1. Start each day by being proactive, not reactive
We are often most stressed when we are in a reactive mode: Inbox open. Phone notifications on. We answer email after email and new ones keep coming in. We respond to request after request. We get into a compulsive, reactive spiral. And the worst part is that this compulsive mode seeps into our "downtime" as we mindlessly scroll through our social feeds, open an endless array or new tabs with eye-catching links, or check our favorite news site yet again.
Each day, before you check your phone or your email, sit down with a pen and paper. Sit outside if you can - there's something about fresh air and sunshine that clears the mind.
Do square breathing: 4 second inhale, 4 second hold, 4 second exhale, 4 second hold, 4 times.
You are alive. You are here now. Life is uniquely awesome.
Nothing that happens today can take those facts away from you.
Take a minute to think about one (achievable) thing that would make today feel like a success to you. Write it down.
Then do it.
That's being proactive.
You can deal with all the requests later. The incoming emails, the social media feeds, the texts with requests on your free time: those represent somebody else's agenda and they can wait.
You are in charge.
2. Remember it's all just a big game.
Kids love imagination games. They get to enter an imaginary world where they get to be whoever they want. They can invent the rules. They are allowed to just make it up as they go.
Here's the thing: The only difference between kids and adults is that adults codify their imaginary worlds and turn them into laws, rules, regulations, and norms. The money we use everyday, the companies we buy from and work for, the municipalities we live in, the social norms we conform to - none of these things are fundamentally real. They are simply structures that exist inside a big imagination game that we collectively agree to play.
Inside of this game are players - all of us. And we're all just winging it. The experts, the CEO, the investors - they're all winging it as they go, hoping for the best. Don't worry - it's not just you.
We're all playing a big game and winging it as we go. When we remember this, it's gets easier to not take things so damn seriously all the time.
3. Process out loud.
Find a partner, family member, or friend who knows you well. Debrief your day with them. The point is to debrief, not to have them solve your problems. You can even explicitly tell them you're not really looking for advice, you just want to talk it out with someone.
If nobody is around, talk to yourself out loud. It may feel weird at first, but give it a try. Give voice to the opposing parts of your mind that have conflicting thoughts or feelings about a situation. Debate yourself. Pro and con something out loud on our commute home. See if it calms you down.
4. Look at the stars
Whenever you get the opportunity, stop and look up at the stars. That ancient light will do a lot to put you and your daily stress in perspective.
The stars were here long before you, and they will be there long after you're gone. It's strangely comforting.
5. Don't forget the fundamentals
Numbers 1 - 4 don't matter if you're not taking care of the fundamentals: Sleep, exercise, and eat healthy food. Optimize the fundamentals, and everything else will be 10X easier.
*for more on this, I recommend Sapiens.
ht Lizzie Koehler for inspiring this post
Simplify your life. Subscribe today and receive future posts via email.
Peter Koehler's Writing Archive