Life is stressful, especially this year. But often, we get so caught up in the stress; we don’t take the time to stop and just breathe. But doing so allows us enough time to look around and see the things we can do to minimize our stress. Here are six things you can start doing right now to prevent burnout and make your life less stressful.
Keep a Journal
Okay, how many times have you heard this one? It seems like an okay idea on the surface, but isn’t it just one more thing you have to do? Yes, but it’s one thing that will make all the other things better. Keeping a journal is like turning that little release valve on your pressure cooker or Instant Pot. It’s a simple thing, but it releases all the pressure that has been building up.
As you get used to writing in your journal, you will begin to document all the things in your life that may be bothering you. Something you don’t want to talk about, so they just get pent up inside. These are things you don’t think about, but they are always there, lurking just beneath the surface. They stress you out without even knowing that’s what is causing it. But writing them down releases the demons, and like vampires, when exposed to the light, they wither and die.
The other important factor in journaling is writing down the things you are grateful for. This sounds simplistic, but it works. Think about how much time you spend during your day feeling angry and stressed out. Every minute of that time, you are thinking about the negative things, the people who have wronged you, and the things you have screwed up. Just take a couple of minutes and write down the things you are grateful for. And don’t just do this by rote, like a child saying bedtime prayers; give it some thought. What are the things right now today that made you happy? This simple act will bring those thoughts to the front of your mind and help push back all the negativity, if even for a little while.
Minimize Screen Time
Depending on your job, you may spend all day, every day looking at a screen. So, what do you do when you get a break? Look at another screen. Social media is excellent for gathering quick information and staying in touch with friends and family. But how much time do you spend just scrolling mindlessly past random posts from complete strangers? And how many of those posts end up just making you angry?
Stop doing that. If you get a break, take a break. Go for a walk. Stare out the window. Some of you will remember a time before screens. Yes, kids, there was a time like that. What did you do then during a break?
Remember? Do that.
If you must keep your head on a screen, read a book, listen to some music, or watch something fun. YouTube is full of things that are mindless and fun. Music videos, old sitcoms, and random information. Skip the politics and health-related stuff.
Learn to Say No
If you only come away with one thing from this article, this is the one. Some people are stressed out all the time, and some people never say no to anything. And for the most part, those are the same people. Saying no isn’t a crime. It won’t get you fired, and it won’t ruin a friendship. If it does, you need a new job, new friends, or both.
When someone asks you to do something, stop, take a breath, and think. If you need time to practice this new skill, simply say, let me think about it and get back to you. Many people will take that as a no. More often than not, whatever they were asking you to do gets done before you get back to them, or the crisis evaporates. Which, of course, means it wasn’t really a crisis, to begin with.
But as you get better at it, you will learn to ask yourself some questions when people ask you to do something:
- Why are they asking me?
- Should I be doing this?
- What happens if I say no?
- If I do it, when will I?
Memorize that list of questions and run through it every time someone asks you to do something. With time and practice, the questions and answers will appear and disappear almost instantly. And as often as not, you will learn that the answers are the same more often than not.
- They are asking you because they know you will say yes. Stop doing that, and they will stop asking you.
- It’s not your job, it’s not your problem, and it’s not something you should be getting involved with.
- Nothing. That’s what will happen if you say no.
- When? Probably right now, because the question is always presented as an emergency. So ask yourself, what doesn’t get done if I do this. Solving their problem means creating one of your own. A problem that the person asking is not going to help you with.
And if you don’t remember anything else, remember this. Unless it’s your boss, someone asking you to do something in no way obligates you to do it. It’s a question. No is not only a legitimate answer; it’s a complete answer.
Become a minimalist
I’ve written about this before. But removing clutter is very restful. Look at your desk. No. Stop and really look at it. Remember the old commercial from the ‘70s? This is your mind on drugs? Well, look at your desk. This is your mind. Unclutter it.
If you are the type with mounds of paper stacked everywhere, get rid of it. Most of it is trash; put it in the recycle bin. Everything else needs to be filed away somewhere. Don’t tell me it’s something you are working on; most of it has been there for months. Put it away. Create a folder in your desk for things you are working on now. If it’s more than two or three things, you are lying to yourself.
I’ve never been a paper person, but I recently decluttered my desk and got it back to minimalist. That one simple act gave me serenity. Those decorative things that are on the edge and corners of everyone’s desk. Get rid of them. They’re only there because you think they should be.
If it’s something that you actually look at during the day and it brings you peace of mind, fine. A family picture or a memento from your favorite vacation is okay if you look at it. Everything else, get rid of it.
I had a pencil cup on the edge of my desk full of pens and pencils. Many people have these. Why? I’ve been using the same pen for months if not years, and I don’t remember the last time I used a pencil. Get rid of it.
You may think that having something on an area of your desk you don’t need doesn’t bother anything. But, I can guarantee you, not having it there is better. Having clean space in your peripheral vision while you work is restful.
And carry this minimalist process through the rest of your office, home and life. Less is better. Try it.
There is this thought that playing is for children and adults, should “put away childish things.” That’s a load of crap. Playing or pursuing any activity for the pure joy of doing so is something you should never give up. In fact, you should strive to do more of it. What the hell are you working for, if not to finance your fun?
Food, clothing and shelter. You’ve got that. Everything else is extra. Quit acquiring things and spend your time and your money having fun. Play a game. Play a childish game. I’m not talking about a round of golf with your boss and clients; that’s work. And I’ve rarely heard someone say they had fun playing golf.
What is fun for you? What do you enjoy doing? Do that thing. As often as you can.
By this, I don’t mean stop being stressed, or stop saying yes, or even stop working so hard.
I mean, just stop.
Several times a day, set a timer if you need to, and stop. Stop whatever you are doing. Sit back. Relax your shoulders. Close your eyes. Breathe deep. In another article, I wrote about how 20 seconds changed my life. In that article, I described a minute or less, making everything so much better.
Try it. Once an hour, but more is better. Stop for just one minute and do nothing.
It will change your life, I guarantee it.