How to Overcome Stress of Any Kind, Anytime

From the impending interaction with the barista at Starbucks to the pile of assignments due next week, stress used to meet me at every corner. Many of us operate in this way each day, but it doesn’t have to be like this. Life isn’t happening to you, it’s happening for you.

The Five Minute Rule

This little trick is a true reality-check and lifesaver.

Next time you find yourself overwhelmed by impending or past stresses, think: “will this matter in five years?” If the answer is no, then don’t spend more than five minutes stressing about it, simple as that.

Not only does this exercise put things into perspective, but it also allows you to still feel your discomfort. Take those five minutes and grant yourself permission to throw the full tantrum.

But, once the five minutes pass, it’s time to get back to reality and realize the insignificance of what we worry over.

What’s Hiding Underneath?

There are few things I deem as important as digging deeper into your emotions.

Try to recognize patterns of your stress. Perhaps they often accompany social interactions or are always school-related. Maybe they’re the big-picture crises of “who am I” and “what is my purpose?”

Any aggressive emotion, such as stress, simply masks something larger that you may not want to deal with or recognize.

The stress you feel when you sit down for a test really has nothing to do with your competence or the test itself, but the fear of failure. When you get nervous to talk in front of a group it has more to do with your desire for acceptance than it does anything else.

Find these patterns and formulate some assuring statements for yourself the next time you encounter potential stressors.

For example, I often struggle with fearing judgement from others. So, whenever I feel this fear surfacing I simply reassure myself that I’m projecting these thoughts onto other people. Most individuals don’t jump to judgement but first seek to understand. And those who do judge others only do so out of their own insecurity. It has nothing to do with me.

Another thing to consider is maybe your stress is an indication that you’re moving in the wrong direction. If every time you walk into class you find yourself overcome with anxiety, maybe you’re pursuing the wrong major. Work to get to know your true desires. Get curious.

Never More Than You Can Handle

Not only are you capable of far more than you probably believe, but the universe also never will give you more than what you can handle. Whether you’re spiritual, religious, or neither, this truth holds up.

If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish all that you desire. You can ace this test you’re fretting over. You can showcase you’re dazzling personality to the people who might intimidate you, if you just allow yourself to do so.

Stress and fear often coincide and both of these emotions indicate our growth. While it may seem as if there is no possible way to conquer this mountain of work or fear, there always is.

I’m not saying to put aside all self-care and grind through everything either. Sometimes taking a break for yourself is exactly what you need to conquer this stress.

Breath and Visualization

If you find yourself physically and mentally overwhelmed, don’t worry. Even though you’re capable of handling all that’s thrown at you, we all need to reset sometimes.

Whenever I find myself with a racing heart or encounter the facepalm-level of stress, this practice helps me immensely.

Stop whatever you’re doing completely. Put down the pencil, stop staring at the computer, and just sit.

Now visualize all the stress and negativity you’re feeling in your body. What does it look like? Is it moving? How is it shaped, what’s the color? Really put some thought into how this may appear to you.

Next, take a BIG breath in. Picture all of that energy clumping together in your chest or stomach, gathering together from all the places in your body, into one big ball of stress. Hold this breath in for three to six seconds.

Let it out. Visualize all of this energy flowing out of you, through your nose and mouth. Picture the positivity that now inhabits your body through the next breath inward.

Now, go back to whatever you were doing with a renewed perspective.

Cut Yourself A Break

Not only does this practice generally calm you down, but it also represents the truth that we are our own worst enemies when it comes to stress and pressure.

Most times, the only person that is judging us or insisting upon perfection is the one in our own head.

Through recognizing the negativity within yourself, it allows you to release it. Simply with a concentrated breath and thought.

There’s no need for stress because we all possess everything we could ever need and more. Nothing makes one person’s ability greater than another’s. The only thing distinguishing the stressed from the unstressed is a belief of capability.

Now, breathe in. Breathe out. Go forward, know you are great, know you are capable, and act accordingly.

Cover image via Of Note Stationers

Also published on Medium.