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"Breaking Free from Stress: Strategies for a Calmer, Healthier You"

“57% of employees are experiencing at least moderate levels of burnout.” These are the results of a study done by Aflac, an American Insurance Company in January of 2024. They put out an annual workforce report that captures the responses of 1200 employers and 2000 employees throughout their network. The study shows that more people are experiencing higher levels of stress and working their way towards burnout at an alarming rate. That’s not ideal for the companies, who are seeing a substantial reduction in employee engagement, retention, and productivity across the board. 

Chronic stress has become a normal part of modern life. We joke and create memes about it, we wear it like a badge of honor, we’ve woven it into how life just is. 

In the end, we find out it’s detrimental to our health, our life satisfaction, and our personal effectiveness. Three, I would argue, are very important aspects of our lives. Would you agree? 

Our lives are fast paced, our goals & ambitions are high, and we live in a culture that promotes productivity, competition, and winning as some of its highest values. I’m not necessarily saying all that is bad, but changing the entire culture takes time and this stress is going to kill us if we don’t do something now.  

I’m a girl who likes to dream and I’m also a fan of win-win. So I want to achieve all my goals without having to carry the weight of chronic stress on my shoulders like a backpack. Look, my massage bills are really starting to add up, ok?  

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could still achieve our goals without having to carry the weight of chronic stress? 

Luckily there have also been many advancements in our collective understanding of stress and stress management. So, I think it’s really important we refresh our understanding of stress, how we can break free from its dominion over us and provide strategies we can all incorporate today that will lead to a much calmer, healthier you. 

What is Stress? 

Stress is the body’s response to demands or to perceived threats. 

Stress comes from every single aspect of our lives including work, school, our financial stability, our relationships, our health, social matters, major life changes, traumatic events, and even the environment. Many of us juggle all these balls and more! 

There are a whole range of physical and chemical responses that occur in our body when the stress response is activated by our brain. 

We may experience any or all of the following:

  • Increased heart rate

  • Elevated blood pressure

  • Rapid or shallow breathing

  • Muscle tension

  • Sweating

  • Digestive upset

  • A compromised immune system

  • Disruption in our sleep

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Memory problems

  • Racing thoughts

  • Emotional symptoms (anxiety, irritability, and frustration)

When these symptoms compile and amplify over time, we are left with stress related health issues like anxiety disorders, depression, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, insomnia, GI issues, immune dysfunction, skin conditions, and weight gain to name only a few. These problems impede our ability to live fully, and they seriously drain our wallets. 

How Do We Break Free? 

The short answer? We change how we think about stress and get way more intentional. 

Stress is a natural biological reaction, a survival mechanism, created to keep us safe and spur us to act. Stress is what we experience when our mind & body are being put to the test. It’s a built in, primal response system that prepares us for whatever challenge we face. I say primal because the hardware is positively ancient but trust & believe that this basic system kept our ancestors alive long enough for all of us to be here.

Stress is essential for our survival and it motivates us to reach our goals and seek out our potential. So think of it less as the price we pay, and more as the signal that alerts us when it's time to kick it into high gear. 

Now that we see stress in this light and realize it is essential, we can stop resisting its presence in our life. (Takes deep breath) Ahh! That’s better. Now we can take action towards reducing stress in our life without creating more stress in the process. Like I always say,

“What we resist, persists.”

The quickest way to unload a major percentage of your stress is to let go of the things you can’t control and get really intentional about the things you can. 

When we take the appropriate actions we become stronger and more resilient to the stress in our life. To get you started I’ve compiled a list of relatively simple and effective ways you can begin to pour your attention and focus into resilience building actions and behaviors that will significantly reduce your stress levels and they are all within your control. 

Action you can take to reduce stress in your life. 

  • Prioritize & organize –A messy external reality can lead to a messy internal reality.  Identifying priorities helps with decision making and organizing your environment can generate a lifting, spacious feeling that invites calm & creativity. 

  • Time Management - Stop saying you’re bad at time management and actually focus on it for like a week or two. Sometimes the only thing you really need is awareness. You can totally do this if you are being intentional. Imagine the relief of not having to worry about time! 

  • Honor Your Yes & No – This is about setting boundaries that align with your values, needs & priorities, not everyone else’s. This builds trust, confidence, and self-respect. All 3 prevent excess stress. 

  • Delegate where possible - Be realistic about what you can handle and what can be handled by others. Give people a chance and accept the fact that not everything will get done to your standard of perfection, but not everything needs to be that perfect either. Besides, let’s be honest, does it really end up perfect when it’s just you, juggling it all by yourself?  

  • Practice deep breathing – I won’t shut up about this. You can’t make me. Deep breathing has tons of benefits that we can get into in another article, but one of them is turning off your stress response and activating your relaxation response. Like within two minutes, any time, any place, for free. Enough said. 

  • Regular exercise – our bodies love to move and it’s one of the most effective ways to process stress & stuck energy within the body. Say goodbye to tension, stiffness, restlessness, & angst. Need to get the juices flowing? Move your body!

  • Take care of your body – eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, practice good hygiene and address any issues right away. The better condition your body is in the more resilient you will be to stress.  

  • Eliminate unnecessary stress – people, places, and events that add no value to your life but suck your energy dry and cause you stress can take a hike! 

  • Practice mindfulness – learn to be present in the moment instead of stuck in your head worrying about the future or ruminating about the past. 

There you have it! We talked about how commonplace carrying the burden of chronic stress has become in today’s society, and how it could end up killing us if we don’t address it now. We got curious and refreshed our understanding of what stress is, how it manifests in our life, and in our body. We reframed how we see stress, by pointing out that it’s more than a painful aspect of life. By seeing it as an essential response that alerts us and helps us succeed we can stop resisting its presence in our lives. We then set the intention to shift our focus from what we can’t control to what we can and went over several simple yet effective strategies that can start reducing the stress we feel right away.  

I highly encourage you to try one or several of these strategies for reducing stress in your life and learn more about your stress by taking this stress assessment so you can recognize early warning signs and take action. I’d love to hear back what you picked and how you incorporated it into your lifestyle and way of doing things. Did understanding stress’s role in our lives help? 

"Adversity is the diamond dust Heaven polishes its jewels with. Let stress be your stepping stone to success, for it is in the pressure that diamonds are formed." - Thomas Carlyle

Until next time, take care of yourself. 


Hello! I’m Jessica Gruss and I’m a nationally board-certified health & wellness coach. I’m passionate about helping women break free from old conditioning and old patterns so they can co-create a healthy lifestyle they absolutely fall in love with living. I’ve worked closely over the years with multiple institutions including the Health Coach Institute and the Stanford School of Medicine to understand the connection between holistic health & stress management. 

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