Less Daily Stress: 10 Small Habits That Will Help You

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

Keeping the stress away from your life isn't just about the big things and decisions.

It is also about the small things. About what you do and do not do from day to day.

Those small daily – helpful or unhelpful – habits add up very quickly over the weeks and can be the difference between being focused and feeling good about life or not being able to sleep or work properly and enjoy your life as much as you could.

In this article I’d like to share 10 small habits that have had a huge positive effect in my life and that protects me from both the stress out there in the world and the stress I can cause myself.

1. One thing at a time.

It is often tempting to multi-task to get things done quicker. But every time I feel that impulse I remind myself that in the past I have actually gotten better results, been able to focus more sharply and had less stress in my mind and body when I single-tasked.

And so I continue to do one thing at a time.

2. Just write it all down.

Trying to remember every idea, meeting and so on is not the best use of your mind.

And if your memory is anything like mine then you may lose many ideas if they are not captured pretty quickly. So just write all of your good or great ideas, insights and thoughts down to keep them safe and to unload your mind.

3. Don’t guess. Ask.

Trying to read minds usually don’t go so well at all. So instead, just communicate and ask.

By doing so you promote openness in your relationships in the long run and that will also help you to minimize unnecessary conflicts, misunderstandings, negativity and waste or time and energy.

4. Keep everything in its place.

If everything has its place then your home and workspace will have a more calming effect and it will be less stressful to find those important papers or your keys and wallet as you are heading out to catch the next bus.

5. Set clear daily time-limits for your work.

This has been so important for me to not get lost in the very stressful grey zone and to not think about my business and this blog after my workday is done.

Three limits that I have set are:

  • Breaks every hour. I usually work for about 45 minutes and then take a 15 minute break when I step away from the work and do something completely different.
  • Start and stop-times for work. I don’t work before 8 in the morning and I don’t work after 7 o clock in the evening.
  • I don’t work weekends. I usually check emails once per weekend just to see so there is not something truly important I have to attend to. But other than that I stay away from work over the weekend and spend time with my family, friends, a good book or movie or I do some other fun activity.

6. Be 10 minutes early for meetings.

This is a very small habit but in my experience it can sure decrease the daily stress a whole lot.

For me it has transformed travel time during my day into relaxing breaks instead of passages of time and space that only up my levels of stress and other negative feelings.

7. Do email checking etc. as late in the day as possible.

I try to stay away from my inbox until the end of my workday. Doing my work this way helps me to have less distraction and to focus fully on creating new articles, newsletters and premium courses early in the day.

This may not be possible for everyone of course. But see if you can do one or two hours of uninterrupted work on your most important tasks in the morning before checking your email.

8. Pack before you go to bed.

You'll be less stressed out in the morning and you are less likely to forget something.

9. Aim to keep it very simple instead of creating drama or mountains out of molehills.

Drama, conflicts or creating mountains out of molehills can fill life with things that seem important and sometimes exciting.

But those things will also suck up much of your time and energy and create stress and friction in your life.

A few things that help me to avoid extra drama, conflicts or creating mountains are to ask myself these 3 questions when I am in a negative situation:

  • Am I making a mountain out of a molehill right now?
  • Will this matter in 5 years or even 5 weeks?
  • How can keep things extremely simple in this situation?

10. When overcome with stress, just breathe.

When stressed, lost in a problem or the past or future in your mind breathe a little more deeply than usual and make sure you breathe with your belly. Do this for about 1-2 minutes.

It will calm your body down and bring your mind back from future worries or past mistakes and into what is happening right here in the present moment again.

Image by Insomnia PHT (license).

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehack, The Huffington Post and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Aside from #7 and #8, I do all of these things! Woohoo that explains why I am less stressed than most I know.

    I think the most important, overlooked habit is writing things down. The moment there is something I need to remember or do I make sure to note it in my Evernote. It’s a great way to get it out of your head and leaves you room to breathe. It’s not easy having a calendar in your head.

    • Awesome! And I agree about writing things down is overlooked. It does more good for someone than many people may think.

  • Elegantly simple tips, yet not always easy to remember when life’s a little overwhelming. Writing things down and tackling one small task at a time works wonders for me, but I often forget to take breaks during the day. So thank you for the reminder Henrik!

    • Glad you liked it, Jennifer! :)

    • John

      Jennifer… Here’s a small tip to assist in helping to remember to take a break every know and then. Whenever my stress level starts to rise, and I **KNOW** I need to factor in breaks, I simply strap on my little, inexpensive Casio watch, and then set the alarm to chirp on the half hour (2:30, 3:00, 3:30,… etc). Then, I make myself get up and walk around, go outside, and/or anything else that can help me break up my day.

      It works!

  • Lisa

    Thanks! These tips are great… and just what I needed.

  • Love number 10. I do this all the time. Living in the present moment is one of the best ways I know of to ease stress, and focusing on breathing is one of the best ways I know of to do that.

    • Glad to hear that you are loving that habit too! :) The habit may not sound like much but it sure makes a huge difference.

  • Great post! I would add not only to pack before going to bed, but take a couple of minutes to set things up for the next morning. Even though it doesn’t save much time in the morning, it just seems so much simpler if I do little things like set out the plates or bowls for breakfast the night before.

    • Good addition to that point, Christy! Thank you for sharing your experience with making things simpler and less stressful.

  • I could not agree more with this list. I am a slave to my calendar in a good way. I give everything on it equal weight whether an important business meeting, class field trip with my children or pedicure for myself. If I plan ahead and write it all down somehow I manage to get it done. Thanks for the article.

  • Hey, you are right! I agree with that, especially for advice number 2. Just write it all down. I always just write my thought on my blog (that’s my way) when i getting stress. *fufufu

  • It is really awesome. It is really needed to everyone. It acts as peace of mind. It is the something new. i like it. I will done this.

  • Great tips Henrik, they are practical for most persons.For me my best way of tackling my most stressful situations are asking myself what is really important to me ?How did I arrive at this situation ? How does it affect my living and also will it matter in the future? (which you have in your no.9).Once you try to understand yourself through proper self analysis you will find it easier to transform your stresses into advantages.

  • I just stumbled upon this blog, but I just wanted to say thank you!

    I only do 2, 3, 4, and 8, but I’m definitely going to try out the others. I’ve been trying to block time out and actually take breaks and what not like in 5, but it’s hard to when I just feel like “omgomgomg I need to finish this asap!! T_T” (I saw the procrastination piece; I need to work on that too XD)

    Thank you for inspiring me to get back on my feet while not getting overstressed by everything! ^_^

  • SnowFlower

    Henrik, you’re blog is amazing and is such a blessing

  • Stress is your bodies way of telling you that you are moving in the wrong direction with your current thoughts and that it is time for you to change your thoughts. Change the way you think about a problem if that is causing you stress. There are many roads to Rome; there are also many ways to solve our problems which cause us tremendous stress.
    One way is by meditation, this calms your mind and makes room for new, fresh and often inspiring thoughts to come into your mind. The moral is, a quiet mind will always help you to see solutions that a stressful chaotic mind will not..,

  • As for number 1, I’ve found that it really helps to get the most important task done first thing in the morning. That way I don’t get to procrastinate and stress out over what I really should be doing and it also sets the tone for the rest of the day.
    Awesome list Henrik, I’m sharing this :)

  • Great article. I’ve been telling my students to set daily TIME goals, rather than daily TASK goals. Whole lot less stress and much more productive.
    Thanks for the other tips as well.

  • Actually some really good tips here that I am going to incorporate. Had a really stressful day today :(