Today most of us are expected to do more with less. We lead lives that are more demanding on every front--work, family, social, health--with little time left over to unwind. Stress affects our mental health, our well-being and our performance at work.
1. Set up your boundaries. In today's frantic world it's easy to feel pressure to be available 24 hours a day, but no reasonable person can maintain that as a way to live. The answer is to develop a work-life boundary ritual. Your boundary can take a lot of forms: It might mean never checking your phone after 8pm, not emailing after hours, not interrupting time you've set aside for family or friends.
2. Claim your calm: If you're always running from one venture to another, one project to another, one call to another, one meeting to another, the word hectic is an understatement. The shallow, tense breathing we do when we're rushing doesn't make things any better. If you can claim even a few seconds--in the car, at your desk, between phone calls--for a simple attentive round deep inhaling and exhaling, it will help shut down the stress-induced or "fight or flight" response and guide you toward calm and relaxation.
3. Engage in mindful meditation. With a bit more of a time investment, you can enjoy the physical and mental benefits of regular meditation. Those who meditate report that they experience more happiness, less anxiety, and greater feelings of connection and purpose. Some studies are even finding a connection to our ability to fight illness.
4. Do less, be more. It's easy to get caught up in the idea that you're wasting time if you aren't actively doing something--or even multiple things. But as the adage says, first and foremost we are human beings, not human doings. Multitasking and overwork lead to anxiety, depression, and other difficulties. Guiding yourself toward a slower pace and some regular down time will leave you calmer, more relaxed, and happier.
5. Get up and move around. We weren't built to spend entire days hunkered over a desk staring at a screen. Movement is something you need every day. It's also one of the best ways to dissipate the energy of stress in your body. When you walk briskly or do other forms of exercise, your body releases neurotransmitters that lead to improved mood and a greater sense of well-being. Some research suggests that it may even improve blood circulation to the brain. Regular exercise--even a 15-minute walk while you're thinking through a problem--brings a host of benefits.
6. Sleep is a must. With so much to accomplish in a day, sleep seems like a logical place to cut back and give yourself more time. But a sleep deficit causes all kinds of negative effects in our bodies, from increased risk of a stroke or heart attack to weight gain. On the other hand, good sleep provides you with better emotional regulation, stronger immunity and more energy. Shut off the screens and create a restful place for yourself to recharge.
7. Take control of your life. The essence of personal success is knowing what you need to accomplish your goals and making sure you get it. Unwind, destress, and switch off when you need to so you can come back refreshed and newly motivated.
Remember, every day you have a choice. Make use of these seven simple rituals so you can reactivate your energy and motivation to do all the things you want to accomplish.