Stress—sometimes external (and internal) factors are only as bad as we let them be. That being said, it’s not easy to shut off the old habits that let us become stressed out, which can ultimately affect our health and sense of well-being.
Whether your preference is to worry about money, relationships, health or family (or all of them), there are steps you can take to take edge off stress and see the silver lining. Why not this year? It’s as good as any to make changes. Here are nine tips to lead you to a calmer place for 2017…
1. Learn to Meditate
Have you heard the term “meditation over medication?” Well, no you haven’t, because we just made it up. This isn’t to say that prescriptions aren’t helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed, but learning how to balance your thoughts without drugs is a very practical skill to foster.
The Times of India says that “meditation is one of the best ways to lead a stress-free life,” and that it only takes 20-minutes to reach a higher sense of calm. It takes some practice though, so look for books or in-person sources of information on the subject that can help you hone your mindfulness abilities.
2. Take More ‘Me’ Time
Often you give so much of yourself to employers, friends and family that your own well runs dry. This can make it difficult to navigate stressful situations, making them seem much worse—because you’re already tired and emotionally drained.
WebMD says research has shown that women in particular are less happy than they have been in the past 40-years, namely because they’re trying to balance family and careers. The key is to remember that without feeling your best (by taking a time out now and then), you won’t be able to give what others need. (Oh, also remember you deserve some time for your hobby or just to soak in a nice bath.)
3. Walk it Off
Instead of stewing in worry, you can take that pent up energy and use it for a brisk walk outside instead (or at the gym). You’ll provide yourself with new surroundings as a distraction in the process, rather than staring at a television screen.
Prevention.com notes that even a solid 20-minute walk “can have the same calming effect as a mild tranquilizer.” It releases endorphins that naturally improve your state of mind and even relieve pain. You don’t need to power walk to get the most benefits: you can combine meditation with low-impact strolling for great results, explains the source.
4. Acknowledge When You’re Stressed
Dealing with stress effectively is not about ignoring it, which can manifest into illness. There’s nothing “tough” about absorbing stress without dealing with it. You’re not doing yourself (or anyone else) any favors in the process.
You can also keep a record of your stressors—situations that make you feel stressed, notes SkillsYouNeed.com. Write it down when you feel frazzled, and try to decide better ways to deal with that situation in the future (or avoid it if that’s practical).
5. Learn Time Management
Continuously running late for appointments or picking up the kids from school can take a toll on you over time. Ask yourself what is making you late in the first place, and focus on ways to become more efficient with your time.
MentalHelp.net says while you can identify and make a list of chronological steps needed to complete tasks, you should be kind to yourself as well. “Emphasizing task completion over maintaining a balanced life tends to create stress rather than reduce it,” notes the site. Set your time management schedule depending on your own priorities, not according to someone else’s impositions, it adds. (We would add that if you need to turn in a project at noon tomorrow to avoid losing your job, perhaps focus a bit on that for now.)
6. Improve your Diet
You may be stressing yourself out just by what you’re shoving into your mouth (or not shoving into it). For example, Times of India notes that by skipping breakfast you’re setting yourself up for anxiety and less coping capacity, as lowered blood sugar will make you feel cranky.
The same source recommends enriching your diet with Omega-3 fatty acids to combat stress and provide a “calming effect”. It doesn’t list foods with it, so we’ll do that part for you: Salmon, beef, cauliflower, flaxseeds, walnuts, and even tofu make the list.
7. Automate your Banking
Thinking about bill deadlines is something that keeps people up at night. However, many banking institutions let you automate your banking to make withdrawals when needed, which will help avoid those stressful collection calls.
Money in general is a major source of anxiety—because many people overspend. Try to live within your means, and only use high-interest sources of credit for emergencies (or get into the habit of paying them off quickly). Look for inexpensive hobbies that give you satisfaction without a large tab.
8. Let Yourself Have Fun
Ask yourself, “When was the last time I really had fun?” You may find that you can’t remember, and this is no good. Remember, you don’t have to pre-plan fun; besides, that can set you up for disappointment. You can make fun a daily routine, notes ZenHabits.net.
“Have fun each day, even if it’s just for a few minutes,” notes the source, suggesting letting loose with your kids during playtime counts as fun too. Indulge in sports, games, and even intimate activity (who says that isn’t fun?).
9. Less is More
Studies have shown that decluttering your home and workspace can actually reduce your stress levels. Looking at a pile of papers on your desk or a mess of clothes on your bed can make you feel overwhelmed, which is not a peaceful feeling.
The challenge for many is how to tackle the clutter to begin with, explains LifeHack.org. Luckily, it has compiled a handy guide that answers many of these questions. As with physical clutter, you can also declutter your life, adds the source—reduce your commitments and reconsider your routines, it suggests.