10 Small Habits of Less Stressed People

by Henrik Edberg

Image by KevinLallier (license).

“Unnatural work produces too much stress.”
Bhagavad Gita

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”
Sydney J. Harris

Keeping the stress away in life isn’t just about the big decisions and challenges like the career, your most important relationships, money and health.

It is also to a large degree about what you do each day and week. Those small habits that you may forget about or neglect that when added up make a huge difference.

Here are 10 of them that are having a wonderful impact in my life and have had a very positive effect for many people.

Write it all down.

Use your mind for better things than remembering what to do. And the mind is often like a leaky bucket. So write down all your great ideas, insights, and thoughts before they go missing somewhere and add what you need to do to a to-do list.

One thing at a time.

You’ll get better results and feel better and less stressed if you do just one thing at a time. So instead of multi-tasking, get your day started with doing the most important task of the day until it is finished. Then continue with the next task that is now the most important one for you.

Ask instead of guessing.

Reading minds is hard. So, instead ask questions and communicate. This will help you to minimize unnecessary conflicts, misunderstandings, negativity and waste or time and energy.

Don’t make mountains out of molehills.

Before you start thinking too much about something and building it up something big in your head, ask yourself “am I making a mountain out of a molehill here? And if you get lost in victim thinking in some way then ask yourself “does anyone on the planet have it worse than me right now?”.

Pack your bag before you go to bed.

Then you don’t have to get stressed out by that in morning and you are less likely to forget something.

Set clear boundaries for your day and week.

I have to have limits to properly balance fully focused work with relaxation. By doing things this way I have discovered that I become more productive when not everything is about being productive. And life, in my experience, does become more pleasurable too. Three ways to set boundaries for your day and week are:

  • Set at stop time and start time for work. I do not work after 7 o clock in the evenings and I do not work before 8 o clock in the morning.
  • Plenty of breaks each day. Take breaks during your day to stay sharp and to have energy for the evenings and weekends too. I usually work for about 45 minutes and take a 15 minute break per hour. During that break I get away from the computer and do something different like going out for fresh air, eating something or watching half an episode of the Simpsons. Then every third hour or so I take a longer break for lunch, a snack or something like that.
  • Don’t work on weekends. I try to stay away from the usual impressions and routines during the weekend. I usually take one media- and internet free day. I rarely check my emails on Saturdays or Sundays. Instead I spend time with my girlfriend, friends, family, a good book or movie or I do some other fun activity.

Keep everything in its place.

If everything has its own place then it is whole lot easier to keep your home reasonably ordered and decluttered from day to day. And to find the keys, wallet and cell phone as you are heading out the door.

Be 10 minutes early.

This very simple tip has transformed those traveling times during my day into relaxing breaks instead of passages of time and space that only up my levels of stress and other negative feelings.

Keep a very simple workspace.

By keeping a very simple workspace you minimize the distracting and stressing clutter. And your attention becomes easier to focus in a natural way on what is most important. So think about how you can create such a place to work in.

One suggestion is to just have small desk with a laptop, a pad of paper and a pen and something that inspires you on one of your walls like a list of your top priorities or dreams, a good quote or a meaningful photo that gives you a jolt of energy and positivity.

Just breathe.

When stressed, lost in a problem or the past or future in your mind breathe with your belly for two minutes and just focus on the air going in and out. This will calm your body down and bring your mind back into the present moment again.

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Lisa April 30, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Thank you for this post! Excellent writing!

Get Happiness & Success April 30, 2012 at 9:51 pm

The importance of managing stress cant be over-emphasized. When we’re stressed out we’re less creative, our immune systems function less effectively, and we perform less efficiently than we otherwise would. We love the tips you provided for this post. Keep them coming!

David Hamilton May 1, 2012 at 2:30 am

Don’t work on the weekends has got to be the biggest one for me, and finally this weekend I took a good break. Working for myself I try to take plenty of breaks, including meditation and “face in the sun” breaks. :)

Max May 1, 2012 at 3:21 am

I think one thing we need to remember is that “being simple” or “living simply” needs constant work. There is always some people or some things that ask for our attention.

Simplicity is a choice we make every moment.

“I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best both for the body and the mind.”
Albert Einstein

Jaeger Jermaine May 1, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Thanks for this post. You have written good insights on how we can be less stressed. Glad that I don’t have any work during weekends. I make sure that my weekends are very family-oriented and that everything about work is left behind during these days.


Ashwin May 2, 2012 at 6:12 am

Definitely all 10 points will make our professional and personal life enjoyable.

Thanks for nice tips.

Elaine Enlightening May 2, 2012 at 10:26 am


I appreciate your 10 good reminders. I need to set the alarm on my phone, or I would not take a break.

At the top of my “to-do” list is my “to-be” list. I am a human being not a human doing.

My favorite affirmation is, I am whole,perfect,strong, powerful, loving, harmonious and happy.

DianeDP May 2, 2012 at 1:29 pm

I really enjoyed this post, and found it so helpful. I particularly liked your sentence to pack your bag the night before. I tell that to my kids day in and day out, they never listened, and so I stopped saying it. Sure enough, they are scurrying in the mornings… bute experience is the best teacher. Which is why I always pack my bags in advance (ditto for suitcases, outfits etc. when the next day includes these to-dos).

Ahmad May 2, 2012 at 10:46 pm

Well written. Great post. Needed this.

Ben May 4, 2012 at 1:57 am

Thanks Henrik, it’s good to be reminded of these simple and effective things to feel better.

I’ve been working way too much on my business and all I needed was to yesterday go out of the house, go for a walk and do something different and today I am refreshed and remotivated! :)


Kris May 4, 2012 at 8:04 pm

I really love this wonderful advice! I am on a journey to discover mindfulness in everyday life after quitting a stress-inducing job. And the one HUGE lesson I can see looking back is that I did not do enough of these little things each day. Granted, my work environment wasn’t supportive of these types of behaviors so it wasn’t all that conducive for me to implement them. But at least now I can see the importance of finding tiny pockets of mindfulness in our days. Thank you for this effective reminder on how to approach our day.

Klemen May 5, 2012 at 7:55 am

Henrik, I just want to say THANK YOU for these tips and tips in your other posts. They are really helpful :)

Shagun May 5, 2012 at 5:41 pm

One more way of keeping stress away, is to keep coming back to your blog and get some new inspiration every time.
Once again a good post.. keep up the good work.. thanks

Elaine Enlightening May 5, 2012 at 5:47 pm

I have been practicing the 45 min on/15 min breaks and it works well. It does help my mind to stay fresh. Thank you

Rather/Splendid May 5, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Such a great list. Doing one thing at a time, keeping home/workplace clean and simple are my two favorites that have worked well for me.

In addition I would add that keeping a positive mindset of “it’s not that big of a deal” greatly reduces stress. When a potentially stressful situation arises and you approach it with the aforementioned outlook, there is little that can stress you.

J.D. Meier May 6, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Asking is so easy, and so effective.

The power of writing things down is that you free up your prefrontal cortex to move up the stack, and it helps negate the Zeigarnik Effect.

Maya May 7, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Henrik, I wanted to say that I have found your advice to be extremely helpful! Thank you very much!!! The one that I found particularly helpful is to ask instead of guessing… it’s amazing how much better things get when you just ask.

But there was a time in my life when nothing helped… I didn’t realize it for a long time, but it was my health that was standing in the way. Even seemingly minor health problems can prevent people from being happy. So I wrote an article to share this insight with others. http://www.greatlivingnow.com/2012/05/04/how-find-happiness/

Remez Sasson May 7, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Great tips that are easy to use, and take away unncessary stress from one’s life.

I like the tip “Be 10 minutes early.” I would also add, “Get up 20 minutes earlier in the morning.” You can use this time to eat and drink something before going to work, which will make you feel better and more energetic. This time can also be used for reading a page or two of your favorite book, or a few inspiring quotes. This tends to set a positive mood for the day, which means less stress.

Greg May 9, 2012 at 2:40 am

You really nailed it. I couldn’t have come up with a better list than this. Doing one thing at a time is especially important.
I set aside 30 minutes each day to journal. Write whatever comes to mind, anything at all. That really helps me defrag my brain from a long day.

Zeus May 9, 2012 at 3:34 am

Everybody has stress in their life and handles it in a different way. What really matters is whether you have too much stress in your life and how you handle it. If you’re constantly miserable, upset and snapping at people theirs definitely a problem and needs to be addresses. Like everything else in life their needs to be balance and if there’s not then most likely your priorities are out if whack.

Grady Pruitt May 9, 2012 at 6:51 am

I have taken to writing things down, and I’m definitely finding it much easier. In fact, when I don’t write them down, I’m much more likely to forget than if I do. But it does help to look at what you’ve written from time to time just to remind yourself so you don’t go off on a tangent thinking you know what you’re doing only to discover later you went the wrong way. :D

I might have to work on that simple work area and work time idea :D

Thanks for sharing!

Marien Perez May 9, 2012 at 9:05 am

First things first: putting the most important task on top of my priority list. This is what I’ve found makes the greatest impact – not just on stress, but also on success.

Clarity also helps. Taking the time in the evening to check what I want to do the day after, and in what order. This is a “mind donwloading” exercise that helps me rest at peace – I know I won’t miss anything that’s important tomorrow.

It also helps me get out of bed nice and early – there’s a reason to!

Henrik Edberg May 9, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Thank you everyone for all your kind words and for sharing your own best tips for reducing stress! :)

Irina May 9, 2012 at 5:11 pm

I so needed to read this Article, it is ALWAYS good to see and learn how others deal with stress! I love the “ask before guessing” advice!

sam winchester May 13, 2012 at 9:01 am

god bless you man you just transformed and revolutionized my life.okay can you answer these questions for me.what if we choose to exist in the reality of our making? does it render us insane and if it does isn’t that better than the life of despair

Maria May 16, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Anything I can do to avoid overwhelm is welcome. I am a big picture person so I can find seeing the big picture of what i am trying to do very daunting. I try to break everything down into small steps. It lets me both focus and relax.

Rad May 18, 2012 at 4:26 am

I think it’s also a good idea to set a start and stop time for when you have fun. So you don’t get outta hand with the fun stuff and have time left for work!

nina May 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Allocate time for silliness. This really helps keep you sane and healthy when all around is stress and seriousness.

Gary Korisko May 19, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Good post, Henrick.

We all need a gentle reminder to chill out from time to time. Or…some of us (pointing at myself) need an occasional whack on the noggin to breathe deep.

Very timely. Thank you.

Glori |Crazy Introvert May 21, 2012 at 10:14 am

Celebrate the child in you! Sing, dance, be crazy for a bit…:)

Carrie May 27, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Just found this website today and the information about stress management is very helpful. Been dealing with tension headaches these past few months, and it’s good to know I can change it around just by switching up a few things in my life – like learning to relax and staying in the present.
Thank you.

Anonymous May 31, 2012 at 7:09 pm

I love the quote, “the time to relax is when you don’t have time for it,” by Sydney J. Harris. However, in reality, people would think it is the worst time to take a break with work being overloaded. I believe the small habits are a great way of prioritizing and getting things done. I will most definitely try to apply these habits to my everyday life style and see if I become less stressed.

Kelsey June 6, 2012 at 11:25 pm

I make a daily to-do list each morning and it has been amazing for both my productivity and stress levels!

eve June 7, 2012 at 4:08 am

i really need the post,thanks a lot

David June 7, 2012 at 11:02 am

pretty nice tips ! I want my life be better off.

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