Posted on Apr 9th, 2006

We all know how bad stress is for us, with it being linked to the causes of many serious and life-threatening illnesses. Logic also tells us that it seriously affects our ability to feel happy – feeling stressed and feeling happy are mutually incompatible.

But quite apart from the momentary experience of feeling stressed v happy, ongoing stress actually depletes serotonin levels in the body – the happy hormone! And the depletion of serotonin leads to clinical depression. So, the effective management of our stress levels is absolutely essential to living happy and healthy lives.

In managing your stress levels, however, don’t limit your approach to “de-stressing” as and when you feel the need. Seek to reduce your stress levels. Lower your tolerance rather than learn to cope. Learn to identify when you’re becoming stressed at an early enough stage to nip it in the bud.

How do you develop this awareness? By consistently practicing de-stressing behaviours in your day to day life. Getting yourself to the point where it’s unusual to feel overwhelmed by your workload, where fear/dread/anxiety or other negative thoughts are uncommon for you, and generally feeling in control is where you want to be ALL THE TIME. And when this sense of wellness slips even slightly, stop and take stock. Identify what the cause is, and take immediate action to deal with that cause (as opposed to learning to cope with or tolerate it).

Eliminate stress by

• Exercising regularly
• Taking time out. For a coffee break, a day off, a long weekend, or a fortnight on a beach. The times when you feel you just can’t take a break are probably when you need it most.
• Prioritising your task list, and accepting that there will always be more things “to do”. They don’t all have to be done straight away. They don’t all have to be done at all.
• Saying “No”. Often.
• Not tolerating people or situations that drive you crazy and sap your energy.
• De-cluttering/getting organized. It’s amazing how sorting out your physical space not only helps you feel calm and relaxed, but also frees up mental energy.
• Getting support. An assistant, a cleaner, an exercise buddy, a network of “positive outlook” friends, a life coach ;-) Whatever support you need, put it in place.

Hilda Carroll is a life coach who specialises in helping people to be happy right now, and see achievement of their goals as a bonus rather than the source of their happiness. Visit her website at

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