The Domino Effect for Stress (& Everything Else)

Everyone experiences some levels of stress if they have a functioning nervous system and I’m confident that most of us would like to experience less of it. How often have we felt overwhelmed by difficulty? How often have we found ourselves crying alone in our car at night when driving home from work or screaming into a pillow? When we find ourselves in moments like these, it’s clear we’ve reached a breaking point.

A University of Toronto professor, Stephen Morris, demonstrated that it would only take 29 dominoes to knock over the Empire State Building. Of course each of these dominoes would be progressively larger than the previous by one and a half times the size. The smallest eventually impacts the largest as you can see in the video below.

So how does this relate to stress? We don’t consider the compounding effects that our behavior has or that stress can have on us. When we allow the pile of clothes sitting in the corner of our room to grow larger or fail to take the trash out for the second day in a row, even if we aren’t always conscious of it, these things still tax our energy. Think about how you feel when you clean your room. I know for myself, cleaning can cause a definite change in the way I feel, and that’s always for the better. It’s like we’re getting something of ourselves in order.

The domino effect when dealing with stress is sort of like the debt snowball strategy for paying off debts, by tackling the smallest debts first, more finances are available to take on the larger ones. By reducing stress through addressing the smaller stuff initially, we strengthen our resolve for the larger stuff later. The key here is that in the process of eliminating stress we don’t add any unnecessary stress to our lives to keep us stuck. This kind of approach isn’t something that can be applied to only stress and finances, but just about anything as well.

Consider making a list of things stressing you in your life right now. This might be work, relationships, living situation, finances, cleanliness, or something else. Once you’ve created this list, start to prioritize which of these can be resolved the fastest. What can be done now, today, this week, in a month, a year, or years? Then start taking care of everything that can be handled the fastest without adding anything to make life anymore stressful than it already is. Perhaps it might even be helpful to just journal how you feel at first before starting this and then taking note of how you feel each day. This way you can see the progress you’re making.

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