Twelve Easy Steps to Less Stress

Life, like anything of value, isn’t free, and stress is part of the price we pay for living. But stress isn’t always unhealthy; it can be a signal that you’re accomplishing productive and important things—your career, raising kids, or enjoying life to its fullest. But no matter how you look at it, stress is here to stay.

So, in most cases, the challenge isn’t to get rid of stress, but simply to manage it. Here are a few tips to help you control the everyday stress in your life.

1. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

Think before you say ‘yes.’ You’re not doing anyone any favors if you rush to say ‘yes’ just so you can feel nice. Say ‘no’ when you know you’re unable or unwilling to do something. You’re not obligated to do what someone asks, merely because they asked. Nice people tell the truth and don’t mislead others by saying they’ll do something they have no intention of doing. Be true to yourself FIRST. 

2. Take deep breaths throughout the day.

You can do this privately and without any special lessons. Simply take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and then release. Repeat as necessary. You’ll be amazed at the relaxation and calm that the influx of extra oxygen can produce. A pause for deep breathing can remind you of the importance of living in the moment, even as you pursue your day-to-day goals and responsibilities.

3. Set realistic expectations.

Most stress comes from within your own mind. Expecting yourself to do more than you can possibly do will bring on unnecessary anxiety. Allow yourself time and energy for unexpected events.

4. Strive for excellence and competence, not infallibility.

Competent people make mistakes all the time. They recover from them, learn from them, and then move on. Depressed, anxious (and, therefore, overly stressed) people fume about their mistakes. It’s a waste of valuable time and energy.

5. Don’t constantly try to prove yourself, or show others you’re right.

YOUR view of yourself and YOUR understanding of reality are what count the most. It’s hard enough to do things right for yourself and those important to you, so don’t worry about what everyone else thinks. They aren’t paying attention nearly as much as you might imagine. They have their own lives and their own problems to keep them busy.

6. Take a break.

Even a 10-minute walk can help. Smokers have it right—not the smoking part, of course—but the few minutes away from the office or the normal activity can break the routine and clear the mind.

7. Don’t let issues or resentments build.

Handle them while they are still small and easy to deal with rationally. Ask yourself: ‘If the situation were reversed, how would I want to be told that someone resents something I did?’ Then say it that way. It’s not nearly as hard as you think. It is true you have to just let some things go, but you don’t have to let everything go.

8. Prioritize: do the most important things first.

You have the right to pick your fights. You are entitled to decide which people and activities are more important than others. And don’t feel guilty about it! If you don’t prioritize, your life will become more stressful and that doesn’t help anybody. You don’t have to be a martyr, and others don’t have to be your servants.

9. How you think determines how you’ll feel.

Strive for realistic optimism. Hope for the best, expect the best—and always have a back-up plan in place just in case things don’t work out as expected.

10. Allow yourself extra time when going to appointments or work.

It’s a win-win. If there’s an unexpected delay, you’ll still be on time. If there isn’t, you can take life a little slower. Give yourself buffer time. Maybe you’ll get a little less done, but you will be more calm, collected and less stressed. What’s wrong with that?

11. Treat those you love well.

Respecting those you value is a form of self-respect. Think about this one for a minute: You chose your marital partner, and you chose the other important relationships in your life. If you treat these people poorly, or take them for granted, what does that say about your attitude towards yourself and your choices?

12. Exercise frequently.

Regular exercise, based on your doctor’s recommendations, doesn’t need to be elaborate. Even a daily walk can do wonders for your mind. The whole ‘endorphins’ thing is true and really works. The feelings of composure and well being brought on by exercise will help you clear your mind, detach for a while, and think about everything I’ve just suggested.