Personal Development

10 Secrets for Keeping Stress From Becoming Distress

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What is your stress level these days? Has it grown to the point of causing negative consequences to your health and well-being?

If your stress does not push you to get stronger, there's a good chance you're mis-managing it and the stress itself isn't the problem. What I give you in this article is some proven attitudes and actions you can take to dramatically improve how stress is affecting you.

1. Realize not all stress is bad

There are two types of stress. One is called eustress which comes from two words, "eu" which is Greek for "good" or "well" and "stress" which is defined as "hardship, adversity, or pressure." Eustress is "good pressure."

When pressure is controlled and limited, good can result. For example, when you lift weights, you put pressure or stress on your muscles and when you stop to rest, you grow stronger. Studies show that sitting too long has negative consequences. Why? Because not enough stress is being put on the body.

2. Reduce the amount of pressure

A little pressure is good but too much pressure is bad. Too much pressure or adversity causes distress because the body, mind, and spirit have limits. Lifting weights daily without any rest days will cause distress and eventual injury.

Distress happens when too much pressure is applied for too long. Physically, too much pressure results in headaches, stomach problems, sleeplessness, and irritability, to name just a few of the symptoms.

3. Work towards balance in your life

One way to help keep stress from becoming too great is to periodically assess and adjust your work and life balance. A tool that I've found helpful is the wheel of life self-assessment tool. It breaks up your life into eight areas including career or school, family and friends, significant other, fun and recreation, health, money, personal growth, and physical environment.

As you make your way around the wheel, you are able to give yourself a rating between 1 and 10 in order to see where you are and the area you need to work on to change. Having that awareness can help you see where your distress is coming from.

4. Step back in order to gain a new perspective

Sometimes our distress is caused by being unable to see the forest for the trees. We become bogged down in our circumstances and have lost perspective.

When we lose perspective, a way to get it back again is to take on the "balcony view" or the view from the "30,000 foot level." From above our situation, we can see what's causing the distress which allows us to take a different approach to the pressure.

5. Cultivate positive habits

"Successful people are simply those with successful habits" (Brian Tracy). You can often reduce negative stress by cultivating healthy habits like adequate sleep, proper hydration, consistent exercise, focused conversations with a partner, self-development, and engaging in healthy fun.

Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." For me, it's amazing what a bike ride does to clear my head and lower my stress levels.

6. Learn from inspired people

Jim Valvano (also known as Coach V.) was nearing the end of a difficult battle with cancer when he gave a powerful speech to an audience at the 1993 ESPY Awards. When I listened to Coach V.'s wisdom, I was impacted by how he lived during extremely stressful circumstances.

Coach V. described the three attitudes and habits you need to practice to more than just survive. You need to laugh – it releases anger, fear and tension. You need to think "” because it raises awareness and brings objectivity to all decision. You need to feel "” because tears of joy or sorrow allow you to be a passionate person.

7.   Get quiet for a few minutes every day

On one particular day, Emperor Hirohito of Japan had a meeting scheduled with some Buddhist monks to take a 10 minute tour of their temple. When the Emperor and his entourage showed up, the building was empty and the monks were nowhere in sight.

The Emperor's aide started to panic but said nothing while the Emperor stood in the center of the room for 10 minutes. When the time was up, he motioned that it was time to leave but surprised his aide by saying, "I enjoyed that very much "“ let's schedule it again for tomorrow."   We'd be wise to do the same.

8. Take action and finish your work

Positive action reduces distress. Picasso said, "What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing."

Lack of focus and leaving things undone can create distress. One way to alleviate that problem is to simply finish what you started. William James said, "Nothing is so fatiguing as hanging on to an uncompleted task." What do you need to complete?

9. Remember your why

There is a story of two brick layers who were working on a cathedral. A passer-by asked them what they were doing. One man said, "Building a wall," while the other said, "Building a cathedral."

Having a picture of the greater good you are doing lowers stress and energizes you for the task "” even in the hot sun. Robert Byme said, "The purpose of life is a life of purpose."

10. Remember to breathe

A simple activity anyone can do anywhere is learn to breathe. Not just catch your breath, but take a deep breath that clears your lungs and serves to move you from a state of distress to eustress.

This 60 second process starts with breathing in through your nose and counting to five. Hold your breath two seconds then exhale through your mouth for a count of eight. While you exhale, release the air trapped in your stomach. Do this four times.

Which of the 10 secrets could help you with your stress?

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About the author

Cam Taylor

Cam Taylor is a blogger, coach, and motivator who helps people live an inspired, focused, and tenacious life. Get your free copy of Cam's ebook "Top 10 Secrets to Living an Inspired Life" or visit his blog at or follow him on Twitter.