Let’s be honest, there’s no such thing as a stress-free life, and to attempt to achieve one would be both inadvisable and, you guessed it – stressful!
Stress is a response to challenges in life, and a life without challenges is too boring to contemplate.
However, I do believe that most of the stress in our lives is unnecessary and that it can be eliminated by taking some simple (and some not-so-simple) steps.
You can create a beautiful place to relax – your garden for example, and fill it with all the beauty that nature has to offer: Dogwood Trees from The Tree Center, a calming, bubbling water feature, even windchimes, and that might help a bit.
But the best way to tackle stress is to head to the root of the problem and stop it before it takes hold.
Here we take a look at some helpful ideas.
This is the most important step of all, as identifying the things that stress you out in your life is the first step towards eliminating them.
Take 10 minutes to think about what stresses you out during the day.
What weekly occurrences stress you out?
What people, activities, things cause stress in your life?
Make a Top 10 list, and see which of them can be eliminated
Start the day with a calming morning routine.
Do you wake up a little early so you can enjoy some relaxing time to yourself?
Or do you sleep as late as possible and then rush to get everything together for your family or work obligations?
Try setting your alarm a half-hour earlier (which may mean getting to bed earlier as well), suggests McGregor, author of The Tao of Influence: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Leaders and Entrepreneurs (Mango, September 2020, ISBN: 978-1-64250-275-6, $24.95; available for preorder at karenmcgregor.com).
In this bonus time, you can journal, sip a cup of coffee, pray, or meditate.
Also, set a positive intention for the day ahead.
Eliminate unnecessary commitments
We all have many obligations in our lives, starting with work but also including commitments related to kids, our spouses, things to do at home, other family, hobbies, online activities, and more.
Consider each of them, the amount of stress they provide, and the value you get out of them.
Decide what a “calm home” means to you, then express it through your surroundings.
Is it happy, fun, joyful, out-of-the-box, connected, or something else?
Find ways to start bringing that feeling into reality.
“For me, a calm, peaceful home means I have lots of windows to let in the light, white walls, and no clutter,” says McGregor. “I intentionally don’t own a lot of stuff.”
We all do this, of course.
But allowing stuff to pile up will stress us out.
Find ways to take care of stuff now (form a Do It Now habit) and keep your inbox and desk clear
We’re all disorganized to some extent.
Even if we’ve organized something, and created a great system for keeping it that way, things tend to move towards chaos over time.
But disorganization stresses us out, regarding visual clutter, and in making it difficult to find the stuff we need.
Take time to get things in your life organized, starting with your desk and the papers in your home, and moving on to other areas.
In other words, declutter for stress-relief.
A messy space at home contributes to a disorganized and chaotic mind.
But if we can take small steps toward establishing stillness on the outside of us, we can experience more internal peace, wellness, and harmony within.
…and include your thoughts, not just your possessions.
Your home is comprised of “stuff,” and all of that “stuff” contains the energy of your thoughts, says McGregor.
Are you filling your home with stressful thoughts?
And what are you doing that reinforces those thoughts?
Spring cleaning might also mean turning off the news and calling a moratorium on social media.
No question those in your house can feel the energy of your thoughts.
Being late always stresses us out.
We have to rush to get ready, rush to get there, and stress out the whole time about looking bad and being late.
Learn the habit of being early, and this stress disappears.
Make a conscious effort to start getting ready earlier, and to leave earlier.
This also makes driving less stressful.
Instead of rushing through life, learn to take things slow.
Enjoy your food, enjoy the people around you, enjoy nature.
Relax throughout the day
It’s important to take mini-breaks during your workday.
Stop what you’re doing, get up and stretch, walk around, drink some water.
Go outside and appreciate the fresh air and the beautiful sky.
If you’re a parent, practice these tips:
Make time for yourself:
Being a parent isn’t easy and is filled with stressful moments.
No matter how busy you are between work and family, always make time for yourself.
Even just 15 to 20 minutes a day to get quiet and relax can do wonders for your stress level, mental and physical health.
Not only will you feel better, but you’ll also be better at the things you take on and more aligned in your relationships.
Focus on overall wellness:
The importance of exercise, eating right, and taking care of yourself can’t be said enough, especially for parents who lead busy lives.
All of these things have a direct impact on your stress.
If you eat right, get plenty of physical activity, and just take better care of yourself, your mind and body will thank you.
Best of all, you can instill these important values in your kids as they grow up.
Don’t let things fester:
When problems arise, and they will take them on quickly and effectively.
The problem when we procrastinate and put things off is small issues turn into big issues and this drives our stress levels off the charts.
Even if you don’t feel like dealing with something, it’s always better to face it and get it over with rather than keep putting it off and allowing it to bother you and raise your stress.
For parents, that might mean planning out specific tasks that have to get done each day.
Monday might be laundry day.
Tuesday could be a food prep day. Wednesday cleaning day. And so on.
Focus on proper breathing:
The problem with incorrect breathing is it can make you feel even more stressed and worried than you already are. Improper breathing raises CO2 in the body while reducing oxygen consumption which makes us tired, dizzy, and anxious.
The correct way to breathe is slowly in through the stomach area, hold for a few seconds, and then slowly exhale through the lips.
It might take some practice to get used to, but this is definitely something that will significantly reduce your stress.
Get out of the house:
Right now, many parents are feeling stressed out and overwhelmed during the COVID pandemic because they can’t leave the house.
It’s still important to get out each and every day.
You can go for a walk, drive around with no destination in mind while you crank up the tunes, visit a friend or family member while practicing social distancing.
A change of environment is important to reduce stress.
Get the kids involved:
Many parents are stressed out right now with kids home for summer with nothing to do.
Keep your kids busy with educational activities like reading, give them an allowance for taking on chores around the house, and make sure they have enough time playtime each day outdoors.
Happy and healthy kids will make your life much easier and reduce your levels of stress.
Have something to look forward to:
Having something in the future to move toward and look forward to is important to all of us, especially parents who find themselves stressed.
Maybe it’s a vacation or road trip for six months from now.
You can even have something small to look forward to each day like a television show or family dinner.
This puts us in a better frame of mind, reduces stress, and keeps the “feel-good” chemicals pumping in the brain.
Get involved in activities that are inspiring to you.
It doesn’t matter what it is, just get involved in any activity that inspires you.
When you are feeling inspired and into what you are doing, it’s hard to feel stress.
Not only that, but when you are doing something you truly enjoy, your mind is occupied and won’t have time to entertain worry, anxiety, and stress.
Focus on the outcomes, not the struggles.
In almost everything we set out to accomplish, there is stress along the way.
This is true even of positive forces in our lives.
Instead of becoming stressed by the struggles, stay focused on the outcome.
For instance, it’s easy to get flustered when trying to explain a math assignment to your kids.
But remember how great it feels when it finally clicks for them and the sense of achievement it gives both you and them.
Recognize when you need help:
Every parent deals with a certain amount of stress and that is perfectly normal.
But sometimes our stress becomes something bigger indicative of an anxiety disorder or something else.
When you’ve tried to face things on your own and you aren’t feeling better, it’s time to get professional help.
Parents with an insurmountable of stress are doing themselves and their families a favor by getting help.