10 tips to simplify your life and lower stress
Recently, I sat down to have a leisurely conversation with an acquaintance of mine. Like me, she also has an interest in promoting healthy lifestyles. Her first comment concluded the main reason our society’s health is in decline today is because people are just too busy and stressed out.
Later that day, I saw an article that caught my eye stating the highest healthcare costs in America are mental disorders. They exceed heart disease, trauma, and cancer. The next day, I was doing some research on a potential new client – a hospital in a small town in Wisconsin. Their current health needs assessment listed mental health, alcohol abuse, and illegal drug use as three of the top six needs in their community. Again, mostly related to a stressful lifestyle. Do you see a pattern here?
The idea of too much stress as a critical health issue has been brewing for quite some time. And, although we aren’t ready to admit it, it is now a full-blown epidemic. While I’m no mental health professional, I have been a very focused observer in this modern-day phenomena. I know what I have experienced personally. I know what I’ve seen in my family and friends. I see what is happening in our society. There is absolutely no question stress-related mental health issues are on the rise. Possibly, at the same pace or greater than physical health issues.
Modern lifestyle main culprit to being chronically overstressed
For some people, whether they are experiencing mental or physical health issues (or both), the cause is very complex and not preventable. However, for many the primary culprit is our modern lifestyle. Just like too much sitting, fast food, processed food, and screen time has affected our physical health; keeping up with the Joneses, busyness, constant electronic connectedness, longer work hours, and increased stress has taken its toll on our mental health. But just as you can make lifestyle changes to improve your physical health, you can do the same for your mental health.
WebMD identifies ten health problems related to stress that you can fix. Stress seems to worsen or increase the risk of chronic health conditions including heart disease, asthma, obesity, diabetes, headaches, depression and anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, alzheimer’s disease, accelerated aging, and premature death. So, if you find yourself under excessive stress for an extended period, it is time to make a change.
Ten ways to help eliminate chronic stress
Often, it is helpful to talk to a friend in confidence that can help you sort things out. And, in some cases, you may need to talk with a professional. However, I have listed below ten practical ways to eliminate stress that may be helpful:
- Identify the stressors. Take some time and write down all of the things in your life that are causing you stress. The make a top five list and identify ways any of them can be eliminated. For those that can’t be totally eliminated, can they be reduced in some way. Now take action.
- Eliminate unnecessary commitments. Busyness from over scheduling is one of the biggest stressors most of us face.
- Overcome procrastination. We are human so we all face the desire to procrastinate, especially on those things we do not enjoy doing. Adopt a “worst first” and “do it now” philosophy and habit. You will feel so much better. Keep your inbox and desk clear.
- Tackle disorganization. Being disorganized stresses you out whether you want to admit to it or not. It also causes you to waste a lot of time which just adds more stress. Start with your desk and the papers in your home and go from there. You don’t need to tackle it all at once, just spend ten minutes each day working on your organization and before long you will have made a big difference.
- Avoid difficult people. I’m sure you can name them. They drain your energy and seem to make your life more difficult. Make an extra effort to avoid them if at all possible.
- Simplify your life. Simplifying your life will have a major positive impact on your stress and quality of life. Simplify your schedule, your stuff, your commitments, your routines, your information intake, and your clutter. When you do this you will feel so much better.
- Create space to relax and play. Your body and brain needs space for downtime. Always doing and doing and going and going just wears you out. And eventually, takes it toll. You become less productive, less creative, and more stressed.
- Exercise. Exercise helps both your body and your mind relax. Whether it is vigorous or a leisurely walk, it does you good.
- Eat healthy. Staying healthy eliminates a major stress factor, your health. In addition, eating healthy foods makes you feel better and have more energy. Eat lots of fresh, real foods, not processed food out of a can or bag.
- Be grateful. Be thankful for what you have and for the people in your life. Research shows that if you write down five things you are grateful for over the past week for ten weeks, you’ll be happier and healthier. Charles Dickens puts this well: “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many, not your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
I hope you found this information helpful. You have control and the ability to make the changes necessary to defeat chronic and often debilitating stress. It’s up to you. The path is yours to take.