Some stress can be healthy because it can encourage you to find a new skill, get things done or do something well. But stress that goes on for a long time can negatively impact all aspects of your health. Being able to manage time and, in turn, stress, is essential for a healthy body and mind. Here’s how to do it.
Learn to Say 'No'
Unless taking responsibility for a specific task is truly important to you (or to your boss), learn to say “no” to tasks that you feel pressured to do. Instead, focus on activities that you enjoy and that will enhance your career and personal development.
Organize a Realistic Schedule
Plan your schedule before your week starts and make sure all the tasks you include are realistic. Don’t strive for perfection. Instead, strive for excellence and don’t worry about things that you simply can’t take on or control.
In addition to your work or class schedule, as well as shopping, laundry, errands and cooking, a realistic and health-promoting schedule should include the following:
- Exercise. Thirty to sixty minutes of exercise each day helps reduce stress and promotes numerous health benefits. To save time and be efficient with exercise, set an alarm and go with a friend or family member. Keep your gym clothes wherever you are (car, office) and make sure to have your gear ready the night before.
- Relaxation. To ease stress, try belly breathing: slow, deep breaths through your nose that fill the stomach, not chest. Do this technique sitting or standing; try it when riding in a car or waiting in line.
- Sleep. Do you find it difficult to get out of bed? Do you have a hard time remembering things and concentrating at work or school? Do you fall asleep the moment your head hits the pillow? If so, you might be sleeping too little. Try adding 15 minutes to your sleep schedule each night until you find the amount that keeps you energized the whole day. Most people need 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
- Laughter. Laughter reduces stress, boosts your immune system, decreases blood pressure and improves mood. Add laughter to your day by calling a friend or family member who typically makes you laugh, watching a funny movie or video, or inviting friends over for game night.
Create a Prioritized To-Do List
Create your list at the beginning of each day and note which items are the most important and which ones you can put off. Number items by priority, or use color-coding: red for “do this right away,” orange for “do this next,” yellow for “do this last.”
Combine tasks and errands for time efficiency. For example, when making a meal for yourself, make more than one serving; eat one serving now and save the rest for later. Also, when planning your day or even your week, determine what errands you have to run and figure out which ones you can combine into one trip.
Think about what you have to accomplish in the near future, and come up with an action plan to guide you through the workload with minimal stress. Don’t let important tasks build up because they’ll be more stressful to handle in a time-crunched situation.
Eliminate Time-Wasting Activities and Procrastination
Limit time you spend watching shows and videos and surfing the internet. Finish an important task first and then do something to reward yourself. Try to work in intervals: work for 60 to 90 minutes and then take a 10-minute break.
Keep a Time Log
How much time do you actually spend on accomplishing important tasks? How much time do you spend on time-wasting activities? Once you figure out that ratio, try to change your habits to match a more productive — and therefore less stressful — lifestyle.
General Stress-Reducing Tips
- Think about and be grateful for the good things in your life.
- Expect positive outcomes in new situations.
- When you realize you’re stressed, take a 10-minute break to do something you enjoy.
- Take care of your body and mind: eat healthy food, drink enough water each day, exercise enough, sleep well, relax and laugh often.
Reviewed by: Cynthia Gelke, MFT
Last reviewed: November 2019