A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I wrote a post about taking your life back by implementing simple measures to reduce your stress and regain control in a stressful and out-of-control world. That post contained 10 simple suggestions; a few years later, everything in that post still rings quite true, and I now have a few new tidbits to add. Thus, it’s time for a follow-up/sequel post.
1. Minimize your commute. Live close to where you work, and work close to where you live. You’d be amazed at how much of your day you get back when you don’t have to spend such a substantial portion of it behind the wheel, staring at the brake-lit butt of the car in front of you. How much more could you accomplish, or how much more relaxation time could you use? If you’re like most people, the answer is, “a lot!”
2. Read for pleasure. Reading allows you to learn new and meaningful information, and escape to a new place or become a new person for a while. It introduces you to unique and unfamiliar situations and colorful characters. It enriches your life and boosts your intelligence. Recent factoids about reading habits are utterly dismal, and I wholeheartedly believe these habits are contributing to a lot of society’s problems: stress, spelling and grammar issues, thought reduction, creativity reduction, lower production, depression/anxiety, etc. In my experience, there is a sharp divide in the intelligence levels and stress management and critical thinking capabilities between those who read and those who do not.
3. Pet your fur-kid. Yes, cats and dogs (and other pet-able animals like ferrets, etc) can make a huge dent in your stress levels and give you a big boost in your overall resilience and stability. There is something incredibly special about a cat’s purr or a dog’s low sigh as s/he’s falling asleep. My cat does both; he purrs himself to sleep and then he lets out a low groan/sigh just as he’s drifting off. It’s hilarious!
4. Don’t just mute the commercials (as mentioned in the previous post on this topic); skip them altogether. This can either be in the form of a well-worn fast-forward button on a DVR machine (which, for those who aren’t aware, allows you to record shows off cable/satellite and play them back later), or if the movie or TV show is out on DVD, grab the DVD or watch it on Netflix and watch the entire, uncut show, commercial-free.
5. Leave work at WORK. Even if you enjoy your work and it’s your calling, it’s important to segregate your work life from your home life. There are times when you need to stop doing work-related activities and switch gears for a while. Perhaps this gear-switching takes shape in the form of vegging out; maybe your brain remains on high-gear but focuses on something entirely non-work-related.
If you can, avoid monitoring, checking, and responding to all work-related phone calls, voice mails, emails, and such outside of work hours. Set limits and boundaries on what you will and will not do outside of normal hours. Don’t let your work consume your life. By doing this, I found that my overall work productivity, contribution, morale, and satisfaction all increased tremendously by making this change. My quality of life exponentially improved.
6. Run errands during off-hours, if possible. Usually, this means avoiding grocery, restaurant, and retail establishments during “prime time”, such as weeknights and Saturdays, when everyone else is out and these places (and roads) are crowded. By running errands during the day (or perhaps earlier on a Saturday or Sunday, depending on the errand), you’ll dodge a lot of unnecessary headache.
7. Minimize contact with toxic people, or cut them out of your life entirely. Relationships must be mutually beneficial in order to be permitted to continue. In most cases, peoples’ senses of obligation are somewhat overblown, and people maintain relationships that are psychologically harmful via the assumption that they must do this because “they’re family” or you’ve been friends with them since grade school. Don’t do this; if you continuously feel unfulfilled, frustrated, depressed, empty, used, hurt, or another similar emotion after interacting with someone, stop interacting with them, even if it means tapering off slowly at first.
8. Plan ahead and have contingency plans ready to go. Someone with food allergies/sensitivities must do this as a way of life when planning for any meal not eaten at home (and cooked by them!). Other people with disabilities must make plans in advance with their particular situation in mind.
9. Have plenty of quiet time. It’s amazing what 20-30 minutes of solitary silence can do for you.
10. Let go of the past. What’s done is done and it can’t be changed. It might be possible to remedy it and heal from it, but in the end, it must be transcended and left behind. Grudges or past pain only keep you prisoner, holding you back, and preventing you from doing all that you could’ve done or being all you could’ve been.
I’m sure there are more; future posts on this topic will likely be written. 🙂