10 Small Habits of Less Stressed People

Image by KevinLallier (license).

[hana-code-insert name='social d twitter face' /]“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.

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…

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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/

  • 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.

  • Henrik,
    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

    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.

  • 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!

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

  • 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

    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

  • 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

    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

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