Stress that has been building over time is one of the most uncomfortable and unpleasant feelings that we as humans can experience. Not only stress and emotional pain hurt, but if we don’t take care of them early enough, they will take our health. Therefore, in order not to fall prey to our own emotions, we must learn to understand and to detect those that are destructive early enough, and we must also learn how to relieve stress effectively. In other words, self-awareness is key.
Just like for many of you, my job constantly requires me to act fast and to be resourceful. Both of these things can cause a lot of emotional pain and stress if done continuously. As a result, I have spent years looking for ways on how to relieve stress in the most efficient manner. And while there are plenty of small things we can do to become positive for a while, there are also some of the more longer-lasting methods available. Both of these I want to share with you today.
Understanding emotional pain
So what exactly is emotional pain and why do we experience it? To be honest, emotional pain is quite difficult to explain. With physical pain, some action, such as banging our head against the door, directly causes us to experience pain. Emotional pain, though, is a whole different story. On the one hand, emotional pain involves something affecting us from the external world, but on the other hand, we connect our own thoughts, emotions, feelings and memories from the past together, which greatly amplify that pain. And while no one physically hurt us, it may be unbearable.
Never run from it
Regardless of what the pain is, never try to run from it. Running away from emotional pain is the same as running away from yourself. It is not possible to achieve this, and all attempts will cause more suffering.
Some people decide to close away from emotional pain, which just keeps building up and with time may “blow you into pieces”. You can break down, and at worst, you may get seriously ill, mentally and physically. Remember, emotional pain and stress lead to serious health problems, which in turn lead to…
Another way for people to run away from emotional pain is by acquiring new addictions. It may be drinking alcohol, taking drugs or even playing video games. In the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what you use to hide. All addictions by definition are destructive and will cause more pain and damage in the long run. Some are just worse than others.
Realization and understanding
Psychologists say that the best thing to do if you are experiencing emotional pain is to acknowledge it and to accept it. The faster you understand that you are experiencing emotional pain and its root cause, the faster you can begin removing yourself from it.
What exactly is it that you are experiencing? You have to be really honest with yourself here. Is it hate, anger or despair, or is it all three of them? If you look at the problem objectively, without making any judgments, do you still see it as that bad? When you carefully analyze your problem, what you will notice is that there are so many additional feelings and labels that we are attaching to the problem. And we don’t even realize this.
As an example, a good friend of yours may not call you when they promised. A million feelings can arise, causing you to feel emotional pain. And while your friend may simply have forgotten, in your mind you can make them look like the worst person on Earth at that moment. Therefore, always stay aware and see the problem for what it is. Is it the problem that is causing emotional pain, or is it you that is making it a problem?
However, if you do feel that the issue is serious, try not to make it worse. For example, you may get fired from a job or break up with your loved one. Are these things painful? Most-likely. Are they the end of the world? Certainly not. There are billions of people living on this planet for you to pick from and there are thousands of jobs waiting to hire you. So instead of doing the easy thing – feeling anger or sadness – you should do the right thing, learn from mistakes, remain optimistic and take action to improve your life.
One other thing that psychologists emphasize on is that all problems should be dealt with in the present. What this means is that if you have something that causes you to experience emotional pain, try to analyze it, solve it in your mind, and then let go off forever.
I have suffered from anxiety in my life and also tend to worry a lot. Before, when something critical came up, I could think about it the whole day, keeping myself anxious. I just couldn’t let it go. But at one point I learned one technique that has immensely helped me. Now, whenever something happens that causes me to stress out, I sit down and take two to ten minutes to think about it. I make an in-depth analysis of the situation. I play in my head all the possible worst-case scenarios, and when I am done with thinking about it, I go on living my life. Because I have already spent time deeply analyzing the problem, I have no need to return to it later. It just can’t and doesn’t bother me anymore.
Before I used to return thinking of my problems over and over, and this made my life a nightmare. Now I make a decision to act in a certain way regarding them, and when I do so, I understand that the decision has been made. What’s done is done, and no reason to come back to it. This way I don’t run away from emotional pain, but rather let it affect me once, deal with it, and go on with my life.
How to Relieve Stress
Despite stress being somewhat different from emotional pain, it may be the consequence of the latter. If we suffer for long enough from emotional pain, chronical stress is inevitable. And while emotional pain is something momentary that can be intercepted as it is rising in your mind, stress is a whole different story. It’s usually something that we have been allowing in over a period of time, and its presence can make us pretty miserable. Thus, I want to talk to you about some of the ways of how to relieve stress, both short and long-term.
Because stress is something that usually builds up, it requires you to take certain precautions to avoid it well in advance. However, if you do find that you are already experiencing a lot of it in your life, there are things you can do right at that moment to help yourself.
How to relieve stress – short-term
Eat something awesome
Just like with experiencing emotional pain, if you feel like feeding your smoking or drinking addiction when stressed, don’t do it. Instead, go and get yourself something enjoyable to eat (unless that is your addiction already!). Maybe you like pies, pizzas, ice cream, grilled marshmallows or something else – go and make yourself happy.
Eating tasty food raises your dopamine levels, which, simply speaking, makes you happy. So if you are experiencing emotional pain or looking for a way how to relieve stress, go for something that makes you happy. However, this is only a short-term solution to the problem and should not be repeated on a daily basis. Eating sweet, salty and heavy in calories food must not be a substitute for dealing with your problems the right way. If you keep treating yourself this way, you are in risk of finding a new reason to live in stress – obesity.
Talk to someone about it
I am partially and introvert and I don’t like to make my problems public, but I will admit that sometimes it feels pretty damn good to share them with someone that can relate. Obviously, you shouldn’t always bother your friends with your problems, as that will just push them away from you, but if you really feel like it, you can do it once in a while to those that are willing to listen to them. We are social animals after all, so the desire to share your problems with others is totally understandable. Nothing’s wrong with that.
Do the things you love
One of the best ways of how to relieve stress is to replace it with something that you love doing. Go watch a good movie in the cinema, watch a football game or hang out with your friends. Maybe these things are not too productive, but we aren’t looking to be productive at that moment. All we want is for the stress to go away. So why not use that time to do the things you love most? Not only you are “healing” yourself this way, but you are also doing something that you might have been lacking – having fun. A great opportunity to call up someone that you haven’t talked to in a while and to socialize.
When I am experiencing emotional pain, stress or even light depression, I feel like doing nothing. But I almost never allow myself to just lie there on the couch passively. I try to keep an active lifestyle.
It is not news that exercise helps us on so many different levels, one of which is stress relief. By engaging in physical exercise, we raise our endorphin levels in the brain and generally feel better about ourselves. After a good exercise our appetite increases, mood changes towards the better, and as much of a paradox as it can be, we actually feel more energized.
It doesn’t really matter what type of exercise you do, as long as you feel that you are doing something active. Until I injured my knees, I used to enjoy jogging. I also practiced yoga for many years. Today I love to exercise in the gym. All of these are perfect ways to let go of accumulated stress. Just do it!
In case you are interested, I have a post about the importance of sports and exercise in our lives here.
How to relieve stress – long-term
One of the most effective, time-tested ways of how to relieve stress is through meditation.
I have always been quick to lose it, but also quick to come down. This concerns not only controlling frustration, but also stressing out. I tried many different approaches towards controlling my emotions, but nothing really has benefitted me as much as meditation.
Usually, people would tell me whenever I got anxious, to take a deep breath and count to ten. I don’t know about you, but not only it didn’t help me, but it pissed me off even more. On the count of two, I felt like breaking something.
Long story short, I got into meditation and began doing it on a daily basis, ranging from 10 to 45 minutes a day. Yes, it took some time for me to begin feeling the effects, but to this day, meditation has been the most effective approach to dealing with stress.
I don’t think everyone in this world should do yoga or be a part of some religion, but I am convinced that absolutely everyone in this world must meditate daily for at least 10 minutes. There are so many different meditations to pick out from. Just choose your favorite. (A book on different meditation techniques)
Unlike with trying to tell myself (with little benefit) at moments of anger or stress that “I am calm”, meditation works in a completely different way. You don’t need to tell yourself that you are calm or peaceful, but instead, calmness and peace come to you with time as a “byproduct” of meditation. You live your life just as you always did, but at a certain point, you realize that stress for some reason is just easier to handle. Don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself.
Celebrities and famous people talking about happiness and how to relieve stress here.
Understanding our existence
It is important to meditate, but it is just as important to live in awareness. In order to experience less stress, you must learn to slow down, take pauses and to think about the things that are going on in your life.
The world today has become very hectic. There is a constant race to be better, to live a better life, earn more money, have a degree, get a good job, to have your children get a good education, etc. We are so concerned with our social status, that we have no time to realize that we are living a deeply stressful life and are suffering. And when we do realize this, usually it has become quite severe by then.
One way to control your stress and prevent it from affecting you is to live in awareness and to remind ourselves that the purpose of our existence is not suffering. You might think that I am going all “metaphysical and esoteric” on you, but just think about it. The people that are the most stressed out are also the ones that are the most consumed by their problems. And who are the people that are the least stressed out? They are the same people that show no concern for their problems.
Let me elaborate. Before I would use to stress out at work about so many different things, such as deadlines, relations with workmates, quality of my work and other. Soon enough I realized that there is not a single day that I am not stressed out. I have actually gotten used to being that way!
It was obvious that stress came to me no matter what I do, and instead of forcing me to improve at work, it just made me more worried and less productive. I knew that if I don’t want to end up hating work, I needed to learn to see it from a different angle. What I did was I began to remind myself that I am human, and that it is completely ok to make mistakes and do things differently from others. And while deadlines are still important to me, I no longer see them as life-threatening. I realize that work is work, and that on the side I have another life, with friends, a pet, parents, hobbies and a girlfriend. I learned to give things less meaning, in the good sense.
This type of thinking doesn’t only concern work. I often now take a pause to think about what really matters to me, and that I am not here to experience emotional pain, stress or anxiety. I am here to learn and to make myself better, but to have fun while doing it. Things don’t need to be uncomfortable. If you don’t like something, then change it. Don’t let it haunt you and stress you out until you become miserable.
When you live in awareness and see things for what they are, learning how to relieve stress becomes quite natural. When we clearly understand that we are all human and that there is no need to make things more complicated than they are, stress and emotional pain begin to lose their grip.
Living stress-free is something that comes with practice. By making use of the things mentioned above, you can learn how to relieve stress effectively over time. However, if you feel like you would need extra help with it, you can always ask for it from someone professional. Alternatively, you can always share your stress-related thoughts with me in the comments below. I won’t guarantee that it will solve it for you, but it can definitely help. 🙂