A Stress Epidemic
One of the main reasons why we are so stressed is because we are doing too much and are on overload. We have families where each partner is working a full-time job and possibly a side hustle as well to make ends meet financially. So keeping house and raising a family, needs to be done during “off” hours from work. Most of us no longer mentally clock out at the end of the workday. Instead, we take our work home, and are reachable at all hours via text message or email. Add to that the stress, constant connectivity and social media and it’s no wonder we’re more stressed than ever.
It’s time to do something about it. It’s time to stop trying to do all the things all the time and focus on reducing stress in your life. Start by reviewing everything you do in a given day. A great tool for this is a time log. Keep a simple piece of paper or a small notebook with you at all times. Set an alert on your phone to go off every 30 minutes (during waking hours), and quickly jot down what you’re doing. Be brutally honest. No one else needs to see this log and you can burn it after you’re done. After a week of logging, you get a pretty good idea of where you spend your time and mental energy.
Now comes the fun part. Look through your data and decide what you can let go off. What can you stop doing? Open up some time for yourself to exercise, meditate, or to take a nap so you can catch up on much needed sleep.
Next it’s time to review and release all those worries, questions, and “should-dos” that are stressing you out. Get out another sheet of paper or two and start to write down anything and everything on your mind. All the stuff you’ve been thinking about doing. All the stuff that’s been worrying you. Get it all out. Walk away for a few hours and then come back to your list. Cross out as much as you can. Things that are out of your control and you decide to mentally release. Tasks that you feel like you should do, that you really don’t need to do. Then rewrite what’s left on two different lists. One will be things you can do, or have someone else do for you. This will become your master to-do list for the next few months. The other is a list of worries, or concerns. Notice how much smaller and shorter those lists are and how much lighter you feel just getting it all out of your head.
Last but not least, go burn that master brain dump list.
Do you know what one of the most effective ways to de-stress is? It’s sleeping. Yes, exercise is great and meditation is a wonderful tool, but the best thing you can do to stress less on a regular basis is to get a goodnight sleep.
Think about how much harder your job and your life in general feel after a night when you were up with the kids, or working until four in the morning to finish an important project. You get grumpy, it’s harder to focus, and every little problem suddenly becomes insurmountable. You feel a lot more stressed throughout the day and it only gets worse if you end up sleeping poorly for several days in a row.
Now here’s the interesting bit. The average person doesn't get the optimal amount of sleep at night, and even when we do, our sleep quality often isn’t great. Too often our sleep is disrupted throughout the night, even if we don’t fully wake up and most of us struggle with falling asleep.
Thankfully there are a lot of things you can do to improve both the quantity and quality of sleep you get. Before you tell yourself that you can’t afford to sleep more, realize that not focusing on sleep will cause you to be less focused and productive. You’ll actually get more done by investing time into a good-night sleep.
Start by establishing a bedtime routine. Try to go to bed at the same time every night, even on the weekends. It helps your body get into a rhythm that makes falling asleep and staying asleep easier. Cut distractions from your bedroom. That means leaving your phone in the living room. If you need an alarm, go buy an alarm clock. You don’t want those alerts and notifications keeping you from getting into those all-important deep sleep zones. Turn off the lights and have a good look around your bedroom. Are there any small indicator lights or blinking lights? Try to remove them if possible. Listen for any sounds from electronics and the likes. Make your bedroom a calm, quiet, and dark place of rest.
Last but not least, watch your screen time at night. Our eyes and the way they process light, including the light waves from our screens have a big impact on how alert the body is. One of the worst habits we’ve all developed is to look at our phones while trying to go to sleep. Biologically it’s the equivalent of watching the sunrise. Stop telling your body it’s time to get up while you’re trying to go to sleep. Instead, focus on calming activities like reading, talking with your partner, or meditating for an hour before going to sleep. Reduce screen time for a few hours before bed or at the least invest in blue light filtered glasses or install an app that changes your display at night.