Sometimes stress and negativity in general becomes so powerful that we almost feel like we can't deal anymore.
We may temporarily or no so temporarily become angry, sad, depressed, apathetic over even burn-out and become unable to do what we used to do for weeks, months or even years.
Finding ways to release the negative tension and stress becomes crucial to not only handle life but to live a happier and more meaningful life.
Recently I've thought quite a bit about these things and done some brainstorming-sessions. Here are some of the ways I've come up with so far on how to live a more relaxing life.
1. Prioritize, reorganize and remove – One of the big problems with a life filled with stress is that it's filled with too much stuff to do and think about.
Another big problem with a life filled with stress is perhaps not that it's filled with things to do but that a lot of those things are stuff you really don't feel like doing. You may feel that it's just something that you should do.
Do you really have to do all things in life? Or are some of them just things you do by habit, not knowing really why you are doing them when you think about it? Or are you doing them because someone else thinks it's important? Or do you think that friends, neighbours or just people in general will look down upon you if you don't do it?
I have found that using the 80/20 rule – also know as the Pareto Principle – to be effective when trying to figure out what's important in your life and what's not really that important. Basically what the 80/20 rule says is that 20 percent of what you do accounts for 80 percent of the value.
I have found that as a rule of thumb, this is often pretty accurate. In your personal life or at work there are a few very important things that you can do.
Try to figure out what's really important in your life. What those 20 percent are. Then do as much of that as you can. Try to figure out what isn't that important of the 80 percent. Minimize the time and effort it takes in your life or if possible remove it. Then use your “new” time to do more of those really important things.
2. Declutter your outer world – A cluttered environment can split your thoughts ten ways and make it hard to relax – or focus – as your thoughts shift all the time thanks to, for instance, constantly discovering new stuff on your desk (bills, candy, reports, mail your forgot to reply to etc.). Less clutter in your outer world creates less clutter in your mind both at work or at home.
3. Plan on paper then work in the now – Write everything down so you don't have to worry about forgetting something. Putting your plans outside of yourself in some kind of organizing-system to frees up mental RAM and allows your mind to work on other stuff than just trying to remember things.
One of the reasons GTD – the organizing-system from David Allen's Getting Things Done
– has become so popular is probably because it not only it keeps everything organized and helps you actually getting things done but also because it keeps you working in the now by using a organizing system outside of your head.
Since you keep your plans and the future on paper or in an organizer-type of program and only do things one step at a time your mind doesn't have to spend much time, on a emotional and psychological plane, thinking and thereby worrying about what will happen next or this afternoon. This reduces fear, procrastination and stress while creating a flow in your work.
4. Always arrive early – I was reminded of this very commonsensical advice while reading this post about the grandfather of 93-year old blogger Don. Simply, always arrive at meetings and appointments 5-10 minutes early.
5. Find a good listener and just talk– If you have troubles one great way to release that negative energy is to talk about to someone about it. They don't have to come up with a solution to your problem. The point is just for you to talk about it and them mostly to listen. After you've poured it out it feels easier. Later, you can return the favour when they need a listener.
6. Meditate – I have had excellent results with guided meditations. I've tried Paraliminals from Learning Strategies. They have given me a very relaxing effect with almost no mental chatter for up to 24 hours.
And the upside is that they are extremely easy to use. All you have to do is lie down, close your eyes and relax. And both products gave me a very noticeable result on the first try.
There is of course a lot more to meditation and lot of other different and free meditation-techniques to try. Just google it and explore.
7. Watch/read your favourite tv-comedy, movie, book or websites – Laughter is awesome to release tension and just relax for a while. Since I like American Tv-Shows some of my recommendations are The Simpsons, Arrested Development, Frasier, Futurama and the Daily Show.
8. Breathe – The last few weeks I've started doing belly breathing exercises which has brought me both clarity of mind and a sense of calmness.
9. Exercise – Perhaps the most obvious advice of all. Exercise does not only release tension but also, over time, provides you with more energy to handle anything that might come up in your life. And there is a lot of good information online and you can find well filled authority-sites and helpful forums on most subsections of exercise. Again, just google around a bit and see what you find.
10. Fix the rest of the fundamentals – Perhaps the advice providing the largest impact on your life if applied. So, eat and sleep better. Stop or at least reduce smoking and drinking. And you'll not only feel more relaxed but better in almost every kind of way.
11. Redefine your problems – Are your problems really as big as you think they are? Or are you perhaps blowing them up to scary proportions in your mind? Often we build up our problems, just like fear and anger, in our minds. And then they quickly lose all proportions compared to the problem at hand.
It's common to dwell on your problems 80 percent of the time but to only think about a solution 20 percent of the time. This, of course, magnifies any problem. Me, I've taken some good advice and started to flip those numbers around and try to spend 80 percent of my time focusing on a solution rather than the problem.
Having a problem finding a solution to your problems? Maybe you haven't come up with enough solutions yet.
12. Find the opportunity hidden within the problem – Another thing about problems is that we often focus on the bad part of them. But there is almost always a good part too. Or at least an opportunity within the problem. Perhaps it teaches us to be more patient, how to live more frugally or become more empathic. Finding this more positive part of the problem reduces it's negative emotional impact and you may even start to see the situation as a great opportunity for you. When you are faced with a problem ask yourself:
What is the good thing about this? What can I learn from this? And what opportunity can I find within this problem?
13. Surrender to your feelings – Instead of fighting your feelings accept them and surrender to them. And you'll find that the negative feelings quickly lose their power over you and fade away. Here's the practical formula, which I have written about several times before, for doing just that:
When you feel a negative feeling then accept it. Don't try to fight it or to keep it out (like many of us have learned throughout life).
Say yes to it.
Surrender and let it in.
Observe the feeling in your mind and body without labeling or judging it. If you let it in – for me the feeling then often seems physically locate itself to the middle of my chest – and just observe it for maybe a minute or two something wonderful happens. The feeling just vanishes.
14. Overcome or at least reduce your fears – This is of course not as easy as some of the suggestions above and can take months or years. But if you reduce some of your fears you'll start knocking down some of the walls in your life that are holding you back.
When you start to reduce one fear you will to start to feel more freedom in that area of your life. That sense of freedom, the practical knowledge you acquire and knowing that you can lessen your fear dramatically, that it is possible and you have done it can start to seep into other parts of your life. And being able to do what you want and being able to be who you want to be and not being kept back by fear can relieve large amounts of stress and negativity and change any life in a remarkable way.
For some practical tips have a look at 5 Life-Changing Keys to Overcoming Your Fear. One of the keys has already been described in this article (it's #13) but there are four more that can be very useful.
As usual with these larger articles with over a dozen tips: you may not want to try them all out at once. That would probably just lead to more stress and you frequently beating yourself up.
Instead, just choose one or a few of the suggestions and try them out for a 30-day trial. That means using the tip every day for 30 days thereby making it a habit and something that you after a month can do more automatically and with less effort.
Some of the most useful suggestions in this article, those can have a very large impact on your life, are tips like number 1, 9, 10, 13 and 14.
I've still got another handful of suggestions on how to relaxify your life so I'll probably post another article with those later on.