Don't Let Stress Build: 8 Simple Ways to Succeed, Relax and Live

10/22/2010 05:23 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Paul Hunting Author, authentic leadership coach, horse-assisted coaching trainer, horse whisperer

Being stressed virtually defines ineffectiveness. We're either relaxed and focused or stressed and distracted. Our best decisions come from a calm, centered place. The paradox is that the more calmly we approach a task, the more dynamically we are operating.

Here are eight simple practices, based on timeless wisdom, that you can do alone or with your teams:

1. Recognize your real number-one priority.

This can be fun. Ask yourself (or your team) to say or write down the most important thing in their lives right now. They'll typically say their wife, kids or being at the beck and call of the CEO! Then ask them to hold their breath for two minutes!

This brings the real number-one priority into sharp focus: your next breath. Then spend a minute with your eyes closed, enjoying and savouring this free, simple, but critical energy force. Observe your breath coming in, imagine the oxygen feeding the blood and the body, breathe out any toxins or negative feelings. Let the mind and body relax. It wants to. It will.

2. Don't worry, be happy.

Energy follows thought. If there's something you're worried about, write it down in as much detail as you can. Then write down how you would like it to be. Then burn the first version. And read the new, positive outcome every day till the solution is manifest.

3. Clear out the unconscious debris.

The unconscious mind stores everything. Everything that is incomplete is demanding your energy so that it can complete itself. If we ignore this inner drive, the energy backs up on us and makes us sick and tired.

Make a complete list of all the things in your life that are incomplete, including files, emails, reports, broken shoe laces and unresolved regrets and resentments. Then either declare them complete or do what's necessary to complete it.

This can be a long project in itself, so if you don't have an ongoing "incomplete" file in your organizer, then now could be the time to start one. Simply making this list will make you feel instantly more alive and positive -- unless you stuff it in a drawer and forget it!

4. Create meaning

Life itself seems not to have intrinsic meaning. It means what we want it to mean. We have a choice. Not choosing is also a choice. The smart rat chooses a meaning that makes what he's doing more fun. Fun is healthy. Anything can be fun with the right attitude. Anything can be crap with the wrong one. We have the power. It doesn't care how we use it. Why not use it for, rather than against, ourselves?

5. Build better relationships, and risk more honesty.

There are only three simple parameters for effective, loving relationships: trust, respect and understanding.

Why should anyone trust or respect you if you don't trust or respect yourself? How can others understand you if you don't understand what you really want and how you're coming across?
Few things in life are certain. This is one of them. Every time we lie or break an agreement, we deplete our self-trust, self-respect and self-understanding. There's no choice about it. It is automatic. Guaranteed. Gravity.

The risk we take by being honest when a lie seems like the easy way out, pays dividends in ways that dramatically exceed the paltry payoffs we get from the lie or broken promise.
Promise yourself that you'll keep more promises and not make false promises, even for a day, and you will automatically improve and enhance all your relationships -- I promise.

6. Forgive yourself.

We all have expectations programmed into us from birth. All the ways we should or shouldn't behave. All the ways "they" should or shouldn't be, etc.

Most of these expectations are bullshit. We can never live up to them. They can't, either. We're all doing the best we can, making the best choices we have in our awareness, always. This is a fact. It often doesn't seem this way, but it is. So when we make mistakes, we have an opportunity to learn -- unless we make it wrong. Every time we make ourselves right or wrong, we kill our ability to learn from our experience.

We can stop this pointless and cruel way of treating ourselves and each other. It's called forgiveness. Do it as much as you can. You will feel so much better; it's such a relief to let go of pointless, futile guilt and resentment.

7. Give some money away -- with no strings.

If you really want to have some fun and liberate yourself from fear of loss, give away some money!

It doesn't need to be much. Think of creative ways to give money away anonymously. Don't do it for the approval. Just do it. Pay a stranger's bill in a restaurant, and leave. Put a quid in someone's expired parking meter. Leave the pound coin in the supermarket trolley -- everyone then can get a free push! Pay the toll for the car behind you as well. And on and on.

8. Make a microscopic change.

If you were firing a rocket at Mars, a microscopic change in the trajectory would mean, by the time it had traveled millions of miles, the enormous difference between success or failure. It's the same with changing self-destructive habits. It's often futile and stressful to attempt major changes, but tiny ones grow large over time. What habit of yours would you like to change? What microscopic step could you take that will eventually lead to success without stress?

If any of this was useful, let me know how. If not, let me know why.