If you’re anything like me, you have a long to-do list (or many to-do lists). Of course, I have all the things I need to get done at work and then there are the things I need to get done with the family, the house, and the pets. Just thinking about all the things on my lists can cause me stress.
With so much to do, how can you avoid feeling stressed all the time? Since I don’t have the option to sit on a beach all day sipping a tasty drink with an umbrella in it, I’ve had to find ways to cope. I’ve tried different options and found two that work well for me.
One way to manage stress is by understanding it and taking action. Research done with the Center for Creative Leadership shows that a major stressor is “rumination.” The research is detailed in the book Work Without Stress and the authors, Roger and Petrie, explain that rumination is negatively thinking over and over about events in the past or future. It’s worrying about things you can’t control. The more you worry, the more stressed you can become.
Fortunately, there’s a positive way to handle it. Instead of ruminating, you need to pay attention and recognize that you’re repeating the same thoughts over and over. Then focus on actions you can take and let go of what you can’t do. For example, rumination might be worrying about an important meeting you have next week and feeling stressed about it. Instead, you can think about the meeting positively and spend your time preparing and getting appropriate information instead of wasting time worrying.
What about things in the past? We all have things that we’ve said or done that we wish had happened differently. Instead of ruminating and feeling guilty, think about turning it into a learning experience. Determine what you did that worked and didn’t work so you can do it better next time.
I find this helpful with my daughter. Our conversations don’t always go the way I’d like them to go. Instead of wasting a lot of time feeling bad, I recognize I can’t change the past but I can do things differently in the future. That kind of thinking has helped us to have a much better relationship. (It also helps that she’s grown past the difficult teenage years.)
Another stress reducer that I use comes from the book Search Inside Yourself by Chad-Meng Tan, a former engineer at Google. He explains how you can use mindful meditation to reduce your stress. I was reluctant to try this because I initially thought it meant having to meditate for a long time in order to reduce stress. I’ve actually found that mindful meditation can make me feel less stressed in just two minutes of focused breathing. The author says that if you don’t have time, you can try just one focused breath to help clear your mind and reduce your stress. Anything else is a bonus. And there have been many days when I feel I only have time to take one mindful breath. But even that helps me to feel calmer.
There are plenty of apps that can help you to be less stressed. As I’m writing this, I’m using a relaxation app (Relax Melodies) to listen to the sound of the ocean and a cat purring. I’ve also used Calm and Headspace to listen to guided meditation.
There are many other ways to reduce your stress. At JDA, we offer webinars on reducing stress and how to use mindful meditation. Learning these habits can help to clear the mind and increase focus and productivity. What else can you suggest to help reduce stress?