Business owners and other ambitious professionals often struggle to manage their high levels of stress. You’re often juggling multiple priorities simultaneously, making several major decisions per day, and wondering whether you’re going to make enough money to meet your financial goals – all on top of the stress you’re experiencing at home with your normal responsibilities.
While there are acute strategies that can help you manage stress in the moment, one of the most effective ways to manage stress long-term is to make broader changes to your routine. But what are these changes and how can you instate them?
The Pros and Cons of Changing a Routine
Changing your routine is more effective than simply managing stress in the moment because it reduces the stress you feel on a daily basis. The approach is easier to sustain, because eventually, it will be baked into your daily habits – and practically impossible to forget or break.
Of course, the flip side is that it’s hard to get started. Forming a new habit takes deliberate effort and consistency; you’ll have to commit to taking this new action or changing this behavior every day for several days in a row before it sticks naturally.
Routine Changes to Control Stress
These are some of the most effective ways you can change your routine to control stress:
1. Wake up earlier. One of the best things you can do for yourself is waking up earlier. It’s important to get a good night’s sleep, and most of us relish the idea of sleeping in longer – but waking up earlier is going to give you more time to get yourself together for the day ahead. You’ll have time to go through new steps of your routine. You’ll have some time to yourself before you have to go to work. And you won’t have to rush through your morning routine, so you can start your day off with less stress.
2. Give yourself space to be mindful. Mindfulness is a powerful exercise, and it’s straightforward to practice. All you have to do is concentrate and hold your focus on a single locus of attention. This could be as simple as paying attention to the rhythm of your deep breaths, filtering out all other distractions. Other people prefer a mindful activity, like coloring in a custom coloring book. Whatever you prefer, you should make time to be mindful before you start your stressful day.
3. Eat breakfast. While the idea that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” may be a bit overrated, the truth is, you’re going to feel better on a full stomach than an empty one. Make sure you start your day off right with a full, nutritious meal, such as eggs and toast or a bowl of oatmeal with fruit.
4. Exercise. Whether it’s before work, after work, or during your lunch break, always get some physical exercise in. Exercise is one of the best ways to beat stress in the moment – and it also comes with a host of other mental and physical benefits. Set aside 20 minutes to exercise, at least, even if you’re just taking a walk around the block.
5. Stop drinking coffee at a set time. A bit of caffeine can get you going even in the toughest mornings, but it can also make it hard to sleep – and make you more anxious. Set a strict cutoff for your caffeine consumption, such as 2 pm, and limit your overall intake.
6. Take firm breaks. Too many people work through breaks in an effort to get more done, but they end up sabotaging their own productivity and wellness. Schedule your breaks the way you would an important meeting and try to keep them consistent.
7. Have “wind down” time. At the end of each day, take the time to decompress. Do something relaxing, write in a journal, and otherwise lower your energy gradually.
8. Go to bed at the same time every day. Finally, work to go to bed at the same time every day, giving yourself ample time to get that professionally recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Going to bed at the same time, without making compromises for late-night email checks or TV binge watching, will help you keep a more consistent sleep routine, and ultimately help you feel better rested throughout your days.
Once these habits are more ingrained in your daily life, you’ll feel less affected by the stressful events that would ordinarily disrupt your flow. You’ll find it much easier to manage your stress in the moment, and your overall levels of stress will melt away. The hard part is getting them established – so be diligent and consistent in your efforts.