How to Be Less Stressed in Everyday Life

by Henrik Edberg

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Image by nattu (license).

.“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, you shall begin it well and serenely…”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

To me one of the most interesting things about improving life and growing is to make the regular day even better. Reaching your goals, having really special or awesome days and learning to handle bad times and slumps are of course important but many days in life are spent in-between that.

And one of the most common problems today, maybe more than ever, is that the regular day gets dragged down from maybe a good morning into a day of stress, overwhelm and being busy but barely moving forward.

So today as I sat down to write I wanted to write about some of the best things in this area that I have learned in past few years. Things I do today, a regular Wednesday, that I almost never used to do half a decade ago to live a more relaxing and focused life.

The short to-do list.

I used to seldom get much done in a week when I was in college. Then I used somewhat overloaded to-do lists for a while. That landed me in too much stress and I procrastinated away many days. Today I aim at getting two or three of the most important things done each day.

One thing at a time.

I find that if I try to multi-task I usually get stressed and unfocused. So I try to single-task pretty much everything I do during a day as best I can.

Avoid the gray zone.

What is the gray zone? That is when you are for example bringing your work home or when you bring your stress from home to work. Sometimes this might be unavoidable but making a habit of either of these things can really ramp up the stress and make things even worse.

I avoid the gray zone as best I can by having some pretty firm rules on when I am at work or when I am not working. I work from home so rules like these are essential for me. So I:

  • Do no work after 7 o clock in the evenings.
  • Do not do work on weekends.
  • Take breaks pretty much every hour.

Having these firm rules helps me to not get lost in the gray zone, to stay in the present moment and to not create stress about work when I am not working.

Be where you are.

This is related to the last pointer. When you work then work. When you are with a friend, family member or partner fully be with them (not with someone else or at work in your mind).

Being fully where you are and mindfully focusing on what you are doing right here right now is one of best things I have ever learned.

Just being where you are fully and being fully focused on that moment brings out so much detail and joy and inner peace. It makes the moments of life more enjoyable.

Single-tasking is one way to tap into being mindful for me. Another tip I often use is to focus fully on just what is in front of me and around me right now for a few minutes. I take in the world around me with all my senses just for a short while to connect with the present moment and to get out of my own head (by that I mean to not keep thinking about some past or future scenario). And I sometimes take a couple of dozen belly breaths and focus on just my breathing to reconnect with the now.

Shape the environment.

I have found that I do my best work best if I work in a cone of silence. That means that I shut of the cell phone, the instant messenger, I sit by myself and I very rarely go online. Try that or a variation of it that fits you and your situation and see if that helps you to reduce your daily stress.

Be early.

I am pretty punctual. Not really because I am a stickler for these things. But because I want to avoid the stressful traveling. I want to spend my traveling time relaxing. So I make sure that I give myself time to prepare if I am going out to eat or to a party. I make sure that I am maybe 5 or 10 minutes early to a meeting. It’s a very simple thing to reduce stress in your mind and body.

If it doesn’t get done then that’s OK.

I’d like to get my two or three most important things from my to-do list done each day. But life is life. And sometimes it interferes. Such is reality.

And then someone might get annoyed or angry. But the skies won’t fall and in the long run it won’t matter much at all. So don’t beat yourself up and create a lot of stress within. Life is too short for such things.

There is a day tomorrow too and you can get that one thing done then instead.

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{ 24 comments }

YouthInvent September 21, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Awesome Henrik !

I really appreciate the short-to-do list thing because i think its very useful for college goers to not to get overstressed by their schedule, so i think 1 or 3 important things per day is best for us.
the second point about avoiding multitasking is good one too. and the 3rd point about grey-zone was also nice!

I Think this post for me is best post in this week for me, hoping to get more better positivity too!

Aniee

jack foley September 25, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Yea being early is so important, by nor being punctual, it can effect your self confidence..

Jack

Geraldine September 21, 2011 at 5:46 pm

More excellent advice, thanks Henrik. The “grey zone” is certainly something to try to avoid. It’s so easy to get bogged down this way. Great post.

http://www.takeahappybreak.com

Merly September 22, 2011 at 5:07 am

Great article…i need this…awesome..thanks….you are the best..keep up the good work

Daisy September 22, 2011 at 5:40 am

This article is very simple but it’s thoroughly true. Thanks Henrik for sharing! You’re good and keep writing!!! =)

Josten September 23, 2011 at 12:21 am

Such an amazing post with very helpful tips. The work schedule of not working on weekends and no work after 7 is something I will have to incorporate into my life.

TheHappyOne September 23, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Thanks Henrik
An awesome post…so relevant.
Simplicity is the key to all maladies.
Keep it up!!!

marc van der Linden September 24, 2011 at 7:05 am

Great list!

The most challenging for me is “avoiding the gray zone”. It is not necessary work related, but in general while shifting between roles – work, blogging, reading, friends after work, personal friends, family, …

The only thing which works is to firmly decide any gray moment to write down a short-to-do-list what to do with the previous situation and commit myself to ‘be” in the current situation.

Thanks for the inspiration!

Nabil Gulamani September 24, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Henrik,

Great points….As far as having a to-do list, I think that if people know what their mission and purpose is in life, than having that perfect to do list will be very overwhelming…The thing is that if you are clear and sure about what you want out of life, you will make a habit of working towards it everyday without stressing about a to-do list….Having a long to-do list can make you stressed and also make you procrastinate and feel guilty about yourself if you haven’t completed every task..

Hope you are having a great weekend,

Cheers,
Nabil

Kian | Awesome Life Coach October 3, 2011 at 3:35 pm

This is an excellent comment and something I wish I knew myself much earlier. For years I would have extremely long to-do lists that weren’t focused. I thought that everything on my to do list was pulling me towards my goal in life. The problem is I didn’t know what I wanted in life and my to-do lists didn’t match the outcomes that I truly wanted out of life. Since I’ve worked out what I want to do and achieve in life with certainty, I now feel that every time I cross off something on my to do list I am moving closer to achieving my goals in life.

Edward Rhidwan September 25, 2011 at 6:08 am

Awesome…
this is really will make our life easier and fun. Thanks Henrik.

Stuart September 25, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Thanks for sharing these Henrik, a short yet magnificent collection of tips!

I think everyone could do with inventing their own ways to deal with stress, and apply them to their own lives. Everyone’s different after all.

Trial and error is key here – if something helps to reduce your stress levels, stick with it! If it doesn’t help, and you can get rid of it, do so! Why keep doing something if it’s not good for you? :-)

Judy Belmont, M.S. September 25, 2011 at 8:04 pm

What this post relates to is how to be resilient in everyday life, as resilience is the key to dealing with stress. The stressful times that we live in are challenging and resilience is key! I liken life to Swiss Cheese – Life is not smooth and predictable like American or Cream Cheese. Although it would be nice, life really is not fair, and often we do not get what we want or what we think we deserve. Rather , it is like Swiss with all its holes and its how you get through them that counts! Based on this idea, I am the co-author of a book to be released in the middle of October called “The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life: How To Get Through Life’s Holes Without Getting Stuck inThem! ”

What has personally helped me in dealing with stress is the mindset that life is a school and we can learn a lesson from everything. The ability to learn from setbacks and see each life lesson as a gift. Life is the best teacher of all and it certainly has a way of teaching us lessons that no one could!

Minz September 26, 2011 at 6:55 am

Henrik, I love your blog. The set up and look of this blog relaxes me the minute I log on. The simple look of this blog help make this my little cove of serenity and peace that I look forward to enjoying everyday. Keep up the good work!

Henrik Edberg September 26, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Thank you everyone for sharing your great comments and insights! :)

Petr Mihulka September 26, 2011 at 1:18 pm

I like all the tips and I’d like to be able to follow the in my everyday life… I need to discipline myself.

Rodney Ronquillo September 27, 2011 at 8:17 am

Henrik, i just came across your blog and i really liked this post. It reminds me that it makes so much sense to create a gray zone. In fact, home should be the safest place on earth, meaning that whatever the day was like for a person, that person should look forward to another story when they go home, leaving all the stresses behind. Although for some of us who conduct business from home, it’s still important to make a part of the home a place that’s almost like a vacation, away from all the hustle and bustle. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

Anonymous September 27, 2011 at 8:39 am

what about we indian stress management. In our private sector if we are leaving on time then we’ll not get a good appraisal or can say will not consider for promotion, here we work from 9 to late.

how we indian can be stress free.

James R. Clawson September 27, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Great tips for a stress free life. My all time favorite is to take one thing at a time. Not try and do too much and be overwhelmed but to focus focus focus!

Kate September 29, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Yes being fully emotionally and physically in the moment helps me and my mood too ! It makes me feel a lot better .

Czarina Cleopatra September 29, 2011 at 7:23 pm

OMG I need this! I’ve been stressed out for almost 2 months now. :(

Kian | Awesome Life Coach October 3, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Hi Henrik, I’ve only just found your blog and love every bit of advice you give out on your blog! I’m loving it so far and you’ve just earned a new fan!
Back to this article, If you look at all the points, it’s clear that the true secret to becoming less stressed in life is to ‘focus.’ Nearly every point hits on this idea and I couldn’t agree more that learning to narrow your focus and to focus on the important things you most value in life will reduce stress massively.

Life Coach Guy Reichard October 17, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Great article Henrik! The part about being where you are really resonated with me. Being present and mindful not only enriches our lives and makes each moment one that can be more fulfilling, it truly enriches the lives of the people we come in contact with. They notice something different and appreciate being listened to and having someone’s undivided and generous attention (for instance: instead of speaking with someone who’s checking their iphone and texting every minute or two).

I like your points about shaping the environment and showing up early as well – allowing us to be relaxed, focused, mindful and at peace.

Thank you!

Guy

WP Ho | The Conscious Life November 11, 2011 at 9:57 am

Thanks for the simple but useful practical reminders. Simple things like being early and taking it one step at a time can go a long way to prevent stress from building up later down the road. A short to-do list which to me is simply, doing the important things first, is also a great tip to keep in mind. All in all, if you want to have less stress in life, start early, do the right things, one at a time. :)

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