“Many people simply aren’t being proactive about handling their stress levels, and that can have a negative impact on their overall health,” warns Eli Bay, founder of The Relaxation Response Institute. “But there are everyday steps people can take that will make a difference.”
Here are 5 stress-inducing habits Eli Bay suggests you try to break:
Stop striving for perfection
According to Eli Bay, perfectionism is one of the most common causes of stress-related issues. “Perfection doesn’t exist,” says Eli. “So, if you’re striving for perfection — either in yourself or with others — you’re bound to fail.”
His advice is to go for excellence instead: “Excellence is knowing that you’re never going to be perfect but you’re going to be and do the best that you can,” advises Eli. “Unfortunately, people tend to be too hard on themselves and start an internal dialogue that consists of negative self talk. Rather, they should appreciate and applaud themselves for trying their best — and others will too.”
Stop using anger to motivate others
It happens to all of us: We get so frustrated with our partners, kids or coworkers that we scream or rant until something gets done. “But anger is one letter short of danger,” Eli points out. “Anger sets off stress hormones. If you’re suppressing your anger or flying off the handle on a regular basis, you need positive ways to deal with it.”
So rather than scream or keep it bottled up, punch a pillow or mattress, try screaming at the top of your lungs when you’re alone in your car, or watching Eli’s 5-minute stress busting exercise.
Stop the all-day sitting routine
“We’re built for exercise, but we don’t get enough. And that means that we’re not using up the ‘fight or flight’ energy that we’re all pre-programmed with,” says Eli. “Simply put, you need to move in order to keep stress in check.”
Now that doesn’t mean running a marathon or signing up for a triathlon; however, it does mean adding regular activity to your day. “You must be conscious of your moving, so go for a walk, use the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator, or exercise during TV commercial breaks. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do. It just matters that you move.”
Stop saying “yes” all the time
“Many of us have a hard time saying no and find ourselves over-extended and overwhelmed by the amount of things on our plate,” says Eli. “At the end of the day, we find that we don’t have any time for ourselves and lay in bed with our minds racing about things we need to do.”
But saying no to your boss (when you’re already swamped with your own work obligations and asked to take on extra tasks) or your kids’ school fundraising team can be hard to do. According to Eli, it’s all a matter of knowing and respecting yourself and your priorities. “Remind yourself of what you value most and put those fundamental values first,” he advises. “You then need to prioritize and be realistic about how much you can take on.”
If you’re still having problems saying no, consider the option of taking on less important tasks that will allow you to contribute to getting the extra work done. Chances are, your boss will understand and appreciate your help in reaching a larger goal.
Stop ignoring restful recovery time
If you plop yourself mindlessly in front of the TV to de-stress, you may not be getting as much relief as you think. “While recreational activities — like watching TV or playing video games — are important to help maintain a balanced life, doing so in a semi-trance is too passive to help relieve stress,” says Eli.
His advice is to take a few minutes before you grab the remote to sit or lay down and concentrate on breathing and relieving any tightness in your body. “If you’re mindful of relaxing, then you’ll be using time wisely rather than killing time,” he continues. Practice a deep-breathing exercise with Eli to help you de-compress before you veg out.