Finding ways to reduce stress is always good. Life can be stressful. Not all the time, but it can have its moments. We don’t always have control over what happens in life, be it at home or work. We do however have full control over how we choose to respond to what’s happening. Our response can make a huge difference in how we experience the situation and the level of stress we experience as a result.
The more self-aware we become the easier it is to change our thoughts, words and actions. It also helps us become more aware of our schedule, environment and the automatic programs we run on (which is how we usually deal with problems and stress).
The 4 A’s can be really helpful if you want to reduce stress in your daily life.
Avoid Alter Adapt Accept
Avoid – wherever possible avoid sources of stress. It may be situations that cause you to get stressed or people who stress you out. Learn to become ok with saying ‘no’ to things you don’t want to do (yes, you really can learn how to do this so you feel ok about it). Make sure you know the difference between things that are important and those that aren’t and act accordingly. Stop ‘shoulding’ on yourself. When we ‘should’ on ourselves we automatically increase the stress level associated with whatever it is because we’ve cut off all other options. Replace the word ‘should’ with ‘could’ and you give yourself options so you can work from a place that feels right. And remember to listen to your gut instinct, it usually knows best.
Not all stress can be avoided, which is where the other 3 As come in.
Alter – you can alter the situation, or at least how you choose to think about it. If you can actually change aspects of the situation itself, that’s great and can really help reduce stress levels. Maybe it’s managing others expectations more, changing timelines or your level of involvement. Altering your view point and how you then choose to behave can also make a real difference. Being mindful will allow you to notice if you would benefit from taking others opinions into consideration more and compromising, or maybe you’d be better served by being more assertive and communicating what’s important to you to any others involved. If you’re prone to procrastination choose to take action sooner, this will almost always help you feel better about things.
Adapt – by adapting to the stressor you’ll be able to reduce stress levels and maybe even create positives from the situation. You can reframe the problem or challenge as an opportunity. You might learn something new or have a new experience. Whatever is going on you can also choose to focus on the positives, what is good about the current situation? What can you be grateful for? And keep things in perspective. In five or ten years’ time, will it really make any difference? Is it that important?
Accept – when there is nothing else you can do, simply accept it for what it is. If there’s nothing you can do to change the situation just accept it. To continue to wish or want to change it, when you can’t, creates a massive amount of stress and discomfort. Some things are inevitable. It’s just the way it is. There will still be things you can be grateful for and there may well be the potential for personal growth. If you can let go of the need to judge and accept instead, life can become much less stressful. It’s important to understand that acceptance isn’t the same as resigning yourself to something. Acceptance creates a state of peace whereas resignation is effectively giving up and can create a sense of hopelessness.
The Serenity prayer is a good reminder of this:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
Increasing self-awareness is important if you want to be able to start dealing with things differently. Becoming more mindful is the first step. If you start to practice mindfulness regularly you’ll find that it naturally helps you reduce your stress and anxiety levels as well as helping you become more self-aware, so it’s a win win. I run group workshops as well as working on a one to one basis with people to help them lower their stress levels. If you’d like to find out more, or see which approach might be right for you, just get in contact.