Tips to manage stress and increase relaxation in your life

Tips to manage stress and increase relaxation in your life

It is the time of the year where you will be inundated with lists (just like this one!) on steps you can take to manage stress and increase relaxation in your life in the new year. At a guess,  if you were to take a survey of the most common habits you would be advised to take up, these would definitely make the top 10:

  1. Eat well
  2. Exercise regularly
  3. Get enough sleep
  4. Have a mindfulness practice
  5. Foster positive relationships

All of these habits will definitely help in managing stress and increasing relaxation but adding even one of these to your life the way it is right now may seem super challenging. You may already feel too busy and that you don’t have enough time for the things you want to do. If you are feeling like this then first working on implementing some simple and effective planning and organisation to your life can create a solid foundation from which you can then feel comfortable adding more positive habits to.

Increasing personal organisation even marginally will give you great gains in managing stress and allowing more space and time for relaxation. Here are three key ways that being more organised can help you:

  • Being organised can help you manage your time more effectively - time pressure can be a major stressor for many people. When you have a clear idea of what needs to be done and when it needs to be done, you can plan your day more efficiently and avoid the stress of feeling overwhelmed or behind schedule.
  • Being organised can also help you to feel more in control of your life - feeling in control can be a key factor in reducing stress. When you have a clear plan and are able to follow through with it, you can feel more confident and capable, which can help to alleviate feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. In addition, being organised can help you to prioritise your tasks and focus on the most important ones first, which can help you to feel more productive and in control of your life.
  • Being organised helps to reduce clutter and chaos in your environment - clutter can be a major source of stress. When you have a clear and organised space, it is easier to find what you need and reduce the amount of time spent tidying, dusting etc.

If after reading this, you think getting more organised is the path for you but you are not sure where to start, here are three key planning and organisational strategies to get you started.

Set a goal for the year

Tips to manage stress and increase relaxation in your life - goal setting

Take the time to set a goal for the key areas in your life - personal, career/business and health and wellness. There is so much research out there that shows the benefits of setting goals in terms of achieving success in life but having a clear goal can help you manage your time more effectively. As time stress is a huge cause of angst and anxiety for many, setting a goal to help you better manage your time can help reduce stress. If you have a set goal you can make decisions based on whether or not they help you achieve that goal. This can help you make better decisions, stay on track, avoid distractions and make difficult decisions on where you can spend your limited time.

By setting goals, we get a roadmap of where we are heading to and what is the right way that would lead us there. It is a plan that holds us in perspective – the more effectively we make the plan, the better are our chances of achieving what we aim to. Rick McDaniel (2015) had quoted, “Goal-setters see future possibilities and the big picture.” {Source}

Create an effective to do list process

Tips to manage stress and increase relaxation in your life - to do list

"Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task." 

This quote from William James beautifully sums up the toll it takes when you try to remember all the things you have to do each day - it is a stressful activity that can have you feeling deeply fatigued. It distracts us from the tasks at hand and it keeps our minds going even when we are trying to relax.

​​More recently, a study by professors Baumeister and Masicampo from Wake Forest University showed that, while tasks we haven’t done distract us, just making a plan to get them done can free us from this anxiety. The pair observed that people underperform on a task when they are unable to finish a warm-up activity that would usually precede it. However, when participants were allowed to make and note down concrete plans to finish the warm-up activity, performance on the next task substantially improved. As Bechman notes: “Simply writing the tasks down will make you more effective.” {Source}

Create a to do list process that works for you - whether that is using an app, a software program or pen and paper it doesn’t matter, they key is to have a routine about how you capture the work you need to do and actions you need to take. You can find an example of a simple but effective to do list process for pen and paper here.

Establish an efficient calendar system

Tips to manage stress and increase relaxation in your life - calendar

Your to do list can help you manage daily life on the micro level and your calendar system can help you at a more macro level. We can be great and scheduling in commitments to others as they crop up but spending time at the start of the year to make sure we include all the events we know about for the year already is critical. Once scheduled into the calendar, you then have a much better idea of how much “free” time you have across the week and it also helps you remember all the key days that are important to you and fit in the activities you say you want to do but never seem to find the time to do.

Here are a list of items you can schedule into your calendar to help reduce stress over the year. Just like a to do list, adding them to your diary prevents you from taking up precious mental energy attempting to remember them all. If you use an electronic calendar you can set them annually with reminders far enough ahead of time so you can buy presents, make the necessary arrangements etc without any stress or worry: 

  • Key birthdays, anniversaries and special events 
  • Annual check ups for you, family members and pets
  • Key maintenance dates - car service, duct clean outs,  smoke alarm battery change overs etc
  • Your current exercise routines / hobbies / book groups etc
  • Time for relaxation - if you don’t schedule it, it won’t always happen as you can fill up all  your schedule!

All the best for the new year!

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