11 Simple Stress Relief Tips (These Work Even If You’re Super Busy)


how to relieve stress, stress relief

When it comes to challenges, everyone has their own unique set.

Yet, I see a common thread running through the lives of clients, friends, and family members alike: an overwhelming task list with not enough time to accomplish everything along with pressure to do even more, constantly being tethered to email, and living in a continual state of stress.

By choosing to do just a little bit of planning, most folks are able relieve stress and feelings of overwhelm.

One of the things that exacerbates feeling overwhelmed is that many of us (and I include myself in this at times) passively move through our weeks and just hope they go well.

When something unexpected comes up, we just don’t have the emotional bandwidth— let alone time— to deal with stress. Or, if we do have to deal with an emergency that demands our time and attention, something has to give.

Then, we feel guilty and angry, and guess what? Our stress levels just keep going up.

Yet, if I suggest you take an hour a week to plan how to get ahead of the curve, you may feel irritated with me. Because if you don’t already have to time to get everything done, how are you going to add one more thing to your list? When we talk about stress relief, just choosing not to take any time to think and plan seems like a way to save time.

So… how’s that working for you?

I ask that from a place of love and affection. I know that in order to be happier and healthier, it is critical that you find a way to reduce stress in your life. We all know this. Our health care practitioners tell us that stress is killing us as a society. So, how do you find some practical solutions to deal with stress, take back control and consciously move forward with your life?

If there’s something I know for sure, it’s that when we are choosing to live consciously, we cannot help but reduce stress in our lives. That’s one of the side effects of conscious living: less daily stress. Then, when the unexpected happens, we can roll with it with more ease.

Frankly, you may not have an hour a week to give. That’s why I’m going to offer a buffet of stress relief tips and ideas to help you plan just a little and see how it affects the quality of your daily life.

“This is as true in everyday life as it is in battle: we are given one life and the decision is ours whether to wait for circumstances to make up our mind, or whether to act, and in acting, to live.”

—Omar N. Bradley

Here are eleven simple ways to use planning for powerful stress relief:

1. Write it all down.

Between my bullet journal and electronic calendar, everything that needs attention gets written down. Tasks, appointments, grocery lists…. write it all down. This process of ensuring that all the swirling thoughts in my head don’t get stuck there always helps me feel centered and productive.

Research has shown that our brain processes information more effectively when we write things down, so the choice to go old school can’t help but reduce your stress levels and help with problem solving.

2. Look ahead.

Before the work week begins, sit down and look at the week ahead. I tend to do my looking ahead on Friday mornings.

What appointments do you have scheduled? What deadlines? Any family obligations? Do you have a day that feels over booked? By looking ahead, you can reduce stress and ensure that you don’t get double booked.

Do you have a block of time that wonderfully free and you want to ensure it stays that way? Now’s the time make sure nothing gets scheduled.

Do you have a pending deadline? Looking ahead empowers you to schedule time to work towards that deadline…or on a big dream or goal.

When we know what is ahead of us, we can feel prepared, reduce surprises, and ensure we don’t forget important things we need – and want – to do.

3. Put self care it on your calendar.

It’s easy to slip into a habit of beating yourself up for not getting it all done while neglecting self care. Things like exercise, that lunch date, and other activities allow us to feel happier and more in control of our days.

If you plan ahead for these simple pleasures by putting it on your calendar – aka making appointments with yourself – you can ensure that those important activities don’t get ignored.

4. Differentiate between planning and execution.

Planning is breaking down all the steps to complete a task. Execution is actually completing those tasks.

While I’m a fan of planning, you’ll be able to reduce stress by separating your planning time from execution time. Planning and immediately attacking your task list creates a time crunch. Making this a habit will lead to you living more by the seat of your pants (aka more unconsciously).

Instead, having a detailed plan BEFORE execution dramatically cuts down on the amount of time wasted in executing tasks.That way you always know exactly what you need to do next and you won’t have to continually switch between “planning mode” and “doing mode.”

5. Even a rough schedule helps reduce stress.

Organizing tasks into a schedule doesn’t have to be overly precise, yet it will reduce stress to know the order in which you plan to tackle them. It also means that your most important – or harder tasks – don’t get pushed to the next day (and the next, and the next…).

Though I look ahead completely once a week— every day before I leave my office, I review my schedule for the next day. This allows me to see what has to be done at a specific time and what blocks of time I have available to manage other tasks.

I’m a morning person, so I find it’s best to begin with the most important tasks first and work your way down. I have more mental energy to deal with the harder stuff early. If you aren’t a morning person, you may want to set yourself up for success by doing some small tasks first to help you gain some momentum.

6. Meal planning.

I don’t know of a single person that doesn’t want to eat a healthy diet. One of the biggest challenges to eating healthfully is deciding what you’ll be eating when you’re already hungry. It’s the arsenic hour that gets to us at the end of the day: “what’s for dinner?”

You don’t have to overly analyze, but a rough menu for the week helps you not only manage your grocery budget, but reduces stress in your daily life.

If you’ve never been a meal planner, here are my ideas and a downloadable planning form.

7. Make weekend plans by Thursday.

Last minute planning on the weekends wastes time and energy.

Even the most go with the flow folks can feel stressed when they start trying to juggle last-minute plans. I’m not saying to plan your weekends to the minute, but some concrete planning allows you to take advantage of weekend down time which might otherwise end up wasted.

8. Schedule down time.

Having a day each week to unplug is a path to feeling less stressed each week. But, not everyone has the bandwidth to ensure it happens every week.

At a bare minimum, choose to reduce stress in your life by scheduling at least one day a month to do exactly what you want…and that includes doing nothing.

I’m a big fan of having some quality alone time. It gives you time to become comfortable with your own company, figure out what you truly love to do, and find a way to honor your own curiosity. Awareness is a powerful thing.

9. Commemorate the end of the week.

Planning a regular ritual that occurs when the work week ends and the weekend begins gives you something to look forward to. It will also be a signal to your mind to transition into a different mode: relaxing. Relaxing will reduce your stress.

Perhaps it is a comfort meal or having a date night with your sweetie— whatever helps you feel relaxed and happy.

10. Plan what to wear.

Planning what to wear to work – whether you plan for the coming week or just the next day – can’t help but relieve stress in the mornings.

When I traveled all the time for work, I had to plan what to wear so that I could pack it. It forced me to plan matching blouses to blouses and make sure the jewelry I wanted to wear with each outfit was in my bag.

Working from home means that I no longer plan weekly, but it’s a good skill to have when I travel. I also do wardrobe planning for JB – like matching shirts and ties to suits – when I pick them up from the cleaners. Not only does this planning help him, it’s a small way I choose to nurture our relationship.

Simply knowing the clothes we want to wear are available in our closets and don’t need tending will save us time and unnecessary to-dos.

11. Check in with yourself.

Using the power of awareness, assessing how you feel, what you might need to address, or may need to adjust in your schedule. A daily habit of checking in with yourself is the quickest remedy to stay conscious in your own life. Being present helps you protect your time and will reduce stress.

The ordinary life can truly be extraordinary if we choose to be present, live consciously by not passively living our lives, and regularly take time to look around and express our gratitude.

Pick and choose from these 11 ways to use planning to reduce stress in your life.

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 Originally published at DebraSmouse.com. Republished with permission from the author.
Debra Smouse

About Debra Smouse

Tarnished Southern Belle (and life coach) Debra Smouse can help you de-tangle the drama in your life, push away the need for perfection, and show you how to create a daily life that you love.

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