You often see articles on ways to unwind and relax after a stressful day, which I always find useful, but in my opinion the most important advice would be to get to the source of the problem, and cut the stress out before it even happens, which will then help you create a more happy life.
In all honesty, a stress-free life is not possible.
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. It can’t be accomplished overnight — I’ve been eliminating stressors in my life for awhile now, and I’m still not done. But I think it’s a worthwhile goal to have to get you on your way to generally being a more happy being.
Let’s first take a look at an example — it’s a little extreme, but it exemplifies the typical stressors in people’s lives. Let’s say Fred gets up in the morning, waking up late, and now has to rush to get ready. He’s so rushed that he spills his coffee on his shirt and has to change, then nicks himself shaving. He heads out the door and then has to go back in the house because he forgot his wallet. He gets in the car and realizes he forgot his keys.
Now he’s on the way in to work and is in the middle of rush-hour traffic — and his temper starts to flare after someone cuts him off. He’s honking at people, cursing, and arrives to work late and in a bad mood. He snaps at someone and is surly all morning. His desk is covered in piles of paper, and he can’t find that report he needs to work on. His inbox is overflowing and his email notification is going off, and he sees he has 36 messages to respond to. He knows he’s late on two projects and his boss isn’t happy. He’s got to finish 5 tasks before the 11 a.m. meeting, and he’s got meetings all afternoon. His day does not go well and he is clearly not going to be happy.
You get the idea. Again, this is a bit extreme, but you can see through this illustration some of the things that stress people out.
But these sources of stress can be eliminated with a little thought. Here’s how:
IDENTIFY WHAT STRESSES YOU OUT – 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.When you figure out what stresses you out,make a Top 10 list, and see which of them can be eliminated, and start to weed them out. For those that can’t, find ways to make them less stressful.
PROCRASTINATION – We all do this, of course. However, allowing stuff to pile up will stress us out. Find ways to take care of stuff now, keep your work space clear and be more organized.
CONTROLLING – We are not the Master of this Universe. I know we sometimes wish we were, but acting as if we are is a sure way to get stressed out. Trying to control situations and people cannot work, and only serves to increase our anxiety when it doesn’t work. Learn to let go, and accept the way that other people do things, and accept what happens in different situations. The only thing you can control is yourself — work on that before you consider trying to control the world.
ELIMINATE BAD ENERGY/PEOPLE– If you’ve analyzed your life (in Step 1) and found things that stress you out, you might have also noticed things that drain your energy. Certain things or people in our life just cause us to be more exhausted than others, with less value. Identify them, and cut them out. You’ll have much more energy and much less stress.
RELAX TIME – Create more open periods of time in your life. It’s not necessary to schedule every minute of our lives. Learn to avoid meetings, keep wide open blocks of time where we either work on our important tasks or batch process the smaller ones. When someone asks to schedule a meeting, first try to get it done through email or phone … if that doesn’t work, avoid having it scheduled. Ask them to call you and see if you’re free at that time. You will love having an open schedule.
SLOW DOWN – Instead of rushing through life, learn to take things slow. Enjoy your food, enjoy the people around you, enjoy nature. This step alone can save tons of stress.
HELP OTHERS – It may sound contradictory to add more tasks to your life by trying to help other people (you’ve got enough to do), but if you were to add anything to your life, this should be it. Helping others, whether volunteering for a charity organization or just making an effort to be compassionate towards people you meet, not only gives you a very good feeling, it somehow lowers your stress level. Of course, this doesn’t work if you try to control others, or help others in a very rushed and frenetic way — learn to take it easy, enjoy yourself, and let things happen, as you work to make the lives of others better.
QUIT YOUR DAY JOB – This one is drastic, and probably too drastic for most. But in most likelihood, your work is your absolute biggest stressor. Getting out of your 9-to-5, automating your income, and finding something you truly love to do, that you’re passionate about, will create a positive life, make you happy and much less stressed. Give it a little thought before dismissing it.
EAT RIGHT – This goes hand-in-hand with exercise as a stress prevention method, of course. However, I believe that your diet is 10 x more important then working out. By eating healthier, I guarantee that your stress will disappear. Also, I’ve found that most of the foods we believe are okay to eat can actually cause my harm than good. To learn more about eating right, check out my previous article on “The Healing Diet” to make sure your food is not the cause to more stress.
BE GRATEFUL – This might not be as obvious as some of the others, but developing an attitude of gratitude (I sound like a preacher with that rhyme!) is a way of thinking positive, eliminating negative thinking from your life, and thereby reducing stress. Learn to be grateful for what you have, for the people in your life, and see it as a gift. With this sort of outlook on life, stress will go down and happiness will go up. That’s a winning formula for being happy.
If you have any questions or want to know more about a certain health/wellness topic, feel free to let me know!