Allowing stress to be a part of your life is a habit many get into, but that doesn’t have to be the reality for you.
Sure, there are times when stress is inevitable, but it’s not okay to live with stress in your life day after day.
The truth is, that stress has disastrous effects on your long-term health, so if you are not already doing something positive to change that, you need to start today.
By carefully ‘editing’ your life and changing how you think, you can eliminate many of those things that totally stress you out.
I’m going to show you exactly how to do that with this 101 guide…
Stress Buster: Mornings
Mornings can be a really stressful time, with everyone rushing about trying to get somewhere for a certain time, as a result it’s very easy for tempers to fray.
However, you can stay the crazy! Here are my top tips:
1. Get enough rest
Your morning will undoubtedly flow a lot easier when everyone gets enough sleep. And, we all know what it’s like to wake up late and have a frantic rush on our hands… fraught!
So for everyone’s sake, establish early bedtime routines and stick to them as much as possible.
(More on this subject below)
2. Make time for breakfast
I’m all for a healthy breakfast. But I know it’s one of those things that gets left out in the rush to leave home in the mornings.
Minimize the chance of that happening by having a breakfast menu plan.
I usually find that offering less choice is best. In my home it’s usually eggs or eggs, or sometimes porridge for the little ones.
That helps me keep it simple, and ensures everyone gets a healthy breakfast to start their day. Also, I am not trying to fix lots of different meals, which is extremely time consuming and adds to the stress of a busy morning.
3. Plan outfits the night before
That last thing you want to be doing on busy mornings is deciding what you’re going to wear.
If you’re anything like me, you could have 5 different outfits on before you leave home in the morning.
That’s no good, because if you get even a little bit off track time-wise you easily start to feel the pressure building.
Avoid this by thinking about what you will wear the night before, and lay everything out in preparation for the morning for yourself and your children.
I know you are tired in the evenings, but establishing the routine of thinking about tomorrow and preparing for it really helps avoid wasting time trying to find misplaced stuff.
You should also check that bags are packed and assignments are done, and have everything is in place, so things are good to go the next morning.
Stress Buster: Commute
Most people spend around 25 minutes each day traveling to work. Over the course of one year that amounts to a significant chunk of your time.
Researchers have found that commuters experience significantly higher levels of stress. Having just experienced the Freeways in California once again, I have no doubt this is the case.
However, not all commuting is created equal, nor does stress have to play a part.
So, how can you make your commute less stressful?
1. Check out traffic reports
Get up early enough to check your local radio station for a traffic report on accidents, routes to avoid, and weather warnings.
This will give you time to think of an alternative route, if necessary.
Just leaving 10 minutes earlier than normal can make a huge difference to your commute.
Try public transport
Driving yourself to work is much more stressful, because you feel more responsible for what happens around you.
So, by taking the bus or train you won’t be so quick to blame yourself for delays, and therefore your journey will be less stressful.
2. Avoid uncertainties
Being unsure of where you are heading is a major stress factor, particularly if you need to be there for a specific time.
If you have an important meeting or interview think about taking a train, bus or taxi to get to your destination, rather than driving yourself there.
Another option is to have a clear idea of how to get where you need to be beforehand.
I usually check out my destination on GoogleMaps using ‘street view.’ That way I can see what the building I need to find looks like before I get there. So helpful!
3. Don’t overreact
Some drivers get extremely annoyed when someone passes them, when someone drives too slowly, or when someone forgets to signal a turn etc.
Is it really worth getting stressed over?
I think not!
4. Enjoy your surroundings
When you feel your stress levels rising, try to focus on something positive.
Look for something natural to captive your imagination, for example the green trees, a nearby river, or the blue sky.
This will really help take your mind off the current stressful situation.
5. Learn a new skill
Research suggests that doing something else while driving can reduce stress… and I’m not talking about applying your makeup here!
So, why not use the time to learn a new language, listen to an educational podcast, or even listen to a novel using audible downloads?
6. Eat a snack
I find driving way more stressful when I’m hungry, so having a snack handy can really help avoid a meltdown for me AND the kids :)
This is just a silly notion either, plummeting blood sugars can be a major cause of increased stress levels.
So keep a supply of dried fruit, nuts and bottled water in your car, just in case.
Stress Buster: Workplace
The workplace is supposed to be made easier by voice mail, fax machines, cell phones and email, however the reality is that all of these things keep us so hooked-up we can easily start to feel like there is no rest from the calls and constant interruptions.
So, what can you do to reduce stress at work? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Keep your desk tidy
This may seem insignificant, but if your desk is in chaos, chances are you’ll find it difficult to complete even the simplest of tasks, and a cluttered space can make your mind cluttered, too.
However, having a tidy desk will help you work more efficiently, because you’ll know where everything is.
Take a few minutes at the end of each day to file and tidy up. This will help you to be in a much better frame of mind when you get into work the following day.
2. Delegate tasks
Sometimes we simply have more work than we can handle, but there really is no shame in asking for help.
One of the easiest ways to reduce your work stress and be happier at work is to delegate a few of your smaller tasks to others.
Try making a list of everything you do in one day, then decide what you can tackle personally, and what you can allow others to do for you.
With fewer things to clutter up your day you’ll be better able to concentrate on the more important parts of your job.
3. Control interruptions
It can be really nice to receive an email from a friend to break the monotony of the day, but it’s easy to get distracted from your work, and while it’s pretty much impossible to eliminate all interruptions, you should do your best to control them.
Try setting aside blocks of time where you don’t allow yourself to check email, take calls, go onto Facebook, or see clients.
This way, you can complete your work with fewer interruptions, and as a result get more done is less time.
4. Get some fresh air
Sitting at your desk constantly throughout the day, and particularly throughout your lunch break, is a surefire way to make your stress levels higher than normal.
Instead, establish a habit of going outside on your lunch break for a brisk walk.
Trust me, those 10 minutes will make all the difference to how you feel in the afternoon.
If you find this difficult, you need to begin treating your lunch break like any other meeting by putting it into your daily planner.
You’ll be surprised by how much your productivity increases by just knowing that you need to finish your work for a specified time.
5. Keep healthy treats in your desk
Eating unhealthy food at work can quickly sabotage an otherwise healthy diet.
Try keeping some whole nuts, raw veg, or fresh fruit at your desk to snack on throughout the day.
This will give you the energy you need, and prevent unhealthy highs and lows in your blood sugar levels, which can lead to stress.
6. Work around your energy levels
If you usually get the post-lunch slump don’t schedule important meetings, or your most difficult tasks at this time of day.
Instead, work with your body’s natural energy highs.
This will help you to be more productive, and reduce the amount of stress you feel at work, because you’re not fighting against your body, you’re working with it.
If you are consistently low on energy following your lunch break, think about what you’ve been eating, as this may be the cause, and is something you can fix by changing your diet.
7. Set daily goals
It’s easier to cope with a large workload if you take it one step at a time.
I find this helps to keep me focused on what I want to achieve, since I know what I am working towards, otherwise I can easily wind up at the end of the week with very little achieved.
8. Use positive language
Rather than saying, “I just can’t handle this!” try, “I can tackle this one step at a time.”
Also, when you find yourself in a stressful situation, think of it as a challenge you can get through and grow as a result of, rather than something to be stressed over.
Stress Buster: At Home
Making your home a haven of stress free bliss is really important. And, there are several ways you can make sure your home lift your spirits, reduces anxiety, and invites a more restful nights sleep.
1. Home decor
Get rid of anything you don’t really need.
The less you have to dust, walk around, or move, the less stressful your home will be.
Utilizing the space you have, and getting rid of extra stuff around the house will help to make things more accessible, reducing time and stressful situations.
Color will also have an impact on how you feel, so when you decorate take that into consideration. Light to medium colors are easy on the eye, and brings a sense of calm.
2. Don’t watch TV in the bedroom
A big no-no is to have a television in your bedroom.
Just watching the news can be stressful, and can bring on anxious thoughts. Not only that, but it also makes you more likely to stay up longer.
So, allow your bedroom to be the place of restful peace it should be by leaving your TV in another room.
3. In the kitchen
When arranging things in your kitchen make sure to keep all cooking utensils, spices, pots and pans, and any other cooking necessities close to hand.
You want to make cooking as easy as possible, so rummaging around the kitchen looking for things as you cook is not only tiresome, but can become stressful, and makes cooking unenjoyable.
If you have children, try to keep their toys out of the kitchen area so that you are not tripping over a toy truck while carrying a hot pan to the sink.
Useful Tactics For Busting Stress
1. Breathe it out
I know in the heat of the moment, stopping to ‘breathe’ may seem unlikely.
But remember, this is something you need to work on and practice, it won’t necessarily come easily at first, but with time you can master the habit of taking a time out to breathe and compose yourself.
Deep breathing helps to ease tension, causing you to feel more relaxed almost instantly.
Try closing your eyes and inhale slowly through your nose, hold the breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly.
Visualizing a relaxing scene, such as watching a beautiful sunset, or walking on the beach, can also add to the feeling of calm.
2. Count to 10
Along the same lines as above, but stopping yourself from reacting negatively to a stressful situation will help you to avoid that feeling of regret, which ultimately makes the whole situation worse that it needs to be.
Instead, take a few moments to step back and count to 10, gather your thoughts, take a few deep breaths, and then carry on.
Stretching is another simple and effective way of de-stressing your entire body, and it only takes a few minutes:
- Move your head from one side to the other, and also up and down.
- Shrug your shoulders up toward your ears, and then relax.
- Bring your arms high above your head and reach alternately toward the sky, then drop your arms and reach towards the floor.
- Try the “child pose.” Kneel down on the floor, sit back on your heels, then lean your body forward, putting your forehead on the floor with your arms alongside your legs, palms up. Hold there for a few moments, concentrating on your breathing.
4. Write about it
You know that worrying continually about something is not healthy, so a good way to control that is to restrict yourself to a half hour each day when you allow yourself to be immersed in thought about whatever is troubling you.
During this time you can write down your concerns, and evaluate them as you do so.
The key to making this work, is to keep your mind clear of these thoughts throughout the rest of the day.
This will really help reduce the amount of time you spend each day worrying unnecessarily.
5. Get enough sleep
Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep is a massive contributor to your stress levels.
But by simply getting enough rest, you will dramatically change how you feel and react to stressful situations, and it will help you to avoid the detrimental effects on your health.
To create a healthy sleep routine, here are some tips:
- Create a regular schedule by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, including weekends.
- Get optimum sleep every night – an average of 8 hours is recommended.
- Aim for sleep in one continuous block, if possible. This way your body receives better mental recovery, and this facilitates your body reaching a deeper sleep cycle.
- If you are still struggling after trying these tips talk to your doctor as soon as possible, it really is too important to ignore.
6. Smile… even if you don’t mean it!
While that may seem strange, smiling instantly gives you a lift making you feel more relaxed and happy, and it helps to relieve some of the stressful tension.
The amazing thing is it works even if you don’t mean it, but you do need to use your mouth, cheeks and eyes for the full effect.
7. Talk about it
There’s much wisdom in the saying, “a problem shared, is a problem halved.”
Unloading your burdens to a listening hear will help you gain perspective on the situation, and very often a problem doesn’t seem so big when we talk about it openly and get a friend’s feedback on things.
8. Be grateful
This might not be as obvious as some of the others, but developing an attitude of gratitude is a way of thinking positive, eliminating negative thinking from your life, and thereby reducing stress.
Learn to be grateful for what you have, your current situation, for the people in your life.
With this sort of outlook on life, stress will go down and happiness will go up. That’s a winning formula.
9. Eat a healthy diet
This really goes without saying, but if you don’t eat well you feel tired, irritable and sluggish, this all adds to the feeling of stress when things get tough.
Eat a healthy diet, and you will be able to cope much better than you do right now.
Here’s a quick guide:
- Have breakfast that is more protein rich, as opposed to carb rich.
- Drink lots of water.
- Plenty of fresh fruits and veg each day, i.e. 1-2 fruits, and 5+ vegetables.
- Avoid packaged foods that are high in trans fat, salt and sugar.
- Favor freshly prepared meals most of the time.
- For specific help on what to eat, join my coaching program here.
10. Make exercise a priority
While I totally understand that making time to exercise can seem totally undoable when you are busy, I cannot emphasize enough how effective having a regular exercise plan will be in helping you manage stress.
Exercise releases endorphins which elevate your mood, it also gives you an energy boost, and it helps to regular your sleep pattern.
If you exercise outside you will also have the added benefit of natural surroundings to further trigger your relaxation responses, and in summer boost your vitamin D levels, too.
If you’re stuck for time, I recommend high intensity workouts as an essential component of your stress busting toolkit, in the fastest time possible.
Finally, when you feel stressful thoughts coming into your mind, ask yourself, “Are these negative thoughts helping me in any way?”
This is a good way of re-focusing your mind on what is really important.
What are your stress buster tips?