6 Fool Proof Scientific Tricks to Manage Stress

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience.

As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralysed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”

She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”

The Metaphor is life of everyone, we at times hold things for so long that our heads start hurting.

The research, by psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert of Harvard found out that People spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy.

“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” Killingsworth and Gilbert write.

“The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”

The research is described in the Journal Science.

Most people get that holding on to thoughts is not a good idea and does impact on your well-being, but the question I get asked frequently is:

  • How can I let things go or reduce the influence of these challenging thoughts?
  • What are the best ways to manage those challenging thoughts?

Following techniques are very useful to deal with stressful situations and thoughts. I personally use them and it is backed up by science.

1. Observe & Identify

As per the above research of Daniel & Matthew, we almost spend half of our day in our head.

We are not living in the present moment half of the time. We listen and tell stories in our heads all the time without paying attention to what is going on around us.

We are on auto-pilot mode most of the time and take actions without paying attention to our thoughts. Mindfulness (a practice which I teach and do) teaches you about taking a pause. Observing the mental and physical world difference. Identifying if the actions or behaviour we are displaying is just impulse reaction or thought after move.

Most of my clients believe they are their thoughts and feelings, which is not true. By learning to observe what is going on and after that identifying it being real or mental chatter is key step to better life.

2. Don’t Distract

When I talk to people, most of the clients use one or another method of distraction to avoid those unwanted emotions.

For example when I’m having a thought before going to a big meeting that “I’m useless” and “I’m not able to help anyone”,do I go and start watching a movie or read a book or have a cigarette or a drink.

Distraction will give relief for sometime but its not a long term solution. I’ve personally found distraction does not work very well in the long run and recent scientific research also agrees.

Don’t distract yourself. Immerse yourself in the world around you. Take a mindful pause and choose to move forward in the direction which matters.

3. Put a label

While you are observing and identifying, take a further step of labelling your thoughts.

Rather than dodging, disputing, or distracting make room for the thoughts.

“Label” them.

When you mind starts saying “I’m hopeless”, “I can’t do it” or “This is too tough”.

Put a label on the thought “Here is that hopeless me” story or “here is I can’t do it” story or “here is this is too tough” story.

You can become more creative and give your thoughts funny name that reduces its influence on you: “here is that broken tape of this is not going to work out playing in the head AGAIN !!!!”

4. Schedule Worry Time

I have not tried this but found it to be an interesting idea.

A new study by researchers in the Netherlands finds, when people scheduled 30 minutes period each day to worrying, they were able to cope better with their stress and problems.

The study made use of a technique, called “stimulus control,” that researchers have studied for almost 30 years. By compartmentalizing worry — setting aside a specific half-hour period each day to think about worries and consider solutions, and also deliberately avoiding thinking about those issues the rest of the day — people can ultimately help reduce those worries, research has shown. (Via – NBCNEWS)

5. Write Down

This is an extension to above points. By writing down your thoughts you will be able to distance yourselves from it.

Researchers found that students who were prone to test anxiety improved their high-stakes test scores by nearly one grade point after they were given 10 minutes to write about what was causing them fear, according to the article, “Writing about Testing Boosts Exam Performance in the Classroom.” The article appears in the Jan. 14 issue of Science and is based on research supported by the National Science Foundation.

The writing exercise allowed students to unload their anxieties before taking the test and accordingly freed up brainpower needed to complete the test successfully — brainpower that is normally occupied by testing worries, explained the study’s senior author, Sian Beilock, an associate professor in psychology at the University.

I’ve personally found this to work best for me, writing my journal is my super stress-buster.

6. Take few DEEP BREATH…

This one is most Simple, Powerful and works every time.

Deep abdominal breathing fills your lungs with Oxygen which eventually slows your heartbeat and lowers or stabilizes your blood pressure.

When you feeling the rush next time, count 1,2,3 and take a very deep breath (few if you can). This will help you become more mindful, in turn helps you become more calmer. When you are in clam state you will be able to take rational steps.

When we feel afraid or anxious we start breathing quickly and shallowly. When we are happy we breath slowly and deeply. So when things get challenging TAKE A DEEP BREATH.

To recap , how to avoid stressful situations and feel better

  1. Observe and Identify
  2. Do not distract
  3. Put a label
  4. Schedule worry time
  5. Write it down
  6. Just Breath

What some of the ways you deal with challenging situations? Write in the comments and help others.

Mrugank Patel