Learn to stress less with PIE

Two Saturdays ago I was at the airport, all lined up and ready to board the plane, when the gate agent announced that we couldn’t board just yet because we were waiting on a flight attendant. Oh, and that flight attendant was currently on a different flight that hadn’t landed yet.

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As we continued to wait, I could hear people around me start to grumble about the delay. What is taking so long? How late are we going to be? I hope I don’t miss my connection. How will I alert my friend who’s picking meup?

And then they started to grumble about anything and everything. Ugh, there’s a baby on this flight – it better not cry the entire way. My battery is dying; why does my phone suck? I have so much work to do, but instead I’m stuck here waiting in this dumb airport.

I was pretty proud of myself for tuning them out and staying in zen-mode, but two years ago I probably would have been with them, letting travel hiccups create stress.

For the longest time, I led an unnecessarily high-stress life. At work, I worried whether I was doing a good enough job or not. My relationship wasn’t progressing they way I wanted it to and I worried about its future. There were months when I had trouble sleeping because I would lie awake worrying about everything I had to get done the next day. Even little things like traffic would mess up my schedule and make me fear the embarrassment and guilt of being late.

The thing is, not only was stress taking a toll on my happiness; it was also quietly taking a toll on my health. High blood pressure and cardiovascular disease runs in my family, and is a condition exacerbated by stress. My mom was on prescription hypertension meds since she was 30. I am 29 now, and am determined to stay healthy without meds for as long as I can. So, I chose to do something about all my stressing out.

Let’s not lie; a lot of stuff still stresses me out. But I’ve grown better at catching myself and learning to let go of stress instead of carrying it around with me. With practice, I’ve drastically reduced the amount of stress I feel on a daily basis. You can stress less, too. Here are three things to do as soon as you feel stressed.

Stressing less is as easy as PIE:

P = Pause. Stress can build the longer you let it churn inside you, so take a moment to interrupt whatever you’re thinking, saying, or doing. Escape the current situation with three deep breaths. In. 2. 3. Out. 2. 3. Again. 2. 3. Out. 2. 3. One more time. 2. 3. Out. 2. 3.

I = Identify. What caused your stress, both the event and your reaction? Why do you feel stressed? What event triggered it? How is it making you feel? Often we stress out simply because things aren’t going the way we want them to. In what way is the situation different from how you would like things to be?

E = Evaluate. Right now, what is within your control? What is not? Focus on the present moment, and disregard any hypothetical situations in the future. What is out of your hands? Other people’s behavior, weather, and traffic all fall into this category. If you can’t change it, let it go. Accept it. If you find that you “can’t”, bear in mind that by choosing non-acceptance, you are choosing to stay stressed. Now, identify what is within your control. Take action.

After you’ve gone through the steps above, you have a choice. You can choose to hold on to the stress that you feel, caused by your reaction to things out of your control. Or, you can take hold of what is within your control, your thoughts and feelings, and choose to let go of that stress. If you’ve made it this far along in the post, my suspicion is that you would like to stress less. So go ahead. You can do it. Let go.

If you’re like me, you may feel the onset of stress many times throughout the day, as a result of many different things. Practice the steps above every time you can. The more you do it, the easier it’ll get, and the happier (and healthier) you’ll be.

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