While you may not be able to solve the biggest stressors in your life, you can do something about many of the smaller stressors that “nickel and dime you to death.” Here are some proven stress reducers you can implement in daily life to help:
- Get up 15 minutes earlier each morning. That gives you a little more time to eat something, run back to get something you forgot, or enjoy a quiet moment with tea or coffee before rushing out the door for work. If you drive to work, a 15 or 20 minute head start may decrease some of the traffic you face, and make the commute less stressful.
- Don’t do something if you will have to lie about it afterwards. While this may seem obvious, the nagging guilt we feel often wears us down or makes us anxious about getting caught… Sure, it may be more time consuming to fax your resume to new job sites from Kinko’s, but you don’t have to worry about being caught.
- Do something healthy for yourself. That could mean picking one day a week to take the stairs all day instead of the elevator, or choosing this week to eat fresh fruit every afternoon instead of a candy bar. What’s the overall effect on your health? Maybe not much, but these small steps lead to bigger ones, and doing something simple for your body is the best way to start.
- Write it down. There is an old Chinese proverb that goes, “The palest ink is better than the most retentive memory.” All those “Seven Secrets” tips are based on writing things down. Write down goals, errands, chores, due dates for projects and library books… Instead of just a “To Do” list, keep a “Have Done” list too. Move things over to that list after having completed them. At the end of the day, review how productive you were.
- Prepare for mishaps. Make extra copies of your home keys and put them in a lockbox on the fence behind your building. Make a second copy of your car key and keep it in your desk drawer. Both may allow you to get home if you lose your keys. If you do have to use them, pat yourself on the back for being smart.
- Do something special on a whim for someone else. Buy flowers for your partner unexpectedly, or make a drawing of something funny and sneak it into your child’s lunch. Bring fruit or muffins to the office for others some morning, and don’t let anyone know it was you who did. Sometimes simply seeing someone else smile is a little moment that can make a bad day better.
- Don’t eat lunch at your desk. Get away to somewhere quiet or different if only for a 15 or 20 minute break. Get up and stretch periodically, or trade shoulder rubs with a coworker (OK… I guess I have to say you should ask permission first). If you used to smoke but have stopped, good for you but you should still get up and take a break when you feel the need to smoke. A quick walk around the office or a short chat with a coworker does give you the break and moment’s respite a cigarette did.
- When setbacks happen, take a moment to think about other setbacks you have faced, especially ones that came out well in the end. Sometimes things are not as bad as they seem at first, and sometimes we simply find the perseverance or strength to keep going and roll right over setbacks. Remember some successes before you let the problem overwhelm you.
- We all have someone in our lives who seems to love drama. Small hurdles are mountains, small injuries are crushing, and small setbacks are existential crises. Disengage from them. Simply step back, listen without judgment, and move on. You don’t have to be drawn into it, or work to reassure them and calm them down.
- Sometimes avoiding the drama is not as easy as that. However, you can always take a moment to think “Who am I, here and now?” In other words, if a stranger were watching the interaction, and their first impression of you was based solely on how you responded in that moment, what would you need to do for them to form a really accurate impression of you as a whole person? Maybe you lose your temper then, as you frequently lose your temper… but maybe you step back and think a moment, as you tend to be a thoughtful person.
- Delegate new responsibilities and say no to additional obligations. Simplify so you can put your best effort into the task you are doing in the moment. If others keep dropping new things in your lap, ask yourself, “Is it really that important?” before you decide to take it on.
- Be willing to forgive others. Remember how embarrassed a mistake can make you feel, and allow them the right to make a mistake and assume they will learn from it. Mark Twain once said, “Never attribute to malice what can easily be attributed to stupidity.” When others do something that makes life harder for you, they might have acted from malice, but more than likely they just didn’t know their actions affected you. This kind of assumption can make it easier for you to forgive them, as well as for you to apologize with genuineness if you do something that makes another’s life harder.
- Perhaps in a related way, my grandmother used to say, “Sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know.” As a teen I thought that was pretty obvious, but as I got older, I thought she meant that “sometimes you just don’t know” what is heading your way, so allow yourself some slack to allow for unexpected setbacks. As I got older, I think what she really meant was everyone “you just don’t know what you don’t know” about people, as they face setbacks and hardships you don’t know about and might never think to ask about. As I got older, I think she meant that this is always true, only sometimes something makes you realize it.