Reduce Stress to be Happier
by Cris Sgrott-Wheedleton
- Organize homes, garages and offices when they get overwhelmed trying to do it themselves
- Guide them through sorting and decluttering spaces that have gotten out of control
- Prepare their home to sell
- Get them ready to move to a smaller space
- Work with people who have specific challenges, like hoarding, chronic disorganization, or ADHD
What do all of these things have in common?
Each of the reasons above that people call us happen because the person is feeling stress. Often, it’s an overwhelming level of stress. So much of what we do as professional organizers is alleviate stress.
Alleviating stress leads to more happiness, according to Ayla Lewis, Director of Operations, Speaker and Facilitator at Happy Brain Science. I attended her breakout session, “The Science of Being Happy and Productive at Work,” at the 2016 Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) annual conference in Portland, Oregon, and I’ve been exploring different ways to become happier. Stress creates unhappiness and unhappiness can keep you from doing the things you want to do.
What We Need to Know About Stress
Did you know that when our brains get stressed they shrink? So when we prevent stress, we’re preventing brain shrinkage! But more than that, reducing stress is good for our health and happiness.
Stress happens because way back when we used to live in caves, it kept us alive. The sabre-tooth tiger would come to attack, and stress would infuse us with adrenaline so that we could either defend ourselves (fight) or run away (flight). We have, for the most part, outgrown our need for the flight or fight response, but our bodies still dump adrenaline when we get stressed (even if all we’re stressed at is the pile of junk sitting in the corner). If we don’t have a way to deal with that stress (since there are no sabre-tooth tigers to fight in that pile of junk) then the stress does awful things. Not only does it shrink our brains but it makes us sick (blood pressure, belly fat and more).
How to Handle Stress the Healthy Way
There will always be times that we become stressed, but the way we react to stress (and how we channel the energy from it) can make all the difference. Instead of seeing stress as a negative and letting it shut us down, we can use stress to fuel our energy levels. The next time you feel a lot of stress, try these methods for improving how you feel:
- Exercise. Exercise burns off the adrenaline stress produces so that it doesn’t become belly fat. It’s also like Miracle Grow for brain cells.
- Talk with a friend or get the support you need. (Call the Maniacs if you have to).
- Practice mindfulness and meditation to rewire your brain, learn to be in the present moment (stop thinking about what-ifs and piles of junk).
- Practice positivity.
Learning to manage stress more effectively will make you happier, but it won’t happen overnight. It’s about changing habits, like your reaction to stress and your inner dialogue. I’m giving it a try – I hope you will too!
Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist who translates academic research into practical strategies, gave a great TED Talk on making stress your friend: