Stress. A familiar term we hear a lot. Most of us know that stress makes life that bit harder to handle and continued stress weakens the mind and body and wears down our ability to thrive. In fact, we often find ourselves just about surviving, not enjoying life much at all. Perhaps feeling like we’re just steps away from the long drop to hair-ripping, rubber-walled madness… Or is that just Marketeers?

But seriously; consider all the times you hear about how stressed everyone is. Some people even boast about it as if to prove that their continuous stress shows they’re achieving. In fact, whether high or low, constant stress is actually more damaging in the long run than irregular episodes of high stress. This is because the body and mind need time to recover and, without the break, our defences slip. Reducing stress levels overall and finding some down time between the crazy moments, means we can operate at higher performance levels and actually enjoy life as we do so.

You’ve no doubt come across a vast array of ideas of how to lower stress and relax. But before you scamper off down the road of inner peace by signing up for yoga or dousing yourself in lavender oil, there’s a more effective place to start.

Change is what’s key here. Change your routine, change your attitude, change your relationships, change your job, change your life completely. Whatever element that’s causing the problem, change it. The fastest way to do this is to get inside your own mind and have a poke around to discover what needs spring cleaning. If you haven’t guessed yet, the starting point is you.

Ease yourself into enlightenment by taking advantage of the various self-knowledge techniques out there. Whether you’re the journaling type or you’re up for a spot of meditative cave-dwelling, take some time to find your Achilles’ heel. What’s bringing the most stress into your life? What regularly knocks you off balance? Who keeps pulling that rug out from under you? Which of your issues are causing you issues?

Once you’ve identified the big stressors you can focus on getting on with changing things. For many, this is the toughest part. Sometimes it’s easy to see where the stress is coming from but hard to deal with the fear of changing it.

You have to want to alter your current state of being to have any hope of successfully changing. This means looking past the secondary gains you get from being stressed and focusing on the greater reward of a healthy life. Despite noticing a greener pasture the other side of the fence, many people will remain in their own parched, yellowing yard because mediocracy that’s familiar feels safe: a classic ‘fear plus secondary gain’ equation. Playing the stressed-out martyr can be just as rewarding as increased attention you might get due to being constantly sick thanks to stress. These short-term gains help you stay stuck in the same behavioural patterns. Your mind and body are naturally renewing, let them get on with it by making the right choices.

Let’s get real and talk workplace stress. Some people love their jobs and feel little stress when working at them usually because they are doing something they love. Most people don’t feel that way. The majority work to live. This can throw up a long list of upsetting, negative experiences that cause people to struggle in the workplace, as well as collectively having a damaging effect on the entire working environment. Some companies care and put measures in place to reduce employee stress and improve the happiness of their workforce. Unfortunately, many companies don’t. Either way, the responsibility lies with the individual to shape their situation how they’d like it. Why? Because you’re in charge of you and what your life looks like. That includes where you work, who you work for and how you feel about it.

You alone are in control of your experience. Sure, your boss could be nicer to you, the company could give you more holiday and life could stop throwing those sour lemons at you. But instead of complaining, grab those lemon pips and plant some trees. Turn the negatives into positives, or just move on. At the end of the day, the question is this – are you happy with your lot or do you want change?

Here’s a sweet thought: if you accept responsibility for your results, you can change them! Things don’t get much more empowering than that. Change your behaviour and your results will change. It’s your choice you feel the way you feel. It’s not your mother’s, brother’s, boss’, dentist’s or your cat’s responsibility to make you happy. You’ve chosen the job you’re in, the people you’re around and the way your life looks. Either accept it or change it.

Trust me, that was sweet, even if it doesn’t seem like it at first.

It can take a bit of practice, but once you’ve shaken off the bitter limiting belief that you are a victim of circumstance, you can choose to stop accepting so much stress into your life. Whatever you’ve experienced in the past, there is a nicer route down from the cliff edge. It’s just a case of finding it.

A certified NLP and hypnosis practitioner with a degree in Creative Writing and a background in executive coaching, Ciara is passionate about language and its place in personal development work. Through both study and experience, she has developed a solid understanding of transformational techniques and practices and continues to expand her knowledge base in this field. In her role as Marketing Manager for CRITICAL Software, Ciara is responsible for the company's UK marketing needs, maintaining both internal and external communications to a high level, putting her avid interest in effective communication to work.