12 Refreshing Tips On How To Live A Stress-Free Life in 2017

The Internet is full of resources on time management, tips for a stress-free life, and finding work-life balance.  Since we are unique creatures with varying personalities and goals, it’s nearly impossible to come up with a formula to a better lifestyle. The most we can do is to search, test, and share techniques that worked for us.

In the bestselling self-help book Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, Heidi Grant Halvorson noted the science-based strategies on stress management. The principles, including having self-compassion and remembering the “big picture,” are recommended both for business and personal productivity. One of the most important tactics Halvorson shares is looking at your shortcomings with kindness and understanding. A study published in the Journal of Research of Personality suggests that self-compassion has significant positive association with happiness, optimism, and personal initiative. People with self-compassion are less depressed and more successful.

For 2017, I vowed to make changes in my life. I refuse to waste away my energy worrying and devote my time on those that truly matter. Here are 12 techniques that helped me glide through the last year that might help you as well.

#1: (Really) know yourself more

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How do you know yourself? Do you fully understand what triggers your anxiety, or what calms you down? In 1921, renowned psychoanalyst Carl Jung’s Psychological Types introduced two major personalities, the introverted and the extroverted types. Generally, an introvert draws energy from spending time in solitude while an extrovert functions better when surrounded by other people. Two years after Jung’s publication, the mother-daughter tandem of Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers began their study on the various personality types. They later came up with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) with the main purpose of making Jung’s theory of psychological types “understandable and useful in people’s lives.”

By taking the MBTI, you’d have a deeper understanding on your perception, strengths and weaknesses, emotions, and how you deal with others. Your personality can also explain your workplace habits, guiding you on how to plan your next career moves.

#2: Understand your mental condition

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For some people, following a set of recommended steps to a stress-free life is not as easy as it seems. There may be an underlying medical condition that hinders you from calming your nerves. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, roughly 18% of US adults are suffering from an anxiety disorder. This mental condition is characterized by restlessness or irritability, feeling tense and jumpy, pounding of heart and shortness of breath, upset stomach, fatigue, and insomnia. The treatments available include psychotherapy, anti-anxiety, and antidepressant drugs, and alternative medicine such as yoga and meditation.

Anxiety can make other conditions such as depression and sleeping problems worse. If your anxiety is interfering with your daily activities, see a doctor immediately.

#3: Be kinder to yourself

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Our mistakes and failures help define us. If your relationship didn’t work out, there’s a reason for that. For many years, I also beat myself up for a relationship that ended bitterly. There were nights when I would replay our last days together to analyze what I did wrong and how I could’ve made the situation better. I only benefitted from these painful reminiscing when I finally decided to move on and learn from these mistakes. The same goes with my business decisions. Whenever I make a wrong turn, I briefly identify the problems, draft a solution, and move on to my next course of action. As Louise L. Hay wrote in You Can Heal Your Life, “Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving yourself and see what happens.”

#4: Aspire for quality sleep

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One key to a better life is adequate sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults aged 18 to 64 should get seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Working as a manager in a real estate company is not an easy undertaking. Meetings can last for hours, leaving me too exhausted to doze off at bedtime. Sleep deprivation has a serious impact on your well-being. It can increase your risk to diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension, and weaken your immunity. According to the Harvard Medical School, insufficient sleep affect mental performance. “Concentration, working memory, mathematical capacity, and logical reasoning are all aspects of cognitive function compromised by sleep deprivation,” it warns.

How do I manage to get right amount of sleep each night? I regulate my caffeine consumption. I skip coffee after 5 p.m. I also set a rule to disconnect from any electronic device (cellphone, laptop, and TV) at least an hour before bedtime. Finally, I decluttered my bedroom to free my mind from distractions.

#5: Push yourself to exercise

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Like many people, I had my love-hate relationship with my rubber shoes. I could come up with the lamest excuses just to avoid going to the gym. Then about two years ago, I noticed that I could barely keep up with my older sisters when we go  malling on weekends. They called my attention. I was breathing hard and sweating profusely after only 15 minutes of walking. I weighed 20 kilos above my normal weight and I got tired easily.

Getting into a fitness program is like climbing a mountain. The hardest part is the beginning. Once you get the hang of it, your body will demand it. I didn’t place any pressure on myself. First, I set an achievable goal—to log an hour of moderate exercise per day, three times a week. Then, I increased it to two hours, including 30 minutes of vigorous exercise. I also took note of my diet. I only eat the amount of calories I can burn in the gym. I lost 10 kilos in six months. More than losing weight and being able to move more freely, my perspective in life changed. I learned to listen to my body and prioritize its needs.

#6: Less salt and fast food treats

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I only realized that I’ve been consuming too much sodium when I stopped eating in fast food restaurants for a month. Why did I do it? It was more of an experiment I placed upon myself after watching the Academy Award nominated documentary Super Size Me. In the 2004 documentary, American independent filmmaker Morgan Spurlock ate only  McDonald’s food for 30 days. The result? Spurlock gained 11 kilos, and increased his body mass by 13% and his cholesterol to 230 mg/dL. Scary!

My schedule was jampacked, juggling work, writing, and pursuing other endeavors. I usually had working brunches in fast food restaurants. The only time I cooked my food, which were not exactly healthy, were on weekends. Super Size Me gave me a new perspective. I came up with a challenge—to stop eating out for a month. The changes were amazing. I couldn’t stand too much salt anymore and preferred to prepare my food. Most importantly, I recognized a drastic change in my mood. I was less stressed and irritable.

#7: Declutter your life

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Your unkempt kitchen, messy work desk, and pile of clothes in your bedroom are stressors. Professor Joseph Ferrari of DePaul University in Chicago said: “It’s the danger of clutter, the totality of one’s possessions being so overwhelming that it chips away at your well-being, relationships, and more, drowning in a sea of stuff.” He noted that a chaotic and disorderly living space can disturb your “sense of home and ability to bond with others.”

Organizing consultant and author Marie Kondo shares some tips on how to declutter your space. Keep only the items that make you happy or those that “spark joy.” Clean by category, not by location. You can start with your closet. Place your pile of clothes in a corner and decide on every item. You’d realize how much stuff you’ve accumulated. This also applies with your work area. The cleaner your desk, the clearer your mind!

#8: Use technology to make jobs easier, not more complicated

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We have an app for nearly every type of activities, from tracking a project to monitoring our heartbeat. Use these to help you finish tasks faster. How do you choose the right app for you? You can choose those with good reviews from fellow users. Try them and decide whether they work for you or not. If you run your own firm or manage some areas of company’s operations, take advantage of outsourcing. You can’t run a stress-free business if you try to do things on your own. One area you can outsource is your social media management. Explore bots that can help handle the influx of queries or a third-party firm that can aid in your social media marketing strategies. Discover Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems that can help your sales team monitor accounts and activities, and generate reports.

#9: Revisit a hobby you’ve been neglecting

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Do you have a passion that you keep on putting off? This may be a cause of your high stress levels. Before I joined the workforce, I have been a film enthusiast and a prolific reader. I also submitted poems and short stories to several publications in and out of campus. I was convinced that working in the corporate somehow drained my creative juice. Organizing my schedule to allow time for film watching, reading, and writing not only reduced my stress. It also boosted my energy in the office and kept my moods high even on the toughest of days.

#10: Disconnect as you see fit

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Is it the fact that you’re online, or that you know you can get summoned for work anytime, that’s causing you stress? According to a new study, “Exhausted But Unable To Disconnect,” the anticipatory stress and expectation of answering after-office-hours emails are adding pressure to employees. “If an organization perpetuates the ‘always-on’ culture, it may prevent employees from fully disengaging from work, eventually leading to chronic stress,” said study author Liuba Belkin of Lahigh University.

As a manager in a real estate company, I was guilty of putting my team on edge 24/7. I didn’t care if they’re resting at home or spending the holiday with their family. I sent them text messages or emails regarding their prospecting and sales activities. Later on, I noticed that we’re all stressed and agitated about work. Sales is an ongoing process, making it tough for us to impose a rule on disconnecting at certain hours. However, our team came up with an idea—I’d ask for their reports before we go off to holidays. If a sales agent is closing a sale on a holiday, he/she would let me know the approximate time I can expect his call for assistance or updates. When the business is done, we’d disconnect.

#11: Walk as often as you can

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Walking has therapeutic effects. Do you know that a 10-minute walk can be as good to your mind and body as a 45-minute workout? Whenever my many activities leave me burnt out, I grab my trainers and walk around our neighborhood. Walking has a strong symbolism for me—I leave the worries behind me with every step I take.  Then, I enjoy a hot cup of tea and listen to soothing music. These I do before going back to a strenuous work.

#12: Live in the present

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“The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking this very moment. That’s all there ever is,” says Eckhart Tolle. For many years, I struggled with anxiety. I didn’t understand where my illogical fears were coming from until I talked to a professional. I was encouraged to do therapy, one of which is meditation. Meditation is not easy for first timers. I couldn’t shut out my mental discourses and usually ended up frustrated after a meditation session. Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now was my answer. It involved a mindset: being conscious about the present moment. I started by paying close attention to the sensations of my skin, the rhythm of my breathing and my surroundings. Whenever a difficult situation hits me, I stop and ask myself, “Do I have problem at this very minute?” The answer is usually no. According to Tolle, unless it’s quite rare to encounter a problem in the present moment. Most of our worries are in the past and future, which are inexistent.

It is said that stress is the norm of our modern society. It is the norm because we make it so. Dare to change your lifestyle. At the end of the day, you’re the captain of your ship.