Man in black shirt, tan jacket, and glasses looking off to the right and smiling with buildings in the background

Reduce stress, that sounds like a concept worth its weight in gold right about now, huh?

If you’re anything like me it does.

Well, at least how I used to be. 

I was a world class worrier for much of my life. And when things hit the fan, all hell broke loose for me, and my stress would skyrocket.

Can you relate?

Clearly, these qualify as stressful times. So if you’re feeling a little (or a LOT) stressed right about now, that’s perfectly normal.

But, just because something is “normal,” doesn’t mean it has to be your reality. 

In fact, in a world where most people are unsatisfied and living in constant states of worry, stress, and anxiety, why the heck would you want to be normal?

I certainly don’t!

Well, here’s the deal, these crazy times don’t have to be stress-riddled and completely unproductive. 

In fact, I think you can thrive during this time if you really want to. But, in order to do that, you’ve gotta know how to effectively deal with the stress you may be dealing with. 

So, with that being said, if you want to learn how to reduce stress and maximize your success during this pandemic, or any uncertain time, keep reading.

Man wearing glasses looking off to the right smiling in the background behind the text, "Thriving in chaos: how to reduce stress and maximize success" in white font.

Express Gratitude

If you’ve followed my work for any length of time, you probably expected this. If you’re new round these parts, get used to me hawking the power of gratitude.

Like I said earlier, I was a worry wart to the max! Because of that, when life would kick me in the teeth, it was all doom and gloom with no end in sight.

You can imagine how much more that made my stress skyrocket.

It made it virtually impossible to be productive, let alone feel like I was even remotely “successful.”

After my depression, I figured I’d give the old gratitude juice a drink. Well, it didn’t take long before I was a full blown gratitudeaholic (uhhh… sure, we’ll roll with that word). 

Now, before you start thinking this is some woo-woo, hyper-spiritual mumbo jumbo, stick with me for a second.

Just like how forgiveness is for you, rather than the other person, gratitude is being thankful for the lesson you’ll learn, despite the perpetual suck fest you’re currently in.

In other words, it sets you free. When you’re in a constant state of stress, hormones are released that keep you in a fight or flight mode. 

Staying stuck in that mode is exhausting to your mind and body, and inevitably leads to a negative state of mind. That creates the vicious cycle that keeps you stressed.

Gratitude is like the prescription for stress, because it puts you in the driver seat and shifts your perspective. It gives you a sense of assurance that although things are tough at the moment, you’ll be better off because of it.

So, step one to reduce stress, get some gratitude up in your life.

Care for your body

Okay, let’s be honest, this is something most of us need to do anyway.

But, when life gets tough and stress gets high, it becomes more important than ever.

There are 3 main areas I want you to focus on.

> Diet

High times of stress and overwhelm tend to drain us emotionally and physically. That makes it very easy to want to phone it in when it comes to your eating or lack thereof. But, if you’re serious about reducing your stress, you’ve gotta make sure that you’re nourishing your body with good foods.

The reality is, the mind and body are connected. So, if you’re putting a bunch of crap in your body, it’s going to make you more prone to getting stressed out. As hard as it may be, you’ve gotta back away from the donuts, fried foods, or ice cream if you want to reduce stress. 

During particularly high times of stress, I’d recommend doing a cleanse. When you do a cleanse, you rid your body of all the toxins and junk that have been weighing and slowing your down. If you want your body to start work like the sports car it was meant to be, then stop treating it like a jalopy. 

> Exercise

Ah, now it’s time to let my inner gym rat out! If you’re looking to reduce stress, there are very few things better at making that happen than getting some great exercise in. 

When you exercise, you’re able to break down those hormones that are released in stressed states, as well as release some of what I like to call your happy hormones. Let’s be honest, there’s no better feeling, when you’re stressed out, than throwing around some weights, beating the hell out of a punching bag, or cranking up your favorite jams and going for a run. 

Regardless of what it looks like for you, if you want to reduce stress, exercise is a must.

> Sleep

This one is a double-edged sword. Lack of sleep can increase stress, and increased stress can affect sleep. In other words, you’ve gotta be proactive about getting this stress situation under control if you ever want to sleep well again.

Most people don’t get enough sleep as it is. This causes them to rely on caffeine and other stimulants to get through their days, which further screws up their sleep rhythms. I’m definitely not casting stones here, because I’ve been as guilty as the next person about doing this. But, it doesn’t make it right. It’s completely wrong, and if you want to reduce stress, you’ve gotta get a handle on your sleep.

Here are some strategies to help you get more and better sleep to reduce stress:

  • Get regular exercise (see number 2 above)
  • No caffeine within 5 hours of going to sleep 
  • Don’t eat within 3 hours of going to sleep
  • No electronic devices within 2 hours of going to sleep
  • Take a relaxing warm bath or shower an hour before going to sleep
  • Put on sleep clothes (sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to go to sleep)
  • Get into bed at least 30 minutes before you want to be asleep (preferably at or around the same time every night)
  • Do something that relaxes you (i.e. read a book, meditate, pray, etc.)

Set a goal or intention

One of the symptoms of being stressed out is feeling out of control. It’s like you can’t think clearly or do anything right.

And that out of control feeling leads to more frustration, which just causes more stress. Next thing you know, you’re stuck in this vicious cycle of suckery (Hey, I think I may coin that phrase!)

Can I get an amen?

When we experience this out of control feeling, we tend to do one of two things – we either feel helpless and want to give up on life and everything in it, or we try to work our way out of it. 

Neither option is particularly helpful.

In my experience, the best way to reduce stress and work out of a slump is to set a goal or intention. Find one thing that you can focus on at a time. You can do this by creating a to-do list, time blocking, chunking tasks, etc. 

Another way to look at this is making a not-to-do list. We’ve become professionals of “busy” and are great at overwhelming and stressing ourselves out by putting too much on our plates. 

Learning to say no, cutting out those things that aren’t necessary, and focusing on one task at a time are huge for reducing stress. 

Talk to someone

I know some of you read that subtitle above and thought to yourself, “yea, okay!” (Sarcasm included)

But hear me out. 

When we get stressed, oftentimes we can’t find the remedy because we’re stuck in our own heads. Which, if you recall, doesn’t tend to be a particularly fun place to be.

Talking to someone who won’t judge you, and that you trust to give you honest feedback and advice can be exactly what you need. 

They may be able to give you some great advice, or just the process of talking about what’s stressing you out may spark something inside of you.

We’ve all been stressed out before, so I’m sure you’re not nearly as much of a burden as you may think you are.

Put your wellbeing before your pride, and chat with someone if you can’t break out of that funk you’re in.

And that, my friend, is how you can reduce stress and maximize success. No matter whether it’s during a tough season in life or a worldwide pandemic.