People feels stressed in several things they do. We face stressful situations and we stress over different things more often than we can count. Stressing over a situation doesn’t help us with a solution to our problem. It certainly makes matters worse. Talking to people will probably get you the usual response, “You need to find ways to control stress”.
Honestly, that response isn’t wrong. While it is sound advice, knowing how to do that will help us reduce stress. I’ve put together twelve effective ways to keep stress in check. This will work for you whether you’re an entrepreneur starting a new business or a regular employee working in a company, or for that matter if you’re a homemaker or a student.
I do all this everyday and have been doing so for the past one year. One thing that I’ve noticed is that my stress levels have gone down and I’m more productive than what I was a year ago. Read on and get to know the methods I used to control my stress, so you can try it too.
1. Start your day with some exercise
Exercise helps reduce stress is widely known. Exercise improves your physical and mental health. It helps in reducing fatigue and increases concentration and alertness, thus reducing stress. When you exercise endorphins flood your brain, which are natural painkillers. This helps you sleep better and it in turn helps reduce stress.
Start your day with some vigorous exercise and that will help kick start your day. I usually start mine with a two hour cycling session. This helps me set the pace for rest of the day.
2. Reach your workplace 10 mins before the start time
I like to be at my desk 10 mins before I’m scheduled to start my day. This gives me a ten minute head start to my day. This is when I like to set goals for the day, prepare myself for another day of work and calm my mind before I start my day.
I consider these ten minutes to be crucial as it helps me gather my thoughts and get into work-mode.
If you have a home office, like I do, be at your designated work desk ten minutes before your start time. If your couch is your preferred work area, then sit there and take ten minutes to gather your thoughts before you begin. This will help you increase productivity.
3. Organize your desk
When I reach my desk ten minutes before I start, I basically organize myself. So, as soon as I reach my desk, I clear it, organize all the things on it and generally make it look uncluttered, neat and tidy. This helps me focus on my task at hand and not distract myself with unnecessary things around me.
Some believe clutter to be a “physical manifestation of stress”. If your desk is unrecognizable under the pile of papers, then you definitely need to organize your desk. Keep whatever you use most frequently on your desk. My desk has a bottle of water, a laptop and a keyboard. When I do glance around my desk, I feel a sense of satisfaction that everything is neatly kept where it should be and this helps me concentrate on my work better.
4. Make a to-do list
Every morning, before starting your work, make a to-do list. This will reflect the tasks for the day. As you finish each task mark it as done. The way you mark it, should stand out. For example, I usually make a check mark against the task on the left side margin with a green marker. I always associate green with ‘good-to-go’ or ‘ready’ and it gives me a positive feeling. You can do something else as well, for example, write “Done” against the task or strike it out. Whatever you do, use a colored marker
How does it help reduce stress, you ask? Every time I glance at the list, I feel relieved when I see the tasks that I have finished during the day. This sense of relief helps me reduce my level of stress. This is how it will help you too.
5. Rank your tasks for the day
When you try and do all the things that you need done or want done, it often leads to build up of stress. This is mainly because there is no clear priority on what is urgent and what is important. This kind of categorization is important to know what to do first and what to spend more time on.
There is an interesting article on prioritizing time to control stress on WebMD. The article says that you should rank your tasks in four categories, which are Important & Urgent, Important but not Urgent, Not Important but Urgent, Not Important & Not Urgent.
I’m sure you’re trying to figure out what important and urgent tasks are. Important tasks are tasks you want to do. These tasks hold some meaning for you, like listening to music or spending time with friends and family. Urgent tasks are not meaningful to you, but you have to do them anyway. For example, like turning off the heat under a boiling pot of water.
Every morning when you make your to-do list, categorize your tasks according to these categories. That way you’ll know what to spend time on and what to finish off first. This will help you control your stress, when at the end of the day you see your progress and find that you’ve accomplished a lot.
6. Take deep breaths when you feel overwhelmed
Are you feeling tense or overwhelmed? When you feel like that, stop whatever you’re doing for five minutes. Take long deep breaths. This will help clear your head and calm your nerves. Inhale for five seconds, hold your breath and then exhale for five seconds. Repeat this exercise at least five times.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed with work or a situation, I always do this and it works for me.
7. Get rid of your distractions
How many times have you been concentrating on your work only to have your concentration broken by a phone call or a text message? Let me guess, more than you can count, right?
Continual interruptions when you are concentrating on something also causes stress. How does one switch off from such distractions? I put my phone on the ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode and I do not get notified of any messages, emails, phone calls etc. I skim through the notifications, whenever I take a short break and reply to those that are urgent.
You can also subtly ‘train’ people on when to reach you and how to reach you when you are at work. For example, I usually reply to emails during the last hour of my workday. All the calls I missed during my work hours, I call back during my lunch time. When I keep doing this regularly, people will get used to my reply patterns and begin to work around the times most convenient to me. This is also an effective method to control stress.
8. Take care of one thing at one time
This is a continuation to prioritizing your tasks for controlling stress. It is a bad idea to start multiply things at once. That leads to more unfinished tasks, which leads to more stress at the end of the day.
9. Take regular breaks
For every 55 minutes of work, take a 5 minutes break. I follow this because this helps me relax. I use those 5 minutes to stretch my legs walk around, just to keep my active and not chained to a chair all day long. When the 5 minutes are over, I am able to work with good concentration for the next 55 minutes. This is again one of the many ways to control stress.
10. Eat right and drink plenty of water
Eating the right kinds of food and drinking plenty of water during the day can keep us focussed and reduce the stress on our system. Sharon Melnick feels it is better to eat a high-protein and low carbohydrate diet in an article on reducing stress. “Eating badly will stress your system”, says Melnick.
Water helps in digestion and other metabolic functions. When we drink plenty of water we remain alert and will not feel fatigued. My GP’s advice is to drink three to three and a half litres of water. I didn’t think much of it when he told me. I still did what he asked me. After a couple of weeks of following his advice, I was more attentive during the day and I had more energy for the day.
Being active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram aren’t counted as socializing. Go out to meet with your old pals, grab couple of pints of beer with them. Go out with family for dinner or lunch. Interact with them and spend time with them. This will help in reducing your stress. This is also one of the most effective ways to control stress.
I make it a point to go with friends and/or family somewhere to relax, every weekend. Last week I watched a movie and this weekend, I plan to catch up with a couple of my pals from University.
12. Sleep well
Sleep is important for our body to relax. A good sleep rejuvenates us and makes us ready for another power packed day full of energy and focus. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, not getting enough sleep increases stress hormones. When we don’t get 8 hours of sleep, we will be more stressed the following day, only because we aren’t well rested. A good sleep will also help us be in a good mood.
I always make sure that I get 8 hours of sleep. I sleep early, even if it means that I have to be in bed by 9PM, I make sure that I get my 8 hours of sleep. It helps with my concentration and focus for the next day.
My Final Thoughts on Ways to Control Stress
There you go. I’ve written down how I control stress everyday. After a couple of weeks of doing all this without fail, it becomes a habit. Slowly, you will start to do all this without thinking about it.
I hope this article has helped you. If you use other ways to control stress, please let me know by commenting below. I look forward to hearing from you! Cheers!