Best week of the year: The week my cell phone doesn’t get service in a remote area of Northern California for 7-8 glorious days.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m addicted to my phone and it’s nearly always in my hand. The idea of my phone ceasing to function is making me sweat just thinking about it.
But the week I go on vacation with three other families and completely check out of all the stresses of normal life with work, the kids’ obligations, and constant juggling of what’s going to get done because not everything will, is the most revitalizing and enjoyable week that I have all year. I gain a new appreciation for my family. I get to spend uninterrupted time with friends, and have the opportunity to truly reconnect with those I love, while doing things we love together and celebrating our bonds.
What a great reminder of what really matters.
So now that I’m back to reality (work, school prep, post vacation email inbox, laundry, etc.), what can I do about maintaining some sense of this new freedom and simplicity?
Yes, this is the hard part.
I honestly didn’t know so I did some investigating and here are some great tips I came across and also realized I had a few tricks up my sleeve as well:
1. One thing at a time. This is the simplest and best way to start reducing your stress, and you can start today. Right now. Focus as much as possible on doing one thing at a time. Clear your desk of distractions. Pick something to work on. Need to write a complex document or conduct some research for work? Do only that. Remove distractions such as phones and email notifications while you’re working on that task. If you’re going to do email, do only that. I suggest blocking time off in your calendar to focus on those singular tasks. This takes practice, and you’ll get urges to do other things. Just keep practicing and tell others when you will be available so they know when they can expect to have some if your time.
2. Simplify your schedule. A hectic schedule is a major cause of high stress. Simplify by reducing the number of commitments in your life to just the essential ones. Learn to say no to the rest — and slowly get out of commitments that aren’t beneficial to you. Schedule only a few important things each day, and put space between them. Get out of meetings when they aren’t absolutely essential. Leave room for down time, enjoying your family and fun. I tend to schedule my least desirable activities first thing in the morning and get them over with. It leaves room then for more fun the remainder of the day and you don’t have the ominous cloud hanging over your head dreading your end-of-day meeting.
3. Get moving. Do something each day to be active — walk, hike, play a sport (we pick water-skiing!), go for a run, do yoga. It doesn’t have to be grueling to reduce stress. Just move. Have fun doing it, and if you’re particularly stretched for time, or don’t have childcare, get your kids involved with you- they will appreciate the quality time. On days I don’t have time to exercise, I walk a mile (each direction) to get coffee during the day. I feel better having moved, have a chance to strategize or solve work problems in peace, and get some vitamin D. (Just make sure you bring some comfy shoes with you in your car.)
4. Develop one healthy habit this month. Other than getting active, improving your health overall will help with the stress. But do it one habit at a time. Eat fruits and veggies for snacks. Floss every day. Quit smoking. Cut down on the alcohol. Cook something healthy for dinner. Drink water instead of soda. One habit at a time. It all adds up!
5. Do something calming. What do you enjoy that calms you down? For many people, it can be the “get moving” activity discussed above. But it could also be taking a nap, or a bath, or reading, or have coffee with a friend. Other people are calmed by housework or yardwork. Some people like to meditate, or take a nature walk. Find your calming activity and try to do it each day.
6. Simplify your finances. Finances can be a drain on your energy and a major stressor. If that’s true with you, figure out ways to simplify things. Automate savings and bill payments and debt payments. Spend less by going shopping (at malls or online) less frequently. Find ways to have fun that don’t involve spending money.
7. Have a blast! Have fun each day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Surround yourself with people that bring you happiness. I like to play with my kids — they take my mind off everything that really isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things and remind me of what matters. Play sports (again, often with my kids), jam out to music in the car, play a board game. Whatever you choose, be sure to laugh.
8. Get creative. Throwing yourself into a creative activity is another great way to de-stress and to prevent stress. Writing, drawing, Doodle with a fun Adult Coloring Book, play music, or build something!
9. Be early. I will be the first to admit that it’s hard to be early when you have to get your kids ready. But being late can be very stressful. Try to leave earlier by getting ready earlier, or by scheduling more space between events. Things always take longer than normal, so schedule some buffer time: extra time to get ready, to commute, to do errands before you need to be somewhere, to attend a meeting before another scheduled appointment. If you get somewhere early, it’s good to have some reading material.
10. Disconnect. When all else fails – disconnect. We have an agreement at work that no emergency is communicated via email. That is what the phone feature is actually for on those damn addictive devices. Our obsession to have our phones and constantly check email is our own paranoia. When I find myself reverting back to that stage, I stop and ask myself if I really need to interrupt the conversation with my kids over breakfast because a work email just beeped in….Likely not.
I hope this helps! Let me know what works for you!