Life is hectic. Work deadlines, home maintenance, family drama, financial problems and health issues can take their toll on the body, physically and mentally. In the past, the amount of stress I felt on a daily basis was paralyzing. Until I had an epiphany.
I can’t always control the stressful situations around me, but I can control how I react to them and do my best to prepare. Now, I follow several habits that have minimized my stress.
Read through my simple secrets below and commit to trying at least one right now.
1. What I want isn’t what I need.
Reducing my life to simpler terms meant clearing out the junk and not bringing new stuff into my home. I had trouble distinguishing between my wants and needs and this created unwanted stress in the form of clutter, credit card interest and large payments. My needs consisted of the mortgage, utilities, transportation, insurance payments, clothing and food. It was easy to allocate too much of my expenses to entertainment, excess shopping trips and luxury items.
Now, if I want to purchase an item outside of my immediate needs, I give it 24-hour consideration. I spend more time with the decision for big-ticket items, weighing the cost with the lifetime of the purchase. I would rather invest in fewer higher-quality items that will serve me for several years than quick purchases from a fleeting moment.
2. Decrease debt.
In the past, one of my biggest stressors came in the form of financial debt. Receiving a call at work from a creditor would increase my anxiety tenfold and reduce my productivity. Whether your debt is from student loans, medical bills, credit cards or a mortgage, owing money can be overwhelming.
Sometimes all you need to do is make a plan, and then get started. Feeling stunned by dollar signs, I gathered up all of my bills and wrote out a financial plan to clear my debt. I started by making larger payments on my smaller debt, like my credit cards and loans. After I paid these things off, I felt more in control of my finances and able to tackle larger debt, like my mortgage.
3. Save for a rainy day.
Life is full of highs and lows. Sometimes money seems readily available, and other times it’s scarce. The old saying “saving for a rainy day” refers to the financial valleys almost everyone eventually faces: the car needs a new alternator, the washing machine breaks or the hot water tank springs a leak. All things that raise stress levels.
By saving a little out of every paycheck, I built an emergency fund to handle the financial blows that come my way. Some experts recommend an emergency fund of $1,000 to get started, and in the event of a job loss, they say you should also work toward a savings of three to six months of income.
4. Go clutter-free.
Clutter creates stress. When my home was messy, I didn’t want to invite anyone over. It was embarrassing when people stopped by, and those marathon cleaning sessions were taxing. But the problem wasn’t that my home was dirty; it was that it housed too much stuff.
So I started ridding my home of clutter in 15- to 30-minute sessions. Now, it is much easier to clean, and I feel better knowing I gave away unwanted items to people who need them more.
5. Focus on one thing.
Multitasking is my enemy. It sounds noble, but when I tried balancing all of my responsibilities at once, everything came crashing down, leaving me disappointed and discouraged. Now, I focus on one task at a time.
When I cook, I focus solely on the recipe and ingredients and ignore the siren’s call of the internet or the need to rearrange the spice cabinet. At work, I focus on each project and give it my all, 100 percent. I shut out all distractions and work on one item at a time, resulting in fewer mistakes.
6. Embrace the real world.
Technology advances make our lives easier, but I’ve noticed that too many devices leave me feeling drained from the constant 24/7 communication. Like Pavlov’s dog, the ding of a notification can stop me in my tracks. This bombardment from the virtual world negatively impacts my mindset, and I lose focus on the task at hand.
To embrace the real world and spend more time with my family and friends, I simplify my life by totally unplugging from my devices. It’s freeing to sit on the porch with a cup of coffee in solitude, without the constant demand of email, Facebook and Twitter.
I’m still adopting new habits all the time to maintain my simpler lifestyle. Sometimes implementing a new practice can take a few weeks, so I allow myself one month to focus on adding the new habit into my routine. Choose a few things from this list and welcome your new stress-free life.