I have a few bad habits that can easily increase my stress levels, and a large part of managing my emotional and mental well-being is in dealing with these bad habits and other things, that add stress to what could otherwise be a relatively simple existence.
Stress complicates stuff and tears our attention away from the truly important, to the things we have allowed to become problematic.
Life is complicated, and plenty times my stress-management plans become derailed. But just being aware of these strategies means I build into my thinking a habit of looking for ways to reduce stress. Not by being lazy – by being purposeful about it. Working hard to be stress free is not a contradiction in terms. They actually go together quite nicely.
Here is my basic list of stress management ideas:
- Stop procrastinating on the big stuff. There is nothing more satisfying and stress relieving than crossing something big off the to-do list. And its important to stop the important stuff from becoming urgent as well. Often getting to this stuff requires planning and prioritizing, so
- Plan your time better. Deliberately build in buffer zones for unexpected things. My wife usually under-estimates the time it takes to get things done. She often stresses about punctuality. I have big buffer zones. I don’t. I am willing to get up earlier, and rush a routine, to create a buffer zone. (with 4 kids, the unexpected is kind of to be expected!)
- Make time for connecting, even – especially – in a crisis. Tasks and to-do lists are NEVER more important than the people you are with. Staying connected and not task oriented, keeps things in perspective. A hug takes 10 seconds, a friendly greeting and a smile even less, and a touch in passing, just an instant. But the reward in positive, caring strong relationships means that when the chips are down, people will assume the best and help you through.
- Do something generous for someone. Doing things like that is a big part of us feeling good about ourselves, and it’s a great feeling to have a positive emotional bank balance.
- Of course, exercise. I dislike gym and running, but I love working in the garden or building stuff. Real effort makes us tired and sore, but it’s a good tired and a good sore.
- If someone is being incessantly negative, get rid of them. Unless it’s your spouse or kid, then see below.
- If your close relationships are stressful, be the first to give up your right to be right. Take up the responsibility and the privilege of being connected and in tune with the other person. Use the breathing space that creates to step back and figure out how to deal with the problem.
- Make sure the components of a relationship are in balance. Amongst other things, marriages need quality time, genuine caring, humour, doing your bit round the house, conversations, and yes, sex. If any one of these is out of balance, it puts pressure on the relationship.