“No man is free who is not master of himself”- Epictetus, Greek Philosopher

There is a plethora of stress in our lives these days. Divorce, layoffs, threats of terrorism – these are just a few of the many things that can leave our mind, body and soul feeling anxious.

Stress is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be essential form of our emotional state for balanced growth in our life. A conscious form of stress motivates us, prepares us for things we have to face, and sometimes give us energy to take action when we need to. However, excessive stress can hinder our ability to set goals, focus on what we want to achieve and to live in harmony with our family.

Akin to a form of cholesterol, stress can motivate us to achieve higher goals or stress can destroy all our dreams before we realize its dominance. Personally I’ve found that when I am cognizant about the form of stress, I take control of my personal growth by overcoming the power of detrimental stress.

In an effort to control stress, I’ve found 5 signs that are apparent in a state of excessive stress:

Sign # 1: You Procrastinate Constantly

Procrastination forms from the denial of fighting the obvious power of stress in our life. Years ago, when I lost substantial investment in the stock market, instead of thinking forward and taking action to stop the carnage, I procrastinated by not confronting the reality. I was worsening my loss by lack of action, yet I was under intense stress that paralyzed my ability to think. I was procrastinating to the point that I was unable to do things that were essential in my life. For example, I was so nervous about going to my daughter’s school to talk to the teacher, I did not go — I missed the appointment. Stress was taking its toll on me as well as my family.

“There is nothing so disobedient as an undisciplined mind, and there is nothing so obedient as a disciplined mind.Buddha (563 BC-483 BC) Founder of Buddhism.

Sign #2: Your Life Seems Chaotic

This is an apparent sign of stress and despair. If you see bills piling up on your desk with some not even opened to avoid fear of added stress, you’ve succumbed to the power of stress. I, with the fear of lack of money to pay bills, avoided opening mails that even had checks written to me. It was simply a surrender to the thoughts of defeat that stress had reined over my head.

Sign #3: Mindless Eating

Have you ever noticed yourself reaching for food or forgetting to eat meals when you are under intense stress? I tend to skip meals under intense stress, and when I do eat I lack focus on the food in front of me. This behavior stems from the fact that stress inhibits all the thought faculties of the brain and acts aggressively against any thoughts of courage or fight to dispel the power of stress. Food alters emotions. Cookies really make me feel better while I am stress ridden. It’s estimated that over 150 million people are on the diet now and most of these adults are repeaters who have tried almost everything. This is a stunning revelation that underlines pervasive power of stress in our culture.

Sign # 4: Aloofness

When feelings of sinking into a black hole take possession of your mind, it’s stress that has spelled havoc on your mind. When I lost a significant amount in my investment before, I felt feeble and aloof. It seemed that I was on an island with no hope to swim across the ocean to revive my life. I constantly chastised myself for being in the circumstances that I was in.

Sign # 5: You’re Aggressive Rather than Assertive

Aggressive behavior often arises as self defense from perceived attacks by others, but these attacks usually never eventuate. When our mind is stress ridden, we think that everyone intends to inflict emotional harm on us. I remember getting angry for paltry reasons that I could not expound in my own mind. Instead of being assertive, I was aggressive. Stress had taken over my mind, body and soul.

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Here comes good news. All of what I went through was a creature of my own thoughts. In reality, I had only lost an investment. But by allowing stress to rein over my thoughts, I had enabled stress to control my thinking and obviously my life. I realized that I had to change my thoughts and habits to defeat this monster. I began by engaging my mind with things that dispelled the stress and ultimately instilled a sense of confidence about my future.

I found that ignore is bliss when it comes to stress. Take action and to your surprise, circumstances will change. The following are some steps I took to regain my confidence and ultimately to rid myself of the stress that had taken control of my mind.

Step # 1: Clutter Management

First, I took the time to go through my desk, mail, magazines, drawers, garage, basement – basically everywhere I had accumulated clutter. By eliminating this clutter, I reinforced thoughts of affirmation such as: “The more I eliminate clutter from my life, I relieve stress and create calmness for the positive thoughts.”

Step # 2: Mindfulness

I began to meditate and, by doing so, I began to live more in the present moment.

Step # 3: Write in a Journal

I began writing a daily journal. By doing this, I confronted my thoughts of despair.

Step # 4: Doing What I Enjoyed

I volunteered to work for Habitat for Humanity. The work not only brought new friends but it also made me feel proud about myself. My self-esteem rose from ashes and began acting as my strength rather than acting against me.

Step # 5: Yoga

Yoga allowed me to focus on my inner strength. I decided to do yoga daily to relax my body as well as mind.

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These are just few of many positive actions I took to turn around life that was once ruled by stress. Never underestimate the power of stress to ruin your life. If you feel that you are getting in its grip, remember, you have power to come out victorious. So get up and get going.

Photo by Lisa Brewster

Shilpan Patel

This guest post was written by Shilpan Patel of Street Smart Finance.