Being stressed is one of the surest ways to reduce your enjoyment of life and to put your health at risk. Unfortunately, in this day and age we constantly seem to be rushing and constantly seem to be in-demand, which leaves too many of us in a constant state of stress.
But it’s important that we don’t kid ourselves into thinking that this is alright or ‘normal’ – or that stress is just an unavoidable part of modern life. In fact, stress is a serious and very dangerous problem that can and must be addressed. There are things you can do to make sure that you aren’t dealing with more stress than necessary, so read on to discover what those are and to start enjoying life again.
Limit Your Decision Making
One of the things that causes us a surprising amount of stress is the constant need to make decisions. A growing number of ‘thought leaders’ across the web are of the belief that we have a set ‘budget’ when it comes to making decisions and that each one we make taxes our energy levels.
In other words then, if you spend ages choosing what to wear in the morning, or deciding what to eat, then you’ll find you’re less able to handle the more important decisions that you’re forced to make at work. ‘The paradox of choice’ can sometimes lead us to making worse decisions or to putting off making them at all.
One of the best ways to reduce stress then is to avoid the number of choices you have to make in a day – which is allegedly why Steve Jobs always wore the same outfit. What can also help is to limit the amount of time you have to make each decision or to limit the number of options you have. If you’re wedding planning for instance, limit the number of cake makers you can look at to only three. Research also suggests that limiting your choices this way will also mean you end up being happier with your choice afterwards.
One of the biggest sources of stress for many of us is that our house never seems to be tidy. If you come home from work after a long, stressful day only to find that the living room is covered in dirty plates and crumpled up clothes then chances are that you’ll be unable to relax as you should.
The solution is to embrace the virtues of minimalism. This means keeping less clutter so it is easier to clean everything and so you can more easily keep track of everything you own. The same goes for other areas of your life too – a minimalist garden is easier to maintain, while fewer icons on your desktop can also help you to feel less stressed.
Turn Your Phone Off
Our smartphones are great devices in many ways but when it comes to stress, they’re a serious burden. The problem with smartphones is that they mean we’re constantly at everyone’s beck and call – resulting in constant interruptions by employers, clients, landlords and Facebook, all of which make us stressed out. Meanwhile, the bright light of a phone screen can increase levels of cortisol. Learn to switch off your phone in the evenings when you’re trying to relax and force yourself to accept that the world isn’t going to end if you don’t answer an e-mail for 24 hours…
Learn to Say No
One of the biggest reasons that many of us live with chronic stress is that we have no time to catch up with chores or just to recuperate. This means we’re constantly playing catch-up and never getting to rest. The solution is just to learn to say ‘no’ sometimes. Don’t be so driven to keep everyone happy that you accept every invitation to go out or that you accept every request from your employer to stay behind and put in extra hours at work. In other words, learn how to say ‘no’ and to prioritize your ‘me’ time a bit.
Have Things to Look Forward To
Me time doesn’t work if all you’re going to do is watch trashy TV or stew in your own juices. If you want to recover from all the stress of life, then you need to have something that you’re genuinely looking forward to doing and that can really take your mind off of all your problems. If you don’t already have some constructive hobbies, then try adopting some. Meanwhile, think about books you want to read, games you want to play and places you want to visit. Try keeping a list too, so that when you do get free time, you aren’t stuck trying to think of what it was you wanted to do.
Some say that a lack of time is actually a lack of priorities. Once you learn to prioritize what is most important in any given situation, you will then be able to reduce stress by narrowing down your to-do list to only the most ‘important’ things. Likewise, by deciding what definitely isn’t important, you can then prevent yourself from worrying unnecessarily about things that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
Stop and Smell the Roses
A lot of stress is caused by ruminating over problems that are affecting you rather than living in the now and just enjoying taking everything in. When we daydream, or worry, we are activating our ‘default mode network’ which basically means our brain is turning in on itself. Instead, take a moment to actively remind yourself to breathe and relax and to look around and just enjoy where you are, or just enjoy that tea and biscuit. Even if you only have five minutes to yourself in a day, just tell yourself to enjoy those five minutes and to think about nothing else for that short amount of time. This is one of the best ways to reduce stress in the short term and is a fantastic habit to get into for developing general mental hardiness.
Give Yourself a Fighting Chance
Depending on your health, your energy levels and your mood, your reaction to stress is going to vary. As such then, you should make sure that you give yourself the best chance possible of dealing healthily with stress and that means exercising regularly, getting lots of sleep, eating a balanced diet full of nutrients and drinking lots of water. Laugh regularly, build a supportive network of friends and generally ensure that you’re looking after yourself. This way, when something bad does happen, you’ll be better prepared to cope with it. You never know what’s just around the corner, so don’t pile on the stress and make yourself ill.