Each day comes with its own uncertainty and challenges. Some of these things can be exciting and invigorating, while others may be draining and downright stressful. This can often be on top of your regular day. And while you can’t always predict or prepare for the unknown, focusing on those areas you can control can make you better able to deal with whatever comes your way. Here are some life hacks that can help turn down the stress and make your day go by easier.
Put a Pause on Email
For many people emails are a key part of the daily communication as well as a source of constant interruption. A great way to communicate, emails connect us with work colleagues, family and friends. But their ease of use can lead to too many emails, spam email and an expectation to provide an instant response regardless of time of day. This can lead to email fatigue and be a cause of stress.
If you find emails distracting, stressful or cutting into your day, set up specific times to reply to emails. For example, this could be once in the morning and once at the end of the day. Also, set a time limit, say 30 minutes, after which you close your email. Most of us aren’t in positions where our emails need an immediate response, so don’t pressure yourself to get to every email as soon as it comes in. To remove the distraction of emails coming, turn off your notifications so your phone or computer stops making a noise with each incoming email.
If you can, take your work email off your phone, or get another phone for personal use. We use our phones for so much more now. Who wants to be distracted by an email while taking a family photo with their phone? Be mindful of checking emails late in the evening. Receiving a poorly written or rude email, along with fatigue from the day, can stay in your mind long after you close your inbox, cutting into your sleep quality.
Write it Down
I’m definitely a list person. Writing a daily task list is a great way to keep your day focused and allows you to prioritize what needs to get done that day. There’s also a sense of satisfaction when crossing something off from the list. But lists can also be a double-edged sword if it gets out of hand.
When building your list, give each task a priority. This can include a level of importance as well as urgency. We’re often quite good at completing tasks that are both urgent and important, but not always those that are important and not as urgent. Beside each item, put a realistic time to dedicate to it. Be mindful not to fill your whole day and leave time for unexpected tasks requiring immediate attention. Make sure you also set aside time for emails.
If you’re finding you’re not getting to everything on your list and beating yourself up about it (that’s me!), try writing down what you’ve done at the end of the day. Include everything, things that weren’t on your list, your breaks, etc. You’ll likely be surprised at how much you did accomplish in the day and finish with a positive outlook.
Put Your Phone on Silent
Today’s phones are much more than a means to talk to people. They’re our camera, our personal assistant, entertainment, television, music player, etc. It’s not surprising then, that making phone calls actually accounts for only a small percentage of the time people use their phones.
But as with any technology to improve efficiency, it can also work the other way. When working on a task (whether it be actual work, time with family or self-care time) that requires your attention, switch your phone to silent, or turn it off.
Avoid using your phone late at night. The blue light from your phone suppresses melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep. If for some reason you can’t avoid using your devices before bedtime, get a set of glasses that filter out blue light. Also, don’t use your phone as your bedside clock. Even a brief glance at the time can disrupt your sleep. Better yet, keep your phone out of your room altogether.
Take a Break (or Two)
In a world in which increasing productivity seems to be the standard against which we’re measured, taking a break may seem the last thing you want to do, but it’s important. Breaks are good for your physical and mental wellbeing, as well as your productivity.
Continuous sitting day after day is associated with a range of diseases from certain cancers to heart disease. A lack of movement can also lead to body aches and pains. Therefore, it’s best to get up and move around every 20-30 minutes of sitting (or standing in one place). It doesn’t have to be for very long, an exercise snack of 1-2 minutes will do.
Longer breaks of 10-15 minutes are great to refresh the mind. While it may be tempting to continue to work through that problem, stare at the computer screen or sit at the jigsaw puzzle until every piece is in, our minds need a pause to reset. Just like a muscle that can’t keep working, tired minds impair judgement and reduce productivity. But you can turn this around with a simple walk or any other form of activity, which is enough to give you a boost of energy, improve your memory and make you more creative.
Stay Socially Connected
With many of us spending more time at home in the past few years than ever before, it’s important to ensure you get regular social connections. This is a big thing many of us missed during the pandemic, and we might now be used to not connecting with others. But social connections, whether by phone, video or in person have numerous benefits.
Being connected with others can reduce your risk of disease and early death. It can also lower your likelihood to be anxious or depressed. And of course, it can increase the chances of laughing, which releases endorphins and can make you feel happier. There are even indications a robust social network can strengthen parts of the immune system.
Make sure these are true social connections. Work meetings don’t count unless there’s a social part of it. Aim for some sort of connection on most days. And add it to your task list. It’s an important part of your mental and physical wellbeing, and deserves a spot on your list with everything else.
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