Eliminate Stress Creating Habits

“A habit is something you can do without thinking — which is why most of us have so many of them.”
~ Frank A. Clark

Your stress levels go up, your enjoyment of life goes down. Your health and mental attitude suffer.

What can you do about it?

Try taking an honest inventory of yourself and concentrate on correcting the bad habits that are creating stress in your life. You’ll see improvements in your health and well-being, as well as in your business and personal relationships.

Here are a few common bad habits that cause stress, and some tips on correcting them.

You procrastinate

You tell yourself you work better under pressure. There’s always tomorrow. What’s the rush? If this sounds familiar, you might be a procrastinator.
How to correct this bad habit:
Take the 20-minute challenge: You can do anything for 15-20 minutes. Just get started on it, and after 20 minutes let yourself quit if you want. You’re wasting almost that much time thinking up excuses. Even with tasks you detest, you’ll feel much less stressed if you just buckle down and get to them.

Create bite-size pieces: Break your home and work projects down into smaller tasks. Cleaning the basement is much easier if your first goal is to empty four boxes, rather than face the mammoth chore of accomplishing everything in one go. Make To Do lists (daily, weekly and monthly). Use and update them constantly.

How will this reduce stress?
Putting things off increases your stress level. Even trying to relax in bed, you are aware of impending deadlines, unfinished projects and things left undone. Promise yourself a reward if you find that helps reduce your tendency to procrastinate. The best dividend will be that you’ll feel calmer, less anxious and more relaxed when you stop stalling. And when you intentionally defer something to a later date, you’ll know it’s justified and not just an unhealthy delay tactic.

You’re often late

You’re always in a rush. It seems like you’re late more often than not and you arrive stressed and uptight. If you find yourself apologizing regularly for your tardiness, perhaps it’s time to become more realistic about time.
How to correct this bad habit:
Plan ahead: Schedule ample time to get from one meeting to another, or to get from dinner to the movie theater on time. Record your appointments 15 to 30 minutes earlier than their scheduled time in your PDA or agenda. Always assume that things will take longer. You never know when traffic problems or last-minute phone calls might detain you so build in extra time, and alleviate your stress.

Trick yourself: Set your watch ahead a few minutes. It sounds ridiculous but it can actually work. You look at your watch and see 10:00. In the split second it takes for your brain to register that it’s only 9:45, you’ve focused on the importance of the time and are less likely to be late. As time passes, however, this trick will lose its potency, and you’ll need to resort to other tools.

How will this reduce stress?
If you are perennially late, you probably expend a lot of energy apologizing, calling ahead to explain and trying to make excuses for your lateness. Recognize how much physical energy you waste rushing and how much emotional energy you squander justifying your tardiness. You’ll see it’s worth the effort to be on time or even early, for the peace of mind and stress relief it brings. Focus on honoring your commitments. And bring a book or newspaper — it may take a while before your friends realize that you’re finally serious about showing up on time.

You’re lethargic

Given a choice of hitting the gym or watching the game on the television, munching on chips and quaffing a few beers, does the couch potato option always win? This self-defeating attitude creates stress when you know your choices are not healthy ones.
How to correct this bad habit:
Commit yourself: Make a list of things you’d like to do instead of just flopping on the sofa and commit to it for 30 days. It takes a month to create a habit, so make it a good one. Try yoga, tai chi or judo. Going for an early morning or evening walk can also help you relax.

Buddy up: Go to the gym or practice sports with a friend. Create a buddy system for activities and you’ll be less likely to make excuses to skip out. Have fun, plan activities with friends and achieve balance in your life.

How will this reduce stress?
That comfortable couch may look inviting at the end of a long day, but it presents increased opportunities to over-eat, over-imbibe and under-stimulate your body and brain. Your stress will increase if you feel hung over, become overweight or just get bored with your life. Eliminate the lethargy and get moving, for the good of your body and soul. When spending an occasional evening in front of the tube becomes a conscious decision, it will be an indulgence, not a bad habit.

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

Life is full of choices and taking control of your stress level is one of them. Be mindful of bad habits and how they can drain you of energy. Practice effective time management at home and at work, de-clutter your physical surroundings and eliminate the draining thought processes that result from disorganization or procrastination.

Prioritize, delegate and become more physically active. Challenge your brain and your body, and create a healthier lifestyle. Conquer the problems created by bad habits and you will drastically reduce the stress in your life.

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