We all seek to strike a comfortable balance between the demands of our daily lives, but sometimes even the balancing act itself can become a source of stress. The difference between letting stress overwhelm you and using it as motivation can be as simple as taking a few steps to actively manage it.
You don’t have to seek out a guru or find a mountaintop to perch on—meditation can be as simple as sitting quietly for 10 minutes, focusing on your breathing, and quieting your mind. When you first begin practicing meditation, you may find that online guided meditation tools—such as the free, customizable 2 to 20-minute sessions found at calm.com—will help you ease into daily practice.
Take a two-minute mental vacation by looking at a photo from a recent trip or gathering and reliving the way you felt during that moment in time. Focus on that moment and only that moment. Conjuring up the positive feelings associated with the photo will help recharge your batteries and leave you feeling upbeat the rest of the day.
3. Be honest
Know your limits and be honest about them with others. For example, if you already have a packed work schedule and your boss or a coworker puts more on your plate, it may be time to discuss priorities. They may not be aware of how much work you already have. Letting them know that you’re short on the time you need to give each task the attention it deserves communicates a commitment to quality work, and it may help lighten the load by delegating some of your less critical tasks to others.
4. Imagine the impossible
Sometimes stress can cause our tempers to flare unexpectedly. Road rage is one of the most common manifestations. The next time you’re behind the wheel and another driver does something erratic, rather than getting angry and hollering or retaliating, stop and consider what unusual circumstances may have caused the driver to behave that way. Perhaps it was a simple mistake, or maybe there’s a swarm of bees in their car. The more ridiculous the image you conjure, the better – soon you’ll be laughing instead of laying on the horn.
5. Cross three things off your list
Making a to-do list can be a calming way to assess your obligations, but if it’s unreasonably long, you set yourself up for failure—and more stress. So once you’ve finished your to-do list, cross off three things. More often than not, you’ll have at least three things that can wait a day or two, and removing them from today’s list will make your day less daunting. On the other hand, if you have a short list and find it difficult to get started, add a couple of things to the list that you’ve already accomplished –even if it’s just “Brush teeth” or “Make coffee”—and check them off right away to create a little momentum.