How to control stress levels

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

The Burning Car!!!

Yesterday I was riding the car with one of my friends. While I was watching the beautiful scenes my friend was busy driving. Suddenly and out of nowhere black smoke started to come out of the car and it smelled like something inside the engine was burning!!

"Stop the car" I shouted!!
"Not until we arrive to our destination" replied my friend
"Are you mad the car is burning?"
"No not yet, Gotta arrive there first"

Even though we started seeing flames coming out of the front of the car my friend continued driving. I have got a mad friend right?

Sadly you even do more harm than my friend when you keep working even though you are feeling stressed. This story is not a real one but what you do to yourself as a result of ignoring the stress signals your mind sends you is the real true story.

While my friend was burning his car in order to arrive on time you are burning your own body in order to complete your tasks!!!

How to control stress levels

Controlling your stress levels is all about making conscious changes to your life style. Most of us have learned how to ignore the stress signals sent by our minds and to push ourselves to the limit until we collapse.

Stress management is not just about learning how to breathe properly or to join a Yoga class but it also includes preventing yourself from becoming stressed.

The emotions we feel are all signals sent to us by our minds in order to take certain actions. Just as hunger is a message sent by our minds telling us that we need food stress is a message sent by our minds telling us that we need to rest (see Emotions are messages).

As soon as you get the message you have to respond, don’t reply to the message by saying "I'll finish that part first" or "I'll complete my assignment then rest" because this will surely lead to burnouts.

In the article feeling tired all the time I explained how working under high stress for 10 minutes can make you more tired than if you worked for 8 continues hours without stress.

Moreover In my book, The ultimate guide to getting over depression I explained how the continues exposure to stress for a prolonged period can lead to depression. Have you ever suffered from a sudden depression that seemed to have no reason? This might be the result of the improper stress management habits that you follow.

Step by step approach to controlling stress levels

So you now know that stress is really bad and that it can result in many other problems. So how can you control your stress levels so that you can prevent depression and burnouts?

Here is a step by step stress approach that will help you keep stress at reasonable levels:

  • STOP!! As soon as you receive the signal: As soon as you become stressed or start to feel overwhelmed stop working immediately and take a five minute break. Don’t think that you are wasting time by taking a break because this break will allow you to work more efficiently for the rest of the day.
  • What to do in the 5 minute break?: Close your eyes, breath deeply, let each breath come from your diaphragm instead of your chest, imagine that you are in a beautiful place, use ear plugs and don’t think about work!!!
  • Become more conscious of your emotions: In my Article how to live consciously I explained how a large number of people have bad emotions that they are not aware of such as guilt, resentment, anger and stress. Some people have even got used to certain levels of bad emotions to the extent that they don’t even notice them unless their intensity bypasses these levels!! You can’t control something that you are not aware of, learn how to become aware of your stress levels so that you can control it
  • Start by the small and easy tasks: One big source of stress is doing a task while thinking about another one. If you started by the small task you won’t have much time to think about two different things while working and so you will become less stressed (see The anatomy of stress).
  • Change your life style: Some people stick to life styles that promote stress!! Why do you insist on hanging out with friends at rush hours? Why do you wake up late when you have lots of things to do that day? Why did you choose that stressful job? A big part of stress control is making the right life style changes.

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