Think of stress like a sink. Everything goes down the same plughole. Each stressor is a different tap pouring water into it. Your body can not distinguish these types of stress, so we are now looking at adding or changing a few different habits to reduce the amount of overall stress in your life.
Sometimes you can not avoid stress. For me, there’s been a lot of work, assignments and my sleep hasn’t been great lately. There are lots of ways to reduce your stress, however, sometimes there’s nothing you can do at that time to get rid of it. Sometimes all deadlines come in at the same time. So these tips are very much longer term stress management techniques you can start today so when the time comes that you have lots of deadlines or a lot to do, you’re prepared.
Delete your unread emails. There’s no need to have 4,000 unread emails in your inbox. It will over time create stress even when you don’t think it will. You do not need to hoard emails. Once you’ve read an important email, move it to a folder. If the email isn’t important, or it’s spam, delete it. This may take a little while to do, but once you have deleted them all it will be really easy to keep it tidy, 5-10 minutes a day is all it takes.
On a side note, Tim Ferris in the 4 hour work week had the tip of only looking at your emails once or twice a day. I’ve switched to this and feel so much better! I get more done as I’m not spending 5 minutes every time I get an email to respond to it. You will get more work done which will then allow you to be less stressed as everything is getting done. If your work is that urgent and the person really needs you, they can always ring you.
Following on from clearing the inbox. Let’s keep it clear. Unsubscribe from most of the email lists you have joined in the past few years. I used to get 50+ emails a day just from these alone that had nothing to do with the work I was doing. Again, it just creates unnecessary work.
This is also a good way of saving money as these emails will often time send you through “exclusive” offers that you have to claim right then and there. If you are shopping on a website a lot of the time you will be able to search for a discount code or they will even have a section with sale items/discounts.
To Do Lists
This was covered in my productivity guide. Having a to-do list is a good way of avoiding stressful times as you can plan what you’re doing during the day. I find I can get a lot more done and then feel a lot less stressed. You may only need 4-5 things on the to do list but it will drastically cut down on stress.
Clean Your Room
This applies to every room in the house, your office or workplace, your car, everywhere. A clean environment is a clean mind. It has been shown that working on messy environments increases stress and makes you less productive. It’s easy to see why a cluttered office will make a cluttered mind (too hippy?). Have a look at the post in the Huntington Post here.
Reduce Social Media
Using social media excessively has a negative impact on your life. It’s easy to see why. The fear of missing out, jealousy, procrastination. If need be, you can delete all of your apps on your phone. This seems a bit too much for you, however, there are apps you can download that tracks how long you use your phone throughout the day. I’d also recommend to remove people on there who you would not speak to again, then increase your security settings so they won’t bother you.
I’m not saying all social media is bad, but it shouldn’t make you feel worse. I use it way too much personally. I am trying to cut down, however, the first few weeks are by far the hardest are you are trying to break a habit. Start tracking your usage and you will be surprised how long you use your phone or even how often you check your phone each day.
Get Proper Sleep
We all know sleep is important. Reduced sleep increases cortisol (The stress hormone). Cortisol means a higher state of stress. But sleeping is also good for you to increase your mental clarity. Your mood will improve too! If you want to see what I do to get a good nights sleep, have a look at my guide here.
Again, moving into the hippy side of things! 10 minutes a day is all it takes. I find it clears my head, allows me to slow down and think about what I’m doing. But I think the longer term benefits of meditating is that in a stressful situation it allows you to focus back on what you do (slow breathing and relaxing) to refocus your efforts and get back to where you need to be. Headspace is a great place to start. If not there are multiple apps or websites you can use to get going, once you’ve done even a few days it’s easy to take what you’ve learnt to get going.
Your breathing is an amazing tool you can use to slow down and feel less stress in the moment. This article has mostly focused on long-term stress reduction. Box breathing is something you can do right now that will make you feel better. Close your eyes and think about your breathing like the sides of a square. You can do either 4 or 6 seconds a side. 4 seconds breathing in, 4 seconds holding your breath, 4 seconds breathing out and 4 seconds hold without breath. Do this for 5 minutes and you will definitely feel the difference.
Did you know the inhibitor of cortisol is Insulin? That is why when you are stressed out, you crave sugary food. It’s easy to overeat when you are stressed meaning you will increase your calorie intake and you may overeat. Take your time to build these habits and over time you will be able to reduce your overall stress, the aim is to reduce the number of taps pouring water into the sink.
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