Stress: The killer. Not a friend. Not an enemy. But, perhaps, a ‘frienemy’.
Whilst the very idea of stress might make your stomach pulse with a sense of dread – stress can, at times, be a very beneficial human emotion. Not only can stress spur motivation, but it also ignites our bodies’ natural instincts for survival during detrimental times (such as breathing faster and a quicker pulse). However, daily stress can be dangerous and severely impact our long-term health, both physically and mentally.
Many of us wrongly accept day-to-day stress as routinely factor of our lives, whether we realise it or not. We shorten our sleep; rush to work; fight multiple deadlines at once; eat meals quickly… All with the goal of ‘getting as much done as possible’ in one day. This, as you may guess, is a strategy with little positive outcome. With this attitude, no matter how much we complete today, we will wake up tomorrow with the same over-packed schedule and anxious mindset.
However, there are a few simple steps that we can take to help relieve routinely stress. And, ultimately, live a calmer life.
1. ACCEPT YOUR LIMITATIONS
This is the first (and most important) step to freeing yourself from unnecessary stress. Let me ask you: How many times have you made a check-list of, “Things To Do Today”, but only complete half of this list by the end of the day? Whilst your intentions may be well, you are setting yourself up for failure. Which will, in turn, make you feel more anxious and disheartened – because you have not done as much as you intended. Rather, try to set yourself one or two, “Goals Of The Day”; you’ll find yourself feeling less stressed, and will likely complete these goals to a higher standard. In other words, it’s best to accept that you cannot accomplish everything. Instead, it is better to accomplish fewer tasks in your day-to-day life, and to do this to the best quality.
2. STOP MULTITASKING
This is, and should be, a natural extension from step one. Whilst, for many, the ability of multitasking may seem an admirable trait – it is also a huge gateway for stress. Trying to juggle everything-all-at-once is a huge anxiety trigger, and you’ll inevitably get less done this way. As hard as it can be: Try to focus your attention on one goal at a time (yes, without common distractions like smartphones and social media). My Dad once described this mentality to me as ‘the brick wall’ approach… Try to imagine a wall of bricks in front of you. This symbolises the end-product of what it is you want to accomplish. It may be a college essay, a wardrobe clear-out, or a work assignment. Instead of trying to tackle the whole wall at once, simply lay one ‘brick’ at a time. In short, section every larger goal into smaller tasks – and complete one task at a time. You’ll eventually find this to be the most productive, and stress-less, method of achieving something.
3. DON’T RUSH – SLOW DOWN
An easy-paced mentality is another very healthy life approach. Trust me, I know. I was once that girl that was constantly rushing through everything. Whether it was driving to get to work on time, getting ready for an event quickly, or even finishing my lunch. I always felt time-restricted, and that I needed to do things quickly. And (you guessed it) I was very anxious during this time of my life. My advice? Take things slower. Try to wake up 10 minutes earlier in the morning, so that you’ll not rush to get ready and can travel comfortably to work or school. Leave a little space and time between each task that you do, so that you’re not feeling anxious. You’ll soon become much more relaxed, and you’ll find more pleasure in these simple daily tasks that you had before.
4. EAT WELL, SLEEP WELL
It’s true that your basic physical health has a huge impact on your psychology. By having a healthier lifestyle, you’ll more-than-likely be improving the health of your mind. The most important two things to keep maintain are what you eat and the way you sleep. A clean and balanced diet, filled with vitamin-enriched fruits and high-fibre vegetables, will make you feel less groggy and have more energy. The same applies to a healthy sleep pattern. Whilst many claim that a six-hour sleep is all they need everyday, they’ll reach a point where they’re feeling devitalised and burnt-out. Every adult should sleep between 8-10 hours every night. Alongside this, I would recommend going to bed before midnight (at the latest) and waking up early in the day. Lying-in until noon, and going to bed in the early hours, is proven to have a significantly negative impact on your mood. Try to maintain a healthy diet and sleep-pattern; you’ll soon find yourself feeling happier and calmer.
5. MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF
The best thing to do, at times, is to do nothing at all. I’ve known some people who say that they are, “a person who constantly needs to be doing something” and “can’t abide doing nothing”. When I was younger, I would look-up to these people and their admire their attitude. But one day I realised: these were the most stressed-out people that I knew. They were the kind that stayed at work late, were up all night doing their homework, and made little time for personal recreation. Whilst it’s definitely better to have more things to do every day than to have nothing to do at all, there is a healthy medium that should be reached. My Mum once said to me, “The key to everything in life is moderation“. The day I decided to stop over-filling my diary with things to do or places to go, was the day I learned to enjoy life more. I’m now a less stressed and anxious person than what I was three years ago – and I’ve never been happier.
You can do anything… But not everything.