You’ve probably heard a lot about work-life balance, and how important it is to keep yourself in check if you want to be happy. Don’t forget that managing stress is also a factor in achieving balance, and it is a lot simpler to do when you break it down into smaller tasks.
Stress management is a combination of breaking down your day, taking away and adding activities, planning and always making time for proper relaxation and sleep. Here is a breakdown of strategies to help you get balanced and reduce stress.
1. Separate your days into segments
A major source of stress in our lives always seems to be that we have a lot of things to do, and never seem to have quite enough time to do it all. If you separate your days into segments, though, you will find that you actually have a lot more time to get things done than you have always thought.
Dedicate specific time throughout the day for specific tasks. For example, plan to read and answer all your unread emails for the first half hour of your day. Write it down. If you know it is coming and you know you only have a half hour to get it done, you will end up being much more efficient in the long term.
Don’t forget to schedule frequent breaks, time for meals (eating in front of your computer while doing more work doesn’t count) and time to relax. It’s very easy to unintentionally overwork yourself when you get into a flow state, and it will only make you more stressed out later.
2. Plan ahead as best you can
There will always come events and circumstances we do not expect, and those are difficult to handle no matter who you are. While there’s a lot in life we cannot control, there is also a lot we actually can control. The best way to take control of your life and manage stress is to plan ahead for the things you can see coming, and also for the things you can’t.
If you have something due on Friday, you can plan to work on it a little bit every day of the week prior to the due date so you don’t end up stressing yourself out at the last possible moment. If you know you are going to have a stressful day on Wednesday, you can plan to get a little more done on Tuesday and Thursday so you can focus primarily on your stressors on Wednesday.
If you know it’s coming, try your best not to avoid it or put it off. It’s going to be a lot easier to deal with stress in small bursts than have to deal with it all at once under a lot more pressure.
3. If you can, get rid of your major stressors
Finding work-life balance is a major factor in achieving stress reduction in our lives, but it’s much easier said than done. Sometimes there are things in our lives causing much more stress than they are worth, and until we take the time to sit down and really look closely at what is stressing us out the most, we might never realize it.
Is there a stressful relationship in your life that doesn’t need to be there, like a friend you’ve kept in touch with but never meet up with outside of texting or email? Is there a volunteer commitment or even a job that’s just much more trouble than it’s worth?
Letting go of these things, if possible, might really help you regain your balance and reduce your stress levels. Create a pro-con list and be honest with yourself. It might be hard to let someone or something go, but if it’s going to benefit you in the long run, it’s worth saying goodbye.
4. Otherwise, find healthy ways to cope with them
You can’t always just walk away from something just because it stresses you out. You can’t quit your job out of nowhere and you can’t give everyone you know the cold shoulder. That doesn’t mean you can’t still take matters into your hands, though: coping with stress doesn’t always have to mean getting rid of something. Sometimes, relieving stress means adding something new.
You can cope with stress through physical activity, for example, which not only improves your mood, but also releases endorphins and just makes you feel better about life in general. Sure, you’ll have to dedicate more time to making workouts part of your routine, but it’s worth the effort.
Some people meditate or practice yoga. Some write or sketch or build things from scratch. Everyone has their own way of healthfully handling their stress. With a little exploration, you should be able to find yours, too.
5. Leave room for relaxation and sleep
No, these two things aren’t the same, either. Relaxing happens while you are awake, and involves doing something that clears your head and literally forces your muscles to relax. Even activities like watching T.V. or doing the dishes can count as relaxing, because they, temporarily, let your mind wander.
Sleep, on the other hand, is your mind and body’s way of repairing and regenerating your muscles and memories for the day to come. How much sleep you get can affect how you react to stressful circumstances, and vise versa. If you do not get enough sleep, it has the potential to throw everything else off balance.
Leave the last hour or two of your day for relaxing, and let yourself sleep when you’re tired. Put yourself on a sleep schedule, if that helps you. If you start getting as much sleep as you need, you will be much more capable of handling daily stressors and taking care of yourself physically and emotionally.
Stress is an emotional and physical barrier that can keep us from living the happy, fulfilling life we deserve. Try out these stress-reducing strategies for yourself and see if they make things any easier for you and help you return balance to your life.