Stress is like pollution. It clouds the sun and joy, damages your health and is pervasive. Today’s stress levels are at all time highs, despite all the technology that allows us to do things faster and easier. We still can’t stop thinking about all the things we must do, all the bills to pay, all the emails to read and address. It can often feel like a never ending cycle that is just getting bigger and bigger, like an approaching tornado, threatening to sweep everything off and leave a huge mess behind.
It may sound simplistic to say “don’t let stress affect you” but there are five simple things you can do to make sure stress doesn’t sweep you off your feet. Don’t let stress sweep away your joy!
1. Take care of yourself. Like they say in an airplane: In case of an emergency put on your own mask first before helping others. Why do you suppose they say that? Could it be so you don’t collapse while trying to help others? How many people can you help if you collapse? Just think about that…
Therefore, it’s not an option, but a MUST to take care of yourself first. First things first. Give yourself permission and make time for you.
Simply schedule and block 10-15 minutes per day to do things that make you feel good: savor a cup of tea or coffee, listen to relaxing music, go for a walk, play with your pet, read a book – anything, whatever works for you ;)
2. Simplify. Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler – Albert Einstein.
Do you have these little things that drive you crazy? Like when you’re in a hurry to leave for work, but don’t know what to wear? Do you usually try a few outfits before you find the “winner”? What if you had a smaller closet, but EVERYTHING made you feel like a million dollars? Maybe it’s time to invest some time and eliminate those things that have not been worn for a long time and don’t make you feel good, so you don’t waste any precious time trying them on? If you’re not yet ready to part with these things for good just box and store them away from the rest of your clothes.
How about all the other things? Appliances or other stuff that just annoys you every time you try to use it? Can you eliminate that or at least put it away where it doesn’t bother you?
A cleaner environment makes us feel more at ease, and gives you “room to breathe”. As saying goes “the state of your bed shows the state of your head”. I think it’s not only the bed, but all that surrounds us.
Eliminate or at least hide what you don’t use and keep surfaces as clean as you can. Would you be willing to give this a try?
3. Prioritize. There’s not enough time in the universe to do everything.
Have you heard about the Pareto principle or the “80/20” rule? 20% of work brings 80% of results. What is that 20% for you? Make sure it’s done first so you feel more accomplished. And think - what of that 80% is purely a waste of time? Can you eliminate those activities?
Remember, every time you say “yes” to something, you’re effectively also saying “no” to something else. Most likely the time you would otherwise spend with your friends, family or your pet, or maybe your sleep or your exercise? Is it really worth it?
You don’t have to be rude to say “no”, you can always say something like: “I would love to help, but currently I won’t be able to give enough time and attention for ____ which it deserves, and I don’t want to do it sloppy. I’m sure you will find someone who will be able to do a better job than me in my current situation.” And let’s be honest. It is true. Rather than committing to what we have no time or passion for and still try to help, we might end up disappointing the person who asked for help, maybe even ruin our friendship and the person still might need to ask somebody else to help.
In the case when saying “no” is not an option and it’s your boss, ask him/her prioritize all of your assignments (bring a bullet list of all your assignments and time needed to complete them) and set realistic timelines. Believe me – your boss might be under the same pressure and will look for the best solution; you both will be on “the same page” and have similar expectations. And your boss will see how much work you do (do not expect him/her to remember everything you do as he definitely has her/his own ‘to do” list to remember as well as that of other employees).
4. Plan.Have you ever been too busy driving to stop for gas? I hope you didn’t run out of gas… Talk about stress!
Failing to plan is like planning to fail.
Therefore: plan. You have very important and busy day tomorrow? Plan your outfit in advance, make sure you have enough gas in your car, check if your presentation is ready and easy to find (save it on your desktop if it isn’t too cluttered?). If you’ll be driving to a new location, get the address, input into your smartphone and check how long it takes to get there, allowing for extra traffic.
Automate as many reoccurring payments as you can: i.e. various bills; mortgage, credit cards etc. If you don’t know exact amount you will be billed, pay the average, or a minimum payment. Anything is better than late fees.
You might spend 20, 30 minutes now and it will save you countless hours in the future and less stress. In general, do your best to be more proactive rather than reactive. It will save you from some of very stressful days and you might actually get out as a winner in other situations.
5. Take things in perspective. I know some days or even weeks might feel like a complete disaster, but what is happening now won’t feel the same later. For example, running out of gas might feel like a catastrophe when it happens, but it will be a funny story to tell at a dinner party later.
The relationship drama or mean boss might feel like an endless nightmare now, but the nightmare will end. One way or another, and after it has ended and some time has passed, you might even say you’re happy he/she forced you to reevaluate my priorities and make different choices.
Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
Try to look into situation from the perspective and ask yourself: “What can I learn from this”? Think about it and make yourself a mental note, so in the future you will approach similar situations with more intelligence and experience.
Maybe you’ll find that you should avoid certain situations or people. Maybe you’ll find you have to set better boundaries in a particular relationship. Or maybe you’ll find that you have to prepare for something in advance.
In addition to the 5 simple steps above, keep a list handy of possible things you can do to calm down. Here are some of the things I like best but feel free to create your own list:
Take 3 to 10 deep breaths
Count your blessings (i.e you can walk, you have a roof over your head, you have friends to lean on, etc.)
I know it’s tricky to carve out time from our busy lives, but it’s so worth it! Start with little steps and keep it going. If you’re not working on your dreams, that mean’s you working on someone else’s dreams, and it’s time to put yourself first.