Ways to Reduce Stress in Your Life

Fighting off stress can be a daily battle but you can build habits that help.

Stress impacts individuals in various ways. Stress isn’t just left behind as we walk through the doors of work. Nor is it left at work as we return home to rejoin our families or to continue personal endeavors. So, what things can you do to reduce stress in your life? Consultative HR has some ideas!

Practice mindfulness

Many people talk about “mindfulness,” but what does it mean to practice that? Some may picture the criss-cross applesauce pose and fingers together in a yoga stance, clearing the mind of all thought. However, when I think of mindfulness, I think of deliberate thoughts to ward off the intrusive ones. This means being aware of deeper subconscious or anxiety-producing thoughts and then consciously changing them.

Key Action: Next week, use a secret code word to introduce a change to a thought. It can be as simple as “STOP” when you hear an intrusive thought, and then defend yourself with a better thought!

Exercise regularly to release endorphins and reduce tension

When I was in my early 20s, I took up running. After running a half block, holding my side, and huffing air to catch my breath for the first month or so, I built up endurance for it. I remember the “runner’s high” that replaced that initial feeling that running would be the death of me. Running became my release. It became my “me time,” and I couldn’t get enough of it. My favorite time to run was at night when the sun had set, nobody could see me and yell at me like Forest Gump, and I could lose myself in my thoughts and meditations. Running became my way of fighting off stress.

Key Action: Next week, plan some exercise in your life. Start a habit that’s right for you. It may be walking after dinner or signing up with a group for tennis or volleyball. Start with whatever you have determined with your doctor to be right for you.

Start the day off right

It is funny how “starting the day off right” can differ for each person. My mother-in-law taught me something she probably doesn’t even realize I noticed. She started her day every day listening to spiritually related articles. When I started doing the same, I realized how beneficial it was in starting my mind off in a good place. I now call this my “personal morning worship,” and I like the mindset it puts me in. One colleague told me they do this same thing, only with a TedTalk, motivational, or other professionally boosting learning videos. Another colleague told me they must make the bed to get into the right mindset for the day. Their mental “checklist” starts with making the bed and puts them in the right mood for the day. Whatever you feel gets you in a good mindset, make it a habit!

Key Action: In the next week, plan something for each morning before work that enriches your mind and starts you off in the right mindset.

Get enough sleep and maintain a consistent sleep schedule

How can we forget about sleep as a way to reduce stress? SleepScoreLabs reports: “Sleep is a powerful stress reducer. Following a regular sleep routine calms and restores the body, improves concentration, regulates mood, and sharpens judgment and decision-making. You are a better problem solver and are better able to cope with stress when you’re well-rested. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, reduces your energy and diminishes mental clarity.”

Products like Fitbit, Apple, and Android all have devices you can use to track your sleep patterns and try to make adjustments to help you sleep better. I love checking out how I slept the night before and correlating what I did (or didn’t do) the night before. For instance, if I have alcohol the night before, too close to bed, I notice a difference in my overall sleep score. I note what helps me sleep best and build habits around those things.

Key Action: Track your sleep for two weeks through technology or a manual sleep log, focusing on improving your rest. Note how you feel each morning and track what changed the day/night before that could have impacted your sleep.

Building or Breaking Habits

Recently, I discovered an app called Habit Now, which has been excellent in building new habits or killing old ones. For instance, you could create a habit of making your bed daily (or anything that helps you reduce stress) or put in a habit breaker that increases your stress when you practice it. Either way, the app charts and celebrates your successes.

Key Action: Find ways to chart or mentally note your wins in building habits that fight stress.

These are just a few things that have helped me with stress. What do you find works for you? Follow my professional page on LinkedIn for more topics that will help you in your daily life.