Stress destroys our inner peace. If you want to live a happier, calmer, more peaceful life, the number one thing you need to focus on is reducing your stress levels. But, in practice, it’s never that simple. Life throws us into stressful situations all the time. The key is to learn to manage them better so that they don’t overwhelm us. The following five habits can help you reduce the amount of stress you’re exposed to and cope better with the stress you can’t avoid.
1. Downsize your commitments
I’ve finally realized why I find it hard to get up in the morning. It’s because the minute I wake up, I remember the massive list of things I need to do today, and my subconscious takes over and decides the only way to avoid the stress of my overwhelming to-do list is to hide from it by going back to sleep. If you’ve ever felt the same, then, like me, you’re probably trying to pack too much into every day. So much of finding inner peace is about simplifying your life, and that means simplifying your time too. Take a long hard look at all the things on your to-do list and get rid of any that aren’t absolutely central to you living the life you want.
2. Create a sanctuary to retreat to
If, like me, you struggle to maintain a clean and tidy home, then the chaos around you will be constantly contributing to your stress levels and probably also making you feel bad about yourself. In the long-term, you’ll need to find a way to get on top of your housework. But, changing the habits of a lifetime and working your way through months or years of accumulated clutter is a daunting prospect. What is easier is to focus on one tiny part of your home. Choose a space that you would like to be able to relax in, and focus on making that the beautiful space you want it to be. Then, whenever the rest of your home is getting you down, you have somewhere peaceful to retreat to.
3. Take regular breathing spaces
When we are under a lot of stress, particularly if that stress is connected with not having time to do everything, it can be tempting to rush around trying to achieve as much as possible. But, this leads to us feeling exhausted and dissatisfied by the end of the day, with many of our tasks still not finished. Taking just five minutes, two or three times a day, to pause, evaluate where we are, and consciously calm ourselves, allows us to manage our stress. It’s time well spent, because being able to stay productive for longer more than compensates for the few minutes we spend in the breathing space.
4. Don’t turn fun into a treat
When we have too much to do, it’s very tempting to push all the fun stuff to the end of the day. We tell ourselves that we need to get the unappealing but necessary tasks out of the way first, and the fun things can be our reward for doing them. But when your to-do list is far too long, what happens in reality is that you never have time for the fun stuff. And when every day is filled with the tasks you don’t enjoy, is it any wonder you end up feeling stressed, resentful and depressed? Think about which of your hobbies or interests gives you the most pleasure, and make it a priority in your life. Give it at least the same importance as the other things on your to-do list. It may feel as though you are just adding one more task to your list, but it’s a task that will help you remember the importance of looking after you.
Study after study has shown the huge benefits that regular exercise brings to both our mental and physical health. On a direct physical level, exercise makes you more resilient to stress. And on an emotional level, while your body is physically active, your mind can take a backseat for a while. I often find that I come up with solutions to problems while I’m exercising, even when I’m not consciously thinking about the problem. My mind is able to turn it over in the background, without causing me conscious stress. The key thing about exercise is to find something you enjoy and which you can fit into your regular routine. That way you’ll be more likely to make it a long-term part of your life.
Implementing the ideas above isn’t going to magically remove all the stress from your life. Stress will always be there. But, if you feel that you are in control of your stress, rather than letting it control you, you will have taken an important step towards living a calmer, more peaceful life.