(Article by Dr. Travis Bradberry first published on Talentsmart.com)

We all know that living under stressful conditions has serious emotional, even physical, consequences…

So why do we have so much trouble taking action to reduce our stress levels and improve our lives?

Researchers at Yale University finally have the answer. They found that stress reduces the volume of grey matter in the areas of the brain responsible for self-control.

So experiencing stress actually makes it more difficult to deal with future stress because it diminishes your ability to take control of the situation, manage your stress and keep things from getting out of control.

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A vicious cycle if there ever was one.

But don’t be disheartened. It’s not impossible to reduce your stress levels; you just need to make managing stress a higher priority if you want to reverse this effect. The sooner you start managing your stress effectively, the easier it will be to keep unexpected stress from causing damage in the future.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” –William James

Luckily, the plasticity of the brain allows it to mold, change, and rebuild damaged areas as you practice new behaviours. So implementing healthy stress-relieving techniques can train your brain to handle stress more effectively and decrease the likelihood of ill effects from stress in the future.

“No” is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield.

Here are seven strategies to help you fix your brain and keep your stress under control:

1. Say no

Research conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, shows that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression. Saying no is indeed a major challenge for many people. “No” is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, avoid phrases such as “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Saying no to a new commitment honours your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfil them.

2. Disconnect

Technology enables constant communication and the expectation that you should be available 24/7. It is extremely difficult to enjoy a stress-free moment outside of work when an email that will change your train of thought and get you thinking (read: stressing) about work can drop onto your phone at any moment.

Taking regular time off the grid helps you to keep your stress under control and to live in the moment.

Taking regular time off the grid helps you to keep your stress under control and to live in the moment. When you make yourself available to your work 24/7, you expose yourself to a constant barrage of stressors. Forcing yourself offline and even – gulp! – turning off your phone gives your body and mind a break. Studies have shown that something as simple as a weekend e-mail break can lower stress levels.

If detaching yourself from work-related communication on weekday evenings is too big a challenge, then how about the weekend? Choose blocks of time where you will cut the cord and go offline. You’ll be amazed by how refreshing these breaks are and how they reduce stress by putting a mental recharge into your weekly schedule.

If you are worried about the negative repercussions of taking this step, try first doing it at times you are unlikely to be contacted – maybe Sunday morning. As you grow more comfortable with this, and as your co-workers begin to accept the time you spend offline, gradually expand the amount of time you spend away from technology.

 

Click page 2 below for more ways to reverse the damaging effects of stress on your brain…