Is it possible to truly live a stress-free life? The short answer is no. However, it is a bit more labyrinthine than that.

While it is possible to take steps to reduce stress in life, it is unlikely that the underlying factors will ever be completely eliminated. The reason for this is pretty simple: we need stress to survive. For better or worse, it is often a critical and motivating factor in our actions. Cavemen (and women) understood the importance of stress, as it helped signal the fight or flight instinct when faced with a saber-tooth tiger. This automatic response triggered multiple life-saving effects within the body—the ability to run faster, jump higher, think more clearly, hear more acutely.

While the saber-tooth tiger is no longer a threat, stress still motivates us to act, albeit in a much different way. Things like work, finances, and relationships have the power to activate those same effects in a way that ultimately creates a false alarm in the human body. These distress signals can lead to health-related problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, headaches, and insomnia. Because of this, humans have developed several strategies for mitigating the impact of stress. As with anything, the circumstances often dictate the approach.

From an individual perspective, a wide range of options is available for reducing and/or managing stress in the modern day. The following strategies can provide varying levels of assistance in coping with stressful circumstances:

  • Shift your perspective: Embracing the bigger picture and focusing on the positive can often alter your view in a way that promotes a less stressed mindset.  
  • Focus on your breathing: Steady breathing also promotes a calmer mind.
  • Stick to your principles: Standing by your values can reduce feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and shame, all of which lead to stress.
  • Take care of your body: Self-care, exercise, and a healthy diet can all aid in the reduction of stress.
  • Do less: Focus on a single task and learn to be fully present for each moment.

In terms of the work environment, stress management can be a bit more complicated. There are often many factors involved in determining an effective approach. First, the strategy must fit the culture and structure of the organizations, as well as the needs of its workforce. Furthermore, an effective approach will target multiple levels across key areas such as person, environment, and fit. The Personal Resource Allocation (PRA) framework may be used to identify available resources, current demands, and the overall effectiveness of an individual within the context of the work environment. With this strategy, the following factors can impact the level of stress within an organization:

  • Primary: Eliminating environmental risk factors such as ineffective processes can reduce stress in the workplace.
  • Secondary: Providing resources and tools to cope with stress at an individual level can be beneficial in reducing stress.
  • Tertiary: Providing services that help individuals recover from chronic stress can promote health and wellness, as well as elevate performance.

So while it may not be possible to live a totally stress-free life, there are several ways to reduce the (sometimes) unnecessary strain of today’s world.  

References

Grawitch, M., Ballard, D., & Erb, K. (2015). To Be or Not to Be (Stressed): The Critical Role of a Psychologically Healthy Workplace in Effective Stress Management. Stress And Health, 31(4), 264-273. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/smi.2619

Hargrove, M., Quick, J., Nelson, D., & Quick, J. (2011). The theory of preventive stress management: a 33-year review and evaluation. Stress And Health, 27(3), 182-193. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/smi.1417

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We would like to thank Whitney Lane for this post, Click Here to check out her website!

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