|Stress isn’t just in your head – it’s as much a physiological as a psychological process.
Although you can’t get rid of stress (nor would you want to, but that’s another article!), you can take steps to get rid of self-inflicted stress. Here are a few tips:
1. Don’t engage in “what-if” thinking. For example, suppose you’re 30 minutes late for a flight - how bad do you feel? Then imagine you find out that the flight was delayed for 25 minutes and you only missed it by 5 minutes - now how bad do you feel? Most people feel worse, although logically there is no difference in the outcome. If you missed the flight, you missed it. Speculating about what might have been is a needless source of stress.
2. Don’t catastrophize. Many people engage in actively imagining the worst case scenario, or catastrophizing. The worst case scenario, by definition, usually doesn’t happen. Catastrophizing can be a continual source of stress.
3. A corollary: people usually catastrophize about the wrong things anyway! We tend to worry about dramatic things because that’s what we hear about in the news. For example, how many suicides do you think there are compared to murders? Watching the evening news gives anyone the impression that murders are more common than suicide, but actually there are 8 times as many suicides as there are murders! No sense in worrying about what probably is not going to happen anyway.
4. Don’t honor sunk costs, otherwise known as “crying over spilled milk.” Money already spent, relationships gone by, decisions already made are all out of reach. You’ve already learned the lesson if there was one - continually replaying the past is pointless, and stress producing.
5. Learn how to make better decisions. Better choices mean lower stress, and making good decisions is a learnable skill.
6. Increase your perceived control. Workers with more control live longer. No, you can’t control everything your boss throws at you, but even controlling the small stuff can help - rearranging your office furniture and controlling interruptions and distractions by turning off your cell phone and instant messaging for periods of time.