealing with stress, but they also allow your subconscious mind to solve problems you aren’t consciously engaged in. 

So every now and then, let go of the wheel, and just feel the flow.

Play the “Worst-Case-Scenario” game
This one’s pretty great unless the worst case is death — certain or potential. But 99% of the time, it’s not that, so give it a shot

Take something that’s giving you anxiety, then explore your options when it comes to alleviating that anxiety. Could it potentially be solved by having a conversation? Could the conversation be uncomfortable? Could the conversation be constructive? Could the conversation result in you being fired from your job, for example? What are the realistic chances of that actually happening? Is that the worst thing that could happen? If so, then explore how bad that worst case really is. Is it worse than the anxiety you’re feeling right now? Maybe it completely relieves you of how you’re feeling right now. Maybe forever!

Fear and anxiety arise from what’s unknown. This exercise defuses the power of the unknown and gives power back to you. If you have a good idea of all the outcomes, including the worst ones, the surprises you’ll encounter will usually be pleasant ones.

Listen to yourself
When your body and mind give you advice, learn to listen to those signals more closely.

If you’re drowsy, for example, it’s probably because you need more sleep, not more caffeine. If you’re feeling bored or unable to concentrate on what you’re doing, switch gears and do something else for a while. If you’re hungry, eat some food. Or maybe you’re really just bored, not hungry? In which case, refer back to the prior piece of advice.

This all sounds like a complete no-brainer, but once you start giving yourself what you’ve been unconsciously asking for, you’ll realize how much of our time we spend ignoring, or even downright resisting, our natural rhythms and how much stress that can cause.

Once you master recognizing the simple signals, dig a little deeper. If you’re feeling angry about something, take a moment to explore that feeling. Maybe it’s really guilt, self-defense, grief or something else. Identifying the true source of a negative signal goes a long way toward helping address it.

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Remember, you don’t need help feeling anxious
If you’re feeling anxious, avoid other people who reinforce that feeling. You definitely don’t need their assistance.

You know these people. They trade in gossip. They have a knack for sucking the positivity from any situation. They offer little more than an endless parade of problems and never seem willing to actively solve them. They are extremely good at pointing out how things might be wrong but never seem to provide a “right” answer by way of alternative. And so on.

The trick here goes back to listening to yourself. Pay attention. Are you drained by your interactions with someone, or are you energized and uplifted? Avoid the former and seek out the latter.

There’s plenty more to learn about how to manage stress in life. And obviously, some strategies will work better than others. The most important thing to remember is that in the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, be sure to secure your own air mask before helping others. After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re no good to anybody else.

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