Have you ever stopped in the middle of a busy street and looked at the crowd?
Could you feel the stress and tension by just looking at these people?
Don’t you find it terrifying how out of hand busyness has become in today’s world?
There are people working over twelve hours every single day just to make ends meet.
There are overstressed parents who can’t afford to spend time with their own kids. There are people in their twenties neglecting every single aspect of their lives but their career.
One person out of four dies from cardiovascular disease caused mostly by unhealthy eating, a lack of physical activity, smoking and consuming too much alcohol, even though it’s preventable in 90% of the cases.
What’s the most common escape route for busy, overworked people? They stuff themselves with worthless junk food that clogs their arteries. They drown their emotions in alcohol. They smoke a pack or two a day.
I have never wanted to be a part of this crowd, hence I spent a lot of time researching and optimizing every aspect of my life to avoid the same fate. Philosophy of less is more guides my life, keeping me sane and healthy in the fast-moving world.
In this article, you’ll learn why busyness is wrong and how to:
– step away from noise and the neck-breaking speed of the world around you,
– recharge your overstressed mind and body,
– deal with nagging, negative emotions,
– utilize some of the most effective stress-reducing habits,
– and achieve a lot despite not being part of the overworked crowd.
Please keep in mind that this is purely research work, I’m not a doctor. Although the advice presented in this book is based on scientific research and experts, it can’t replace professional medical care. If you suffer from any conditions that require professional care (hypertension, diabetes, etc.), do not follow my advice until your physician allows it.
I only wrote it for people who want to learn how to transition to a slower, healthier life, not as a guide for dealing with stress disorders. I’m by no means a psychologist – consider this article more as a piece of advice from a curious mind.
Now that we got the disclaimers out of the way, let’s talk about the first step to regain control over your life. I believe it’s the key ingredient that has to be a part of your everyday life if you want to slow down.
1: Your Rituals Create Your Life
There’s no need to tell you why stress (the negative kind) is bad. It’s well-documented how dangerous it is to your mental and physical health, and why it’s so important to avoid it.
You’ve also read about healthy eating and regular exercise in numerous books and articles, haven’t you? I’m not here to tell you obvious things.
What is frequently downplayed, though, is the importance of your rituals. By rituals, I don’t mean habits like exercising three times per week or flossing. I’m talking about creating an empowering structure of your day, of which the most important part is what you do in the morning.
For years, I didn’t have a proper morning ritual. Consequently, I started each day reacting to the world. There was no time for introspection in the morning, and it’s easy to forget to stop for a second during the day.
If you wake up and don’t feel control over your day, guess how it will influence the rest of your waking hours.
- How you start your day affects how you’re going to feel later on. If you start your day in a rush, your entire day will feel rushed. If you start it more slowly, you’ll feel less overwhelmed and busy.
- Start waking up at least 20 minutes earlier to start your day the right way. You shouldn’t rush your morning ritual.
- Meditation is one of the keys to enter the positive state of mind and prepare yourself for the day ahead. Start with three to five minutes of sitting still and focusing on your breath. Relax your muscles, refocus each time you lose your concentration, and enjoy the process.
- Gratitude is crucial to a happy life. If you start your day expressing appreciation and gratitude for what you already have, you’ll uplift yourself and be better prepared for the day awaiting you.
- Each morning, re-read your personal vision and review your short-term goals. Read Tony Robbins’ book Unlimited Power if you don’t know how to do it.
- Reviewing your plans and reading inspirational books will get you in a more resourceful and confident state of mind.
2: Let Your Body Recharge
Your body dictates how you feel internally. If you don’t take the time to recharge it, sooner or later the effects of abuse will creep into other areas of your life. If you’re reading this article, chances are it has already done so.
- If you don’t get enough sleep, you behave like a drunk person. Get more sleep – either by making the time to sleep longer during the night or taking a nap during the day.
- The most time-efficient way to get more sleep and recharge yourself is to take a 15 to 20 minute power nap. If you have the time, take a 90-minute nap – it’s the most powerful way to re-energize yourself during the day.
- There are seven main factors influencing your sleep quality. To improve it, maintain a consistent sleep schedule, make your bedroom relatively cool, and make your sleep area as dark and quiet as possible. Get a new mattress if you’ve been sleeping on the same mattress for more than 10 years. Avoid blue light before sleep. If you can’t stop your racing mind, get out of bed and write down all your thoughts. Avoid caffeine 7 to 8 hours before going to sleep. Don’t eat heavy meals two to three hours before going to sleep.
- Fasting rebuilds dysfunctional components of your body. It has a positive effect on your cardiovascular health and your brain. It can help lose weight, decrease bad cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels.
- Three most common approaches to fasting are: fasting for 16 to 20 hours every day and eating in a shorter window, abstaining from food for 24 hours once or twice a week, and having a 36-hour fast by skipping an entire day of eating.
- Massage therapy is one of the most effective ways to battle stress and recharge your body. Consider having a massage at least once a month to decrease your stress, alleviate pain and prevent stress-related disorders.
- Self-massage is a viable alternative if you can’t afford a professional massage. Foam rolling is the cheapest and most effective option.
3: Get Away from It All to Regain Energy
Noise has become an everyday companion in our lives. If you live in a major city, it’s even worse. Add to that crowds of people, cars and other highly-stimulating elements of the environment.
There’s no wonder that living in a city roughly doubles the risk of schizophrenia, increases the risk of anxiety disorders by 21%, and the risk of mood disorders by 39%. Despite the crowds all around us, we feel completely alone.
Am I suggesting moving to the countryside? Not necessarily. Though research shows it can improve your well-being, there are strategies you can use to reduce your stress without losing the benefits of urban living.
- Noise pollution leads to increased stress. If you live in a city, it’s even more important to soundproof your home as much as possible.
- Some of the most effective ways to reduce the noise in your house include: investing in thick carpets, covering walls with canvas paintings or hangings, and using blinds and curtains. Old appliances can also generate a lot of noise. You can either insulate the rooms in which these appliances operate or buy new, quieter, and more energy-efficient appliances.
A consultation with an insulation specialist can help you find other sources of noise in your house. Proper insulation will reduce the noise levels and your energy bills.
- If you live in a single-family house, consider installing a fence, and planting trees and hedges to block the noise and increase your privacy.
- Wearing noise-canceling headphones, ear plugs, or using sound machines are also effective at battling noise pollution. Sound machines are particularly useful for houses in which you can’t block the external noise any further. It’s better to listen to the sound of the ocean or white noise than the sounds of traffic.
- Being in nature is immensely beneficial for your mental health, especially if you suffer from high levels of stress. Escaping noise and the highly-stimulating urban surroundings can help you decrease your stress and prevent future stress-related disorders.
- Physical activity and social interactions in natural settings are two ways to increase the healthy effect of nature on your well-being.
- Most of us suffer from a deficit of guilt-free play. Grab your friends and do something fun you haven’t done for a long time (or ever). It’s one of the most effective ways to reduce anxiety.
4: Let It Go
Often, the biggest stressors in our lives are in our heads instead of coming from our immediate surroundings.
A boss who yelled at you for making a mistake often doesn’t even remember it the next day, while you replay it in your head for the next two weeks.
A nasty remark from a colleague who wanted to poke fun at you feels like a joke for her, while you can think about it for months and become self-conscious of whatever she pointed out.
Your mother telling you you’re not perfect or you’re not worthy can echo in your mind for decades, causing you unnecessary pain and stress.
Such mental stressors are much more difficult to deal with than external ones. You can block stressful noise with ear plugs and get rid of the problem right away, but you can’t just stop having these negative, stressful thoughts. Or can you?
- Negative thoughts, such as replaying in your head how your boss yelled at you a week ago, can instantly make you feel stressed out – even when you’re supposed to be relaxing. Unless you learn how to deal with these thoughts, you’ll never fully recharge your batteries.
- One of the most effective ways to stop letting negative thoughts affect your state of mind is to reduce their intensity. By turning the negative image into a ridiculous, absurd situation, you’ll change your emotional association with the situation. When you break your behavioral pattern this way, you won’t reinforce the thought in your head, thus making it easier to throw it away.
- Use the same technique during a stressful situation. It will reduce its intensity and help you remain in a resourceful, positive state instead of stressing out (and replaying the situation in your head many times later on).
- Prevent future negative thoughts by taking a 7-day “Change Your Thoughts” challenge. Become more aware of your negative thoughts and deal with them instead of brooding over them. It will help you change your default responses and go from a person who stresses out over a past situation to a person who forgets about it seconds after it happened.
5: Seven Habits to Reduce Stress
Throughout the previous sections, we covered numerous habits and actions that can help you step away and recharge your batteries. In this last section, I’d like to share with you seven less obvious ideas to reduce stress we haven’t discussed yet. These habits aren’t so complicated that they need a separate chapter, but implementing them in your life can still provide you with many benefits.
- Manage your stressors. Identify what makes you most stressed and find a way to eliminate it from your life (or at least reduce its impact). According to the 80/20 principle, just 20% of the stressors bring 80% of the stress. Discover your top stressors and make a list of solutions to get rid of them.
- Procrastination gets more stressful the more things you put off. If you can’t motivate yourself to do something, don’t do it. If you have to do it, delegate it. It’s usually not procrastination you’re dealing with – it’s just that you’re trying to do things you don’t need to do in the first place.
- Show up early. Develop a habit to always be at least five minutes early. Being in a rush is a sure-fire way to get stressed out. Don’t be afraid that you’ll lose five minutes by being early for each appointment. If you don’t want to take a break during this time, you can always pull out your phone and reply to emails or do other small tasks.
- Single-task. Multi-tasking doesn’t work, and the more things you’re trying to juggle at the same time, the lower the quality of your actions. Multi-tasking affects your productivity, causes stress, and can hurt the people closest to you when your lack of attention shows lack of care.
- Have an open schedule. If you pile obligations on top of obligations, you’ll feel like a prisoner. Unless you thrive under pressure and love having every single hour of your day planned, loosen up your calendar. Schedule at least one or two hours each day for unscheduled meetings or just for spending time in solitude.
- Stop trying to control things over which you have little or no control. It leads to unnecessary stress, especially if you’re trying to control other people. Learn how to let go of control by gradually releasing it – starting with simple tasks, and then moving on to things that would usually turn you into a certified control freak.
- Physical junk around you can lead to increased stress. Clean your desk, get rid of clothes you no longer use, throw away all the old stuff you thought would be useful one day. It’s much less stressful and distracting to work in an organized environment than a cluttered one.