I've posted about stress in the past but the first week of the new year is a great revisit the issue. Here are some easy ways to turn 2016 into a year where you experience less stress and get more accomplished:
1. Avoid stressed-out people.
The "mirror neurons" in your brain make stress contagious. This takes place at a physiological level, so as far as possible, keep yourself physically separate from people who are already stressed out.
2. Break huge tasks into small steps.
If a single task seems overwhelming, break it up into sub-tasks. Example: Rather than "Write Sales Proposal" make a list: "1. Find old proposal, 2. Create new outline, 3. Identify reviewers, etc."
3. Breathe more deeply.
When you're stressed your take shorter breaths, which in turn tell your brain to be stressed (It's what's called a "feedback loop.") Consciously taking long deep breaths tells your brain that you're not stressed, which can creating a positive feedback loop.
4. Broaden your perspective.
Much of the stress we feel on a day-to-day basis emerges from the little hassles of life. However, the "small stuff" that you're sweating today will eventually be forgotten. Focus on the proverbial "big picture" and you'll forget them all that sooner.
5. Bundle small tasks into a single effort.
Make busywork less burdensome by combining minor to-do items into one project or effort. Example: "Make calls" rather than "Call Joe, Call Jill, etc."
6. Celebrate the small victories.
Ambitious, long-term goals are both useful and necessary but you'll feel calmer and less stressed if you take the time to celebrate the more minor milestones that you hit along the way. Let any victory be an excuse to feel great.
7. Create a relaxing playlist.
Few things are more stressful than feeling that you have no control, especially of your own emotions. To achieve more control, create a playlist that matches how you'd like to feel. Use the playlist (with headphones if you're in an open office) to change your mood at will.
8. Cultivate a tactile hobby.
If your work is primarily intellectual, find a hobby that requires you to work with your hands. Working with your hands draws upon parts of your brain that don't get enough exercise and gives the overworked parts of your brain some time to relax.
9. Delegate as much as possible.
Focus on the tasks that only YOU can accomplish. Find somebody else to do the busywork. If you've got employees, train them to take over tasks that are consuming your time. If you don't have employees, use a service like eLance.com.
10. Disconnect from the uncontrollable.
There are many things in the world that you simply can't control: the economy, the traffic, the weather, other people's thoughts, etc. Don't get emotionally invested in things that you can't change. If it's out of your control, just shrug it off.
11. Don't multitasking so darn much.
Turn off automatic notifications and alarms that interrupt your concentration. Instead set aside time to answer emails and interact on social media. Guess what? The world will get along fine if you don't immediately respond to every request for your attention.
12. Eat more protein.
Too much sugar at one time--even in the form of fresh-picked fruit--will give cause your blood sugar to spike then plummet, creating physical stress. Level things out by adding protein to your snacks and meals.
13. Enjoy a long bath.
When you're in the tub, you can't use your electronics or answer the phone, so you're forced to be someplace where work pressures simply can't reach you. A sauna or a jacuzzi is even better, if you're fortunate enough to have access to them.
14. Exercise less but more regularly.
Everybody knows by now that exercise releases endorphins that calm you down and therefore relieve stress. It's less commonly known, however, that exercising to the point of exhaustion increases stress by forcing your body to overcome pain.
15. Fend off the complainers.
Hey, everybody kvetches sometimes and being a friend means listening the occasional b**** and moan. However, people who constantly complain only suck your energy and dump their stress onto you.. Avoid them.
16. Find a job that better suits you.
If you hate your job, you already know you need find a better one. Obviously, finding a new job is always not "easy" but deciding that you'll find one and starting your search today takes less than a minute. You'll feel better the second you start taking action.
17. Get a massage.
A massage release muscle tension, which is how your body stores stress. Since massages cost money, make the most of the experience. Keep your mind off work (and other stressful things) by consciously relaxing into the pressure.
18. Ignore Presidential politics.
As much as you make like or dislike the various candidates, other than voting (and maybe giving money), there's nothing you can say or do at this point that will make much difference. It's a rigged game anyway, so fuggedaboudit.
19. Learn to say "no" more often.
Sad to say, but if you're always willing to help and you're also competent, people will try to foist their work onto your to-do list. The better you get at saying "no" to coworkers, employees and even your boss, the less stress you'll ultimately feel.
20. Let the other guy win.
You're not Superman (or Wonder Woman). You don't have to win every battle and emerge victorious. Once you decide that it's OK to lose sometimes, you'll feel a burden of stress lift from your shoulders.
21. Limit your information intake.
Information is like water. You need it survive but if get too much, you drown. Rather than try to sponge everything up, limit your information consumption to topics that are pertinent to your own life and work.
22. Pray or meditate more often.
Numerous scientific studies reveal that prayer and meditation changes your physiological state for the better, lessening your stress. This physiological change is not supernatural; it's just how your brain and body works.
23. Rebalance your workload.
As I've pointed out before, the secret of time management is that 20% of your efforts create 80% of your results; the other 80% of your efforts create the remaining 20% of your results. Only do the 20% that matters; forget the rest.
24. Recharge your batteries.
Look, we all know that sometimes you'll need to do an all-nighter or work over the weekend. However, if you do this habitually, you'll eventually end up making unnecessary mistakes and create even more work.
25. Relax your standards.
As I've pointed out previously, perfectionism creates stress by creating a standard that's impossible to meet. Relax your standards and give yourself space to make mistakes and learn. You'll feel less stress and you'll get more done.
26. Release past failures.
Many people carry the past on their back like a huge load of baggage. Rather than carry the burden of your past mistakes, remember that every big success is preceded by a string of big failures. Learn what you can from your mistakes. Then move on.
27. Simplify your work area.
While it's true that some geniuses have cluttered desks, as a general rule, clutter tells your brain that there's too much work to do. This creates stress, so take a minute or two at the end of each work day to tidy up your desk.
28. Skip the squabbling with strangers.
If you don't know somebody don't get in an argument with them. In particular, it's an incredible waste of time getting into heated arguments online, regardless of the topic. Save your mental energy for people who matter.
29. Stop comparing yourself to others.
No matter how successful you are, there will always somebody who's smarter, better, richer, happier and/or heathier than you. Since that's always true, why bother with comparisons?
30. Take a stroll, outside if practical.
Getting a breath of fresh air and stretching your legs gives you sense of perspective when things get weird. A change in your physical surroundings can also jog your mind out of a rut. Plus, the exercise. It's win-win-win... for you.
31. Turn off the daily news.
While there is some value in being informed about the events of the day, the mainstream news media makes it money by creating anger, fear, anxiety, dread, and frustration. Avoid news that's not 100% relevant to your work or life.
32. Unplug at night.
Lest you think I'm holding myself up as a great example, let it be known that I find this stress-reliever to be very difficult. Don't be like me. Exercise the self-discipline to turn off your phone an hour before you go to bed and an hour after you wake up.