6 Practical Pieces of Advice Anyone Can Follow To Live A Stress-free, Productive Life

With the advancement of technology and the rapid rise of social media, modern life gives us little choice but to switch on frequently. We’re bombarded with the messages to do more and have more to be successful and happy — unknowingly, at the expense of our health and relationships. We’re plugged into our electronics every minute of the day, overloading our mind with new, conflicting information and making ourselves vulnerable to stress and exhaustion. The modern man or woman is often tired, overwhelmed, and depressed. 

We have to consciously put in the effort to fight these negative feelings and find our peace of mind. If this is you, here are 6 practical reminders to reduce stress and move towards your dream life with greater ease:

1. Don’t let yourself get irritated by small, trivial things

Daily hassles such as having a wrong order at Starbucks or misplacing your keys can add up and be stressful. It can leave even more severe impacts than traumatic life events.

But the level of stress differs from person to person, depending on their perception. Notice the word “perception” — it means that you’re in control of how much and how long these hassles could affect you.

Small, trivial things are just that — insignificant. They don’t matter. Don’t let them count. In a way, they’re an integral part of life — they happen to everyone, and they don’t have to be perceived as on-going stressors.

Practical tips:

  • Identify the hassles and uplifts in your daily life. Try to shift your perspective on the hassles and pay more attention to the uplifts.

  • When you experience a hassle, refrain from reacting. Take a deep breath.

  • Drop the thinking, “Why must it be me?” — instead, tell yourself, “It’s okay it happens,” and ask yourself, “Is it important and worth the stress?”

  • If possible, find practical solutions to avoid those hassles. For example, if you hate queuing for coffee, try to order them on an app.

2. Don’t waste time on done matters

Regret is a normal reaction when things don’t turn out the way you want. It can lead to corrective actions. But self-blaming rumination, which is well-linked to anxiety and depression, is draining and destructive.

It’s important to remember that rumination doesn’t change what happened. In fact, it’s costing you your present, and it’s time you can never get back.

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”— Alexander Graham Bell

Practical tips:

  • When an unwanted outcome occurs, let yourself feel what you feel. Take your time to process difficult emotions.

  • Get psychological distance by reminding yourself that your feelings and thoughts are not you.

  • Reframe your past events positively — turn them into lessons learned.

  • Make actionable plans to move forward.

  • Create a vision board to focus your mind on the future instead of the past.

3. Learn to enjoy the simple pleasures

True contentment comes from within — not from external factors and definitely not from wanting more. New possessions might make you happy momentarily, but this source of happiness is not sustainable. It can even be addictive and costly on many levels. As your wishlist extends, your ability to afford it is likely to be limited while your fear of losing the things you already have increases. And so does your stress level. Plus, you might get yourself into serious financial problems.

On the other hand, keeping your living space and desires minimal saves you money and time.You don’t have to waste energy worrying about maintaining your lifestyle or what to do with all the cluttering items you don’t really need.

Also, minimal living can help you clear your mind and appreciate what you have, which leads to peace and contentment over time.

Practical tips:

  • Have a digital detox. Switch off your electronics and spend time in nature.

  • Learn to meditate. Take out 5 to 10 minutes a day to practice breathing.

  • Next time you have a conversation with someone, be present by giving them your undivided attention while refraining yourself from interrupting them.

  • Travel and volunteer to gain a broader perspective of the world — especially the less privileged areas.

4. Be micro-ambitious

If you want to succeed, you need a plan to get to where you want to be. If you want to materialise that plan, you need to set goals

Many people make the mistake of setting impractically ambitious goals and getting disheartened on the way because they can’t possibly see any real result, and they lose sight of their purpose. In this regard, small goals do wonder. They are achievable and motivating. 

For example, instead of aiming to start a business and become a millionaire in a few years — which is unlikely to happen for an average person, you could aim to earn some extra income per week and actually achieve it. Over time, these small goals will take you to your dream destination.

Practical tips:

  • Make a big goal and break it down into smaller goals — these goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

  • Schedule check-ins with yourself to review these goals.

  • Celebrate small wins often. 

  • Find a group of peers to keep each other accountable and motivated. 

5. Be patient with yourself. 

Along the way, as you meet obstacles and challenges, frustration is bound to arise. Especially, when life gets stagnant, and you temporarily see no progress, you might think all your effort is in for nothing, and you will never make it. Worse, you see yourself as a failure. This negative mindset stems from the belief that you have to achieve certain things by a specific timeframe. Good news — you don’t.

Life is long, and your life is for you to decide. There’s no point comparing your progress to anyone’s progress as no two persons have the exact sets of strengths, weaknesses, and circumstances. The things you’re doing right now might not make sense or seem like an achievement to you, but they’re all part of a long, worthwhile process. At some point, they will come together and write your success story for you. 

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”— Steve Jobs

Practical tips:

  • Remind yourself that life is not a race. Compare yourself today to yourself yesterday only. Practice self-compassion — for example, by journaling or writing letters to your past or future self.

  • Make micro-goals to keep yourself motivated — see point 4.

  • If you feel pressure to meet a particular goal by some specific date, keep asking yourself “why” till you figure out the root cause of this negative mindset — separate it from your progress. Work through your thoughts in therapy, if possible.

  • Rewrite the narrative of yourself in a way that makes you feel good about yourself.

6. Accept that nothing is permanent. 

Your job, your relationships, your possessions — nothing is permanent. They will change or be gone one day. So will you. It’s easy to drown yourself in anxiety over the possibility of losing what you have, but change is the nature of life. There is little point in holding tightly on to anything out of fear, then beating yourself up when it’s gone — it’s psychologically taxing.

On the bright side, accepting that nothing is permanent means knowing that a bad situation won’t stay bad forever — it will change.It will also help you appreciate what you have and live fully for today. 

“The more a thing tends to be permanent, the more it tends to be lifeless.” — Alan Watts.

Practical tips:

  • Make a gratitude list every night before sleep.

  • When you have a bad day, tell yourself that “I will never have to live today again” and welcome the next day with optimism.

  • Balance “being” with “doing” to remain centred — for example, dance to express yourself or practice yoga

  • Allow yourself to experience your positive emotions to the fullest and put worries about the future aside. 

In summary

Being a human is hard; being a human in this digital age is unprecedented.

That’s why the paths to happiness and success differ significantly among different people, depending on their lifestyles and beliefs. However, they all have one thing in common: They could be made more manageable and less stressful.

Here’s a recap of the 6 things you could do to lead a more relaxed, productive life:

  • Don’t let yourself get irritated by small, trivial things

  • Don’t waste time on done matters.

  • Learn to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

  • Be micro-ambitious.

  • Be patient with yourself.

  • Accept that nothing is permanent.

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