Experiencing moderate amounts of stress each day may make you more motivated and alert. But if the number of people looking to become more relaxed, calm, and tranquil in the New Year is any indication, the most-experienced kinds of stress aren't moderate.
Google recently released its list of the "how-to" questions that saw the biggest spike in number of searches the week before and after New Year's Day in 2015. At the top of the list: "how to get rid of stress."
Ok, so you can never really get rid of stress. But you can figure out what are the biggest stressors in your life, and how to mitigate their effects. To do so, you need to take a close look at your daily routine. Here's how to ensure that you won't be one of the reported 92 percent of people who don't achieve their New Year's resolution.
1. Identify 'stress signals.'
We're creatures of habit--our body tends to demonstrate the same physiological signs when we're worried. Mindful Leadership author and organizational development consultant Maria Gonzalez tells Harvard Business Review that the best way to stop stress from derailing your routine is to figure out what your "stress signals" are. Maybe your palms get sweaty, you break out in a rash, or your heart just starts to race.
Either way, if you can identify what happens to your body when your stressing out, you can more easily identify what exactly it is that's causing you to stress out. The American Psychological Association recommends keeping a daily journal for one or two weeks, where you write down every stressful situation you experience each day.
2. Get rid of unrealistic goals.
You may think that by pledging to get to work 30 minutes early or to clean your desk every day, you'll be less stressed in 2016. But setting goals that you probably won't accomplish may actually be worse for you than setting no goals at all. According to a survey earlier this year by project management software provider Wrike, unrealistic project goals are of the top five biggest sources of stress in the workplace.
Instead, pick goals that will both bring about a positive change in your life, and won't require you to change that many aspects of your life. According to Psychology Today, when setting goals, start by taking a moment and writing down everything you want to change about your life. Then take all of these potential goals, and identify which goal you are most motivated to achieve, which goal you are already really close to reaching, and what change you need to make the most. From those three, chose one to be your sole goal for the time being. Then reword the goal so that it is framed in a positive manner, make it specific, and you have one realistic goal for the year.
3. Work 'relaxation breaks' into your daily routine.
Many studies tout the physical and psychological benefits of meditation, including improved concentration and reducing tendencies to be self-critical. Yet not everyone is starting their day with a 30-minute meditation exercise. For some, that's too much of an unrealistic goal--especially if you've never meditated a day in your life.
Instead, the American Psychological Association recommends starting small. In fact, you don't even have to add an extra activity into your routine. Pick an activity you already do each day--whether it's going for a walk or sitting down for dinner with your family--and spend a few minutes focusing on just that activity. Don't take out your phone, and don't think about the emails that are piling up in your inbox. Gradually, you'll become better at focusing on the present--a skill that can help alleviate stress in multiple areas of your life.