In hindsight, I used to let stress get the better of me.
I was always the most serious one in my family: especially as a teenager, if things went wrong, I took them very personally and that didn't nothing for my personal well being.
In the early years of my lifting, I was that guy who would scream and shout and yell if the workouts didn't go my way. Thankfully, I was lifting out of my basement at that time, but even so.
Quick tip: turns out screaming at the top of your lungs does NOT turn you into a Super Saiyan.
Fast forward to today, and I've found ways to be more relaxed both inside and outside of the gym.
The good thing about stress though is you can actively find ways to get rid of it. It's not a virus or cancer lacking a cure; there are simple steps you can implement to kick its butt.
1) Deep Breathing
You can survive weeks without food, days without water... but if you stop breathing, you'll only last for a few minutes. This speaks volumes regarding the effect your breathing has on your life.
Normally, our breath is an involuntary process, which is all well and good. I wouldn't want to be responsible for actively controlling my own breathing throughout the day. When you're feeling stressed out, however, it's time to turn autopilot off and take control of your breath.
Breathe slowly into your belly (not your chest) for a count of 4; hold that breath for a count of 4, and then exhale for a count of 5. The timing may seem oddly specific here, but if done correctly, this will help you relax immediately.
There is a strong correlation between your sleep and your stress. Think back to when you were in grade school. You probably slept 8 - 10 hours a night without a care in the world. Although you have more responsibilities today, you can experience that same effect simply by making sleep a priority.
I understand that you're busy; some people are trying to hustle and work their hardest. Frankly though, many of you just aren't making the time for sleep. Stop trying to attend social events during the week; those are for the weekend. If you have a show airing at 9 PM or later, save it for the DVR and just go to bed.
If you want more specific tips for healthy sleep, I have a full post on just that.
3) Give Me a Break
You should also make it a habit to take more frequent breaks during the day, especially when you're at work. This could be difficult for those of you who have advanced in your careers and have meetings almost constantly through the day, but still try to adhere to this.
For example, instead of taking a 60 to 90 minute lunch, maybe try eating lunch at your desk and instead taking 10 minute breaks throughout the day.
Or maybe try a different type of break. Does your job offer meditation or yoga classes during the day? Maybe speak with your supervisor and see if you can allocate your time in order to attend those.
The same goes for when you're at home. Are your parents and siblings just totally getting on your nerves? Well, get out of the house for a while and hang out with some people; no use sitting around in a toxic environment.
I love music; it's part of what motivated me to take guitar lessons way back when. Did you realize how much of an effect music can have you on though?
Consider this: imagine you're listening to a symphony by Beethoven. The cadence and tempo of the piano drifts you to a peaceful place, possibly putting you to sleep.
Now imagine the track suddenly switches and "X Gon' Give It to Ya" by DMX starts blasting. Even if you're in your home, you'll probably get tense, as if you're about to fight someone.
I have a specific playlist on Spotify for when I'm working at the office; it's mostly EDM music with little to no vocals. This helps me focus on my work without stressing me out.
When you're home after work or class, maybe have specific songs you listen to just to unwind. Pick something to help you relax and empty your mind in the hours before bed.
5) Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
This is something I've noticed quite a bit as of late. Some people are just flat out miserable, but there's no good reason for it. A guy might refill his water bottle in the kitchen and start dropping f bombs repeatedly if it overflows. People scream at the wheel and blare their horn when an accident adds 15 minutes to their commute.
Is it really worth stressing about if it won't make a difference 5 years from now? Probably not, so why let it get to you?
If you normally lose your mind over the tiniest hiccup, make a conscious effort not to from now on. Try to see the forest through the trees; there's a much bigger picture to life that you'll never see if you're obsessed over the coffee you spilled on your kitchen table this morning.
6) Get Out
There's something about being in the outdoors that seems to bring us back to our roots. Even if it's something as short as a 15 minute walk, going outside for a moment can help you get fresh air and clear your mind from the nonsense bothering you.
Now obviously, if you live in an urban environment or if it's freezing outside, leaving your house might not seem like the most comfortable idea at first. But it's still worth the effort (some people aren't bothered by city life or the cold; I'm personally not a fan of either).
Exercise can be one of the most effective forms of stress relief. If you've had a terrible day, letting out all your frustrations in a grueling gym sesh might be just what you need to do.
Now, I'm not a fan of going into EVERY workout like a gorilla; carrying that kind of anger with you week to week just isn't healthy.
But sometimes you NEED to have an angry workout; grip the bar as hard as you want to grab the person or thing that pissed you off. And once you've busted your butt through the workout, you'll find it's easier to let it go.
Some stress is hard to overcome: losing a loved one, being laid off, breaking up with someone... these things are very painful to go through. Exercise, however, can help you let loose.
I hope these tips helped you out! Stress is never worth experiencing, so you might as well try to limit it as much as possible.
Try these tips and you'll see improvement in your fitness, your relationships, and your life in general.