Most of the stress we experience in life is self-inflicted. We can’t do much to change the weather and traffic jams will still be an inevitable part of the daily commute in 2014. We will still have the same twenty-four hours in a day and bills will still need to be paid. However, by making a few small changes to our outlook, combined with some practical tweaks along the way and the stress can be reduced by as much as 50% in some cases.
Tip 1. Get up an hour earlier. No, this isn’t my sadistic suggestion number one! Having a bit of quiet time for you before the family gets up can really allow you to have quiet time for reflection, meditation, a leisurely shower or bath. Starting the day on “slow, gentle and peaceful” setting rather than ” hurried, rushed and late” mode will really make a difference to your outlook for the rest of the day.
Tip 2. Go to bed earlier (combine this with getting up an hour earlier). Before you do, spend just a few minutes “putting the day to rest”. Get a pen and paper (not computer screen and keypad!) and mentally replay the day. Think back and make a note of all the positives, the little successes of the day. It is very easy to focus on the negatives and this is where you do things differently. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, in 2014 we are going to focus on what went well, give ourselves a pat on the back and really begin to enhance our self esteem. Now finally make a note of what needs to be attended to tomorrow.
Tip 3. Having started the day an hour earlier, you can now allow plenty of time for your daily commute, whether that is to work, school and dropping off the children, the shops or wherever. The important thing is to allow sufficient time to ensure this is an unhurried journey. Hospital or medical appointments can become leisurely affairs with time to enjoy your favourite book, traffic jams can be places to listen to your favourite music or perhaps an audio book or a business podcast.
Tip 4. Slow down and respect others. This means listening to people without rushing to interject, no longer finishing people’s sentences. Instead respect and take time to listen, really listen and then consider your response before jumping in. Try it for an hour and you will see the difference it makes immediately to your stress levels.
Tip 5. Prioritise. At the start of each day write a list with the key things you need to attend to. Accept that there will always be more coming in than going out. You have a finite amount of time to do a finite amount of things.
Tip 6. Accept. There is no such thing as perfection. No one is perfect, so do not expect perfection from yourself or others. Focusing on perfection takes us away from “inner peace and calm.” Try to be a “good enough” person and accept that the need for perfection is a losing battle that will only leave you feeling frustrated, stressed and dissatisfied.
Tip 7. From January 1st start to say “No.” Be realistic, do not take on everything, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Let 2014 be “the year of the human being,” not the “human doing.” Set yourself realistic goals so that you do not find yourself becoming overwhelmed.
Tip 8. You do not always have to be right. It is ok to give in occasionally. Competing and battling all the time can be a major source of stress. Allow yourself to be flexible and to learn compromise. meeting others halfway. Of course you will want to stand your ground if your right, but don’t take every opportunity to criticise and put others down.
Tip 9. Get active. Begin in a small way, taking the stairs instead of the lift. Washing your car instead of taking it top a car wash, going for a walk at the weekend with your family. Getting some regular exercise is a powerful way to reduce stress. It is a great tonic for the body as well as the mind.
Tip 10. In direct contrast to tip 9, slow down! Take time to relax, meditate and have time for quiet reflection. At the end of the day before you go home stop somewhere to take in nature, just five minutes will make all the difference. Promise yourself that you will read a book this year (A real one, made of paper, one of those things with pages that you turn by hand!) Take up a hobby and bring some good old fashioned fun back in your life in 2014.
Extra Tip – Find someone to talk to and give you some support while you make the changes you need to de-stress your life – Best wishes for 2014.
Until next time, Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.