Wedding planning, my car getting totaled, jury duty, new work-related roles and projects – you could say life has been incredibly eventful for me this year. Getting enough sleep and eating healthy alone just wasn’t cutting down my stress levels; it took a lot of experimentation to figure out how to remain cool while not falling behind on anything.
Every study, doctor, and parent in the world will tell you how important it is to sleep, eat, hydrate, and exercise. Yes, all of those are important to a healthy life – but those key aspects simply aren’t enough to minimize stress. It’s a bunch of other healthy and organized habits that, when combined with those routines, help you maintain your sanity and reduce your stress.
I’ve listed below what works for me, and I hope you’re able to find them useful as well!
It looks messy, but for me it’s incredibly easy to know when everything’s happening. Brownie points if you’re into color-coordinating!
For everything involving you to be somewhere or do something at a specific time – keep them all tracked together.
Your class schedule, work meetings, doctor appointments, physical therapy, martial arts lessons – I mean everything, in the same planner. (Or at least the same Google Calendar.) By having all of your engagements clumped together in a single planner, you save yourself the trouble of having to remember everything that’s going on later in the day/week/month when trying to book or plan something.
For this, I utilize both a physical planner and a digital calendar; having something written down twice makes for a good backup. A physical planner is easier for me to page through when looking for a specific activity or date. Google Calendar (if your office uses it) is useful for colleagues looking for a free slot in your schedule to book a meeting.
Set digital reminders.
This applies to both one-time and recurring tasks. I can’t emphasize enough how much of a life-saver digital reminders have been for me.
I migrated all my mental reminders to automatic time-based notifications on my phone. When you do this, you no longer have to spend mental energy trying to remember every little thing you have to do throughout the day – whether it’s chores, taking vitamins/medicine at 7am, that 2pm phone call, etc. When you know there’s something to be done around a certain time, you can type it down immediately and let yourself forget about it until your phone blips.
I utilize both Google Calendars and a nifty free app called BZ Reminder:
- Calendar notifications stay on my phone until the task is accomplished – which means I see these reminders every time I unlock my phone
- BZ Reminders buzz every five minutes until you complete or snooze it
Because of these apps, I don’t have to stare at the clock wondering what it was I had to do at 7pm. …Which was to feed my pets. Yes, even though it’s at the same time every day, I forgot to feed them during the last couple of weeks of wedding planning – because I lost track of time. Yikes!
(Just make sure you keep your phone alive throughout the day. 😉 As a side note, if you’re also using a physical planner for maintaining your appointments like I am, do not include your general to-do’s & recurring chores with them. It becomes impossible to read, I promise!)
Reprioritize your workload and reorganize your to-do list.
This is important for getting enough sleep. Take some time to look at your day (week/month)’s list of things to-do and ask yourself these questions:
- If the times you have allocated to these chores is realistic
(Did you allow enough time for calls to take longer than they need to?)
- If you have space for breaks, whether it’s alone time, time spent with family/friends, or both
(Don’t make your schedule so full that your to-dos are all back-to-back – that’ll drive you nuts!)
- If your day is looking fuller than usual
(Are there tasks you can move to another day?)
If you’re running out of time to get your work/personal chores done in a single day – move whatever doesn’t need to get done tonight to the next day, or even the next week.
If you lose sleep in addition to forcing yourself to get everything done in one go, sure you’ll get more done – but you’ll be too burned out to function the next day. You may even sleep for 14 hours a day for several days in a row as your body tries to play catch-up with sleep, leaving you feeling worse every time the cycle repeats. (This is all from experience!)
Set reminders to get ready for bed, if you’ve become too busy to pay attention to the time.
Take breaks and go for walks– daily.
Exercising regularly is key to maintaining your stress levels. Companies like gap intelligence recognize this, and have scheduled workouts throughout the week such as yoga, spin cycle, and even beach volleyball during the summer. However, if group-based activities aren’t your thing, or if you are struggling to make it to the gym – set reminders during your work hours to take a break and go for a walk.
And make sure this break is uninterrupted by any of your to-dos. Don’t think about work or what you plan to do later, at all. At first, it’s going to sound like a waste of time. However, I always come back to my computer feeling refreshed, energized, and even more creative after spending time in the sun.
Yes, it’s adding another hour to your already busy day, but I can’t express how valuable it became in helping me reorganize my life and learn to calm down. A certified therapist can offer you advice and “homework assignments” very specific to your lifestyle, which you won’t be able to find online.
Communicate your stress-levels.
And I mean to everyone. Your boss, your immediate teammates, your fiancé, your family – communicate to everyone you speak with on a regular basis that you’re going through a lot of stress. It’s not complaining; it’s letting them know you’re taking a step back, and they may even be able to help you.
Your home-stress is not going to stay home when you leave for work the next day, and your work-stress will fatigue you at home – trust me. So, as we gappers like to say, communicate like hell.
Romanticize the little things.
Don’t rush walking your dog – enjoy the sun (or the rain), enjoy the scenery, and let your dog sniff the flowers. Don’t groan during your drive home – listen to your favorite music, podcasts, audiobook, or even call someone, so you forget you’re stuck in traffic. Don’t shovel food into your mouth – take each bite deliberately, and enjoy your meal.
If you spend too much time caring about your to-do list, you forget to enjoy life. You’ll hate every moment you’re awake if you don’t enjoy the times you’re not busy. Let your walks, drives, and meals take a few minutes longer today.
Music makes the world go ‘round.
I’m always blasting music, either from speakers or personal earphones. This includes while walking, working out, driving, cleaning, doing any kind of computer work – even while sleeping. My mood is guaranteed to be better if good music in involved. If my now-husband notices I’m looking a little down, and it’s quiet in the house, he reminds me to put some music on to cheer me up. It works 100% of the time.
I recommend trying to play some music, a podcast, or an audiobook if you’re feeling fatigued while working on whatever task is at hand. (But if you truly enjoy working in silence, you keep doing you!)
Remember to have fun.
When my wedding day came around, my bridal party expressed disbelief at how calm I was. I laughed and told them that sure, I guess getting married and hosting the biggest, most expensive party of your life is serious. But it doesn’t need to be serious. Instead of focusing on my guests’ happiness or the reception’s timeline, I prioritized being happy on my wedding day, and it led to a completely stress-free day.
This applies to the workplace too. Yes, good work requires diligence – but if you’re allowed to have earphones on at your workplace (thank-you, gap intelligence!), listen to music that moves you while you work. I complete tasks quicker and with a higher degree of quality when I’m jamming out, because I’m enjoying it. And when I need to double check my work or deal with emails – anything requiring true concentration & silence – music had already put me in a totally positive mood, & I can deal with these tasks more easily.
You don’t have to be “serious” to be serious at your job. You don’t need to “look busy” (hello RBF!) to be productive. If you get your job done well, that’s all that matters.
With so much going on in both your personal and work life, it’s so easy to overwhelm yourself and succumb to burnout if you’re not careful. It’s also incredibly frustrating when people tell you to get enough sleep and eat healthy; you already know that, but they don’t tell you how to get enough sleep, or what to do between eating and sleeping.
Perhaps you, like me, just needed to find a way to keep the crazy in your life simplified – and I hope that sharing what helped me maintain my sanity throughout the busiest year of my life, will help you out as well!
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