With a million things vying for your attention, daily stress levels tend to soar through the roof. And so, I did some research and trialled a few strategies to lower daily stress levels. Below I’ve included the Top 5 that I found helped me the most.
1. Schedule in a monthly “Decluttering Session”
Now it’s very unlikely that I need to spout the benefits of decluttering. With society’s obsession with Marie Kondo’s growing popularity (#KonMari), but the necessity of this cannot be overstated.
Way back before Marie Kondo had her bestselling book and her Netflix show, there was my mum. Now she might not have had her own bestselling book or a hashtag to describe her methods. But, my mum would always tell me:
How you are on the inside will reflect how you are on the outside.
And no, that’s not some backward advice about needing to look good on the outside to feel good on the inside! She literally meant that if I was messy on the outside, I would be messy on the inside too. Now of course, as a 10 year old, I dismissed it as an excuse for me to clean my room. Why in the world did my space need to be tidy for me to write a few hundred words?
It was only during high school that I really understood the value of what she was trying to teach me. Not only can clutter take up physical space that you might need for work-related stuff, but it’s also incredibly distracting. Back in the day, I would find any excuse to stop working. Even if it meant sharpening stray pencils on my desk or flipping through old magazines. I could easily pass 20 minutes at what felt like the blink of an eye only to need another 10 minutes to “get back into the zone”.
Before you know it, half an hour has gone by with little to show for it.
Scheduling in time to do your decluttering also makes it less likely that you’ll use it as an excuse to get out of doing work later on. I don’t know about you, but the amount of times that I’ve convinced myself that it’s necessary to do my cleaning right then and there and then end up going through old stuff and reminiscing is insane. And while it’s fun to look back on old things and it’s completely necessary to schedule in some time to clean, doing it when you’ve already allocated time to important work means you still feel just as mentally drained however there has been little to no meaningful work done.
2. Utilise the Do Not Disturb function on your technology
I am SO guilty of picking up my phone just randomly to check for new notifications. Yes, even when it hasn’t lit up or made any noise. When it does, I find myself losing focus in the present moment to think about what might have popped up. Even if I don’t check it straight away, just knowing that there is something to be checked puts me slightly on edge.
I thought that it was just me, but a quick Google search brought up an article published in 2017 by ABC News which made me feel both relieved and worried. Relieved to know I’m not alone; worried about the world’s anxiety levels.
This article, which you can read here mentions research completed by a Dr. Cheever. She suggests that we’re getting stuck in a loop. Using our phones puts us in a “persistent state of anxiety”. The kicker is that we can only relieve the anxiety by looking at our phones. She states that, from her research, most people experience an emotional response that:
“…floods their body with stress hormones when they hear their phone go off”.
If you have a spare minute, skim through the article to see what kind of experiments she did. It was definitely eye-opening for me.
A great tip that you can utilise right now to lower your daily stress levels is to find ways you can lower your phone usage. Charge your phone away from your bed so you don’t get tempted to mindlessly scroll when you’re trying to sleep. Stick it in your bag when you’re with friends so that you can enjoy the present moment. I’ve actually tried this and, once you get used to it, it’s actually not that difficult to do.
It feels super necessary to be constantly checking your phone at first. However, I highly recommend pushing through that slight discomfort. Trust me, you’ll be better for it.
3. Set up reminders on your phone for important things you need to remember
“The mental load means always having to remember”
This comic brilliantly captured this burden on the mind that many mothers feel. However being affected by the mental load isn’t something that’s restricted to just mothers, or parents for that matter. With the world being so much more switched on and attuned to stimulation, the number of things that we need to remember or want to go back to increases like crazy.
Now you may be the kind of person that says:
“Oh yeah, I need to remember that, and I’ll totally remember it later so there’s no need to write it down”.
And you might actually remember it! If that’s you, and this system works for you, then don’t let me tell you stop. But I do know SO many people who say this works for them, or are too lazy to write it down when it comes to mind, so they find themselves scrambling to buy something they need the next day to get to the shops before they close, or they’re left wracking their brain to remember that really important thing that they knew they had to do.
I truly believe that the mental load severely increases our daily stress. And so, if you’re looking for an easy way to lower your daily stress levels, I’d highly recommend utilising a system to take down your thoughts immediately, rather than trusting yourself to just remember.
You could use the Notes or Reminders applications on a phone or laptop, send yourself a text message or email, or go old school and carry around a notebook to write these things down (just an FYI, I do ALL of those). It places less stress on your brain to remember these things. That way, you can use your brain power to solve life’s bigger problems rather than using it to remember to email your boss or pick up milk on the way home.
4. Build a healthy relationship with the word “no”
It was only until very recently (and I mean less than a year recently) that I had the big slap-in-the-face moment where I realised how my inability to recognise when I’ve taken on too much was affecting my whole life.
Whether it was an unhealthy people-pleaser mentality or an unhealthy view that saying “no” would make me lesser, one thing was for sure – it was unhealthy. In a number of situations I found myself wanting to say yes because I didn’t want people to think that I was saying no because I couldn’t do it, or because they weren’t important to me. I was consumed with the way that saying no would make me appear lesser in the eyes of those around me.
And so, I’d keep saying yes. I’d take on more responsibility and add more to my already-bursting calendar because I wanted to show that I could(in my professional life) and that I cared(in my personal life). Now the problem with this was not that I wasn’t capable of doing all of this, because on the outside it looked like I could do it andI could do more. The problem was it was causing unbelievable strain on my mental and spiritual health. I stopped going to the gym. Reading took a back seat because my brain just couldn’t take it. I would find myself struggling to fall asleep and struggling to wake up. I was stuck in a loop of low energy and high expectations.
It was an illuminating conversation with my 11-year-old brother that made me realise something.
I was the only one who thought lesser of me when I didn’t say yes.
He asked me whether I was coming to his weekly basketball game, which usually happens within an hour or two of my finishing work on a Friday night.
One week, when I was finishing up with work, he called me and asked if I was coming to the game that week. This conversation happens every week. He calls to invite me because he knows that I appreciate the invite, then I say “Of course!” and then head on over the stadium.
But this week all I could think of was:
The essay that I told my sister that I would read through
The documents that I promised my mum I would locate and send to her
The book that had been sitting on my bedside table for a week unopened
The blog post I wanted to write for this very website and
The fact that my boyfriend and I hadn’t spent a single night that week out of the house just the two of us.
And so this week, when he asked me whether I was going to his game, I took a deep breath, literally almost in tears. It dramatic but totally warranted in that moment. I said, “Sweetie, I don’t think I’m going to make it this week, I have way too much to do. It’s been a really intense week and I’m pretty stressed. But I’ll see you next week?”
“Yeah okay, hope you feel better soon. Love you!”
That was literally what he said to me. I was terrified of disappointing him. I didn’t want him to think I didn’t have time for him or I didn’t care enough to make time to go to his basketball game. But the thing is, I go to every other game. And every other school event, Christmas concert or carnival. I realised, in that moment, that saying no once in a while doesn’t mean I care any less about him.
Pretty soon I could adopt this same mindset in every aspect of my life. Being able to pick and choose the kinds of things that I said “yes” to meant that I could truly appreciate those things because I’ve already decided how important that they are to me. In fact, I could be more present when I would go to my brother’s games. I was significantly less irritable if they ran overtime. Or if he wanted to shoot around before it was time to leave. Improving my relationship with the word “no” helped me be more appreciative of my time and significantly lowered my daily stress levels.
5. Schedule in some time to wake up
There is so much information out there about how much sleep we should get, what the best time to wake up and go to bed is and how to improve our sleep, but not very much is written about the process of waking up.
When I have an important event the next day, I tend to set 3-5 alarms to make sure I wake up. I’m sure that I’m not alone. But something that could significantly lower your daily stress levels is to actually schedule in some time to wake up. When you decide how early you need to wake up to get out the door in time, don’t just factor in the time you need to get ready. Give yourself another 10 minutes to stretch, breathe and ease yourself into the morning.
Not only will this significantly reduce your daily stress, but it puts you in an energized-and-ready mindset that can boost your confidence and get you ready to tackle the day.
See Related: The Process of Waking Up : My Morning Routine That Ensures a Productive and Successful Day
That’s it! 5 totally simple ways for you to lower your daily stress levels. And the great thing about all of these strategies? You can start right now! I’d love to know how they work for you in the comments below.
– Sam x