Daily stress levels have risen significantly in the U.S. in recent years. With greater pressure to achieve, more noise from technology and a changing culture, many have called this the “lowest point” they can remember.
While it can be difficult to break stress-inducing habits once they’re formed, if you feel overwhelmed by all that’s coming your way, hope is not lost. You can fix your situation and make each day enjoyable while actually accomplishing more. There are great examples to look at for motivation, and there’s more scientific research about our brains and habits than ever.
Here are five hacks you can use today to lower your stress levels while increasing your sense of organization.
1. Keep a robust to-do list.
The first step toward lower stress levels and increased organization is a to-do list. The more you have on your plate, the harder it is to remember everything.
One of the biggest aspects of stress is feeling as if there’s not enough time to accomplish everything. That’s compounded by the challenges that arise in remembering all there is to do. By keeping a to-do list, the mental energy spent remembering tasks is freed up. It also eliminates the constant, nagging fear that you’re forgetting something.
Another great benefit of to-do lists is that they can help you prioritize. Rather than spend time on menial tasks because they come to mind first or because they’re easier to check off, a strong to-do list will help you accomplish the highest-priority items. That will leave you working on the most important problems rather than wasting time on insignificant things.
You will find countless people promoting their task management system; in reality, you have to find what works best for you. Some like a small journal, where they can write and cross things off. Others use Evernote or take notes on their phone. Some people organize by day, while others just maintain a general list.
Try different approaches to see what works best for you to stay stress-free, organized and efficient. Once you find what works, getting things done will become a habit.
2. Practice presence and quieting your mind.
Another large challenge tied up with stress is constant worry. Highly stressed people are constantly thinking about what they have to do as opposed to the moment at hand.
Doing this is letting the stress win. When you’re at dinner with your friends or family, worrying about finishing a project or sending off that email won’t accomplish anything productive. It will just take your attention away from the moment and make you feel worse.
Tackling this vice involves work on quieting your mind. Learning to be fully present will prevent you from thinking about everything else you have to do.
Although this is challenging, there are tangible ways to work on it. One important step is the realization that you can’t do anything about your to-do list in the moments when you’re occupied with other things. The other step is learning to eliminate those negative thoughts from your mind.
Yoga, meditation and breathing exercises are ways to work on calming your mind. Developing a skill set that allows you to forget your other worries will lower your stress levels, leaving you much happier on a consistent basis. Even investing 10 minutes a day on these practices will pay large dividends over time.
3. Review your day each morning.
Before you get going each morning, try reviewing the day ahead. Look at what you have going on and what you need to accomplish so you can mentally prepare for the day.
This will help you focus on the highest-priority items. It will also keep you from running between each activity. You will have an idea of what is next, and your mind will be prepared for the challenges ahead.
Then, when you’re going to bed at night, you can sleep peacefully instead of worrying about the day ahead, aware that you can figure out tomorrow in the morning.
4. Take the necessary time to reflect.
Reflection is a great way to look back and learn from your past experiences, as well as compare your goals to what you’re actually achieving.
Whether you do this every day or every week, you should give yourself enough time to reflect before you get into ruts. You can look back to pinpoint when you were most stressed or disorganized. Those are learning opportunities to help you moving forward.
If you let life carry you for months on end without reflecting, you’re not giving yourself a chance to improve. Instead, you’re just moving forward with the goal of survival. That’s neither sustainable nor any fun.
Reflection will give you a chance to work out everything on your mind and strive toward being less stressed, better organized and happier.
5. Find friends and loved ones who can help you process and relax.
Many people believe the fallacy that they should take all their problems on themselves. Although independence is important and you have to be responsible for yourself, that doesn’t mean other people can’t help you along the way.
Others, in fact, can greatly support you with your stress and organization. Find people you can process with when you need to. It might be helpful, for example, to sit down with your spouse each week to talk about the week ahead, making sure you’re accounting for all the important events.
People in your life who can help you relax are just as important. There are likely others you’ve been around who make you feel comfortable and at ease. They can help you come back from challenging times or release stress in difficult situations. Regardless of their professional accomplishments, these people tend to enjoy life and can serve as great examples.
Stress levels may be on the rise, but your organization — or lack thereof — doesn’t have to be the cause. By keeping yourself organized, you can ensure your days are much more pleasant and much less wracked with worry about what you’re forgetting.