Start The New Year Stress Free

This is the year you finally rid your life of needless stress, anxiety and clutter. Yes, it’s entirely possible when you accept that virtually every one of the stressful situations you find yourself in each day is of your own making — a consequence of the stressful habits and mindsets you’ve developed over the course of your life. And just as surely as you’ve gotten yourself into this mess, you can get yourself out of it. Here’s how.

Below are several stress reduction strategies excerpted from my new book “400 Ways to Stop Stress Now…and Forever!” Make the effort to incorporate them into your life daily and you’ll begin to see immediate and encouraging results. Let’s get started:

Work changes into your life gradually.

No crash diets. No sudden, intense workout programs. No radical overhauls of who and what you are. You might maintain it for a while, but it can’t last. True change takes lots of small, mindful, subtle decisions over time that add up to bigger, more enduring transformations. They’re less disruptive to you and everyone else, and inevitably get the results you want. Be patient. If you’re really intent on change, you should develop the staying power to achieve it without having to act rashly. Do it by degrees. Why make yourself crazy?

Cut down on competitive stress.

Today, we compete for everything: the space around us, to be first to own a new product, to get our kids signed up for programs, to get our viewpoints across, to be faster, smarter, richer, sexier. Our days are filled with stressful competitions. And most are absolutely unnecessary. Because they’re driven by insecurity, fear of being left behind, an ingrained need to always have more or better than the next guy. Try to get above all that. If you want to compete, vie to be the one who stays calm and in control, who isn’t easily sucked in by material things, who avoids being caught up in the daily grab-bag that robs people of health and peace of mind. Compete for that and see how pointless all those other competitions become. And how misguided those who partake in them begin to appear. Why make yourself crazy?

It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react.

In any given day, you’ll have progress and setbacks, triumphs and failures. That you can bet on. But as good a day as some people have, they’ll manage to find something to fret about. (“It’s just luck, it won’t last, I’m destined for misery.”) And as bad a day as others have, they’ll see the good in it. (“So what? I’m still alive, still kicking and nothing’s going to stop me.”) Which attitude will win over your day? And the next day? And the next? You have control over that: to enjoy your accomplishments without diminishing them; to accept your failures as opportunities to learn. You have the power to make every day a positive outcome. Because it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to it. Why make yourself crazy?

Eliminate meaningless deadlines.

Our lives have become one long game of beat the clock. Crammed with arbitrary and unrealistic time constraints imposed by ourselves and others that serve only to make us more pressured, anxious and stressed out. For no worthwhile reason. Avoid the trap of assigning timeframes to everything you do, especially if you have little idea how long it will take. But, you say, I need a deadline or I simply won’t get around to doing it. If that’s the case, it’s not a deadline you need, it’s a goal. Make your goal one of completing a project in a careful, professional, satisfying manner. In other words, as long as it takes to do it right. Or maybe your goal is to make the project more fun and interesting, or to develop a new and more expedient way of doing it. In any case, save your nerves and your energy for the few real deadlines we face…like April 15th. Why make yourself crazy?

Don’t over-volunteer.

Resist volunteering for more than you can handle, more than your free time allows. Volunteering is great, but heavy involvement can steal important time from your family and relationships. (And it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to avoid more important obligations.) If the work becomes too demanding, simply say no. Nobody else is going to look out for you better than yourself. If we all “volunteered” to spend more time with the kids, visit our parents, make loving homes, and carve out special time for ourselves, there wouldn’t be a need for so much volunteering in the first place. Why make yourself crazy?

Steer clear of negative people.

You know them well: the whiners, the ones who find fault with everything, who always lay a hard luck story on you, who constantly give you grief over harmless trifles, or make wholesale denunciations of people, institutions and cultures that don’t suit their fancy or conform to their way of thinking. Unless you’re stuck with them, shun them. They’ll pull you down, darken your outlook, try to make your life as miserable as theirs. Who needs that? And if you are stuck with them (relatives, coworkers, housemates) don’t agree with or encourage them. In fact, say nothing and simply leave the scene whenever they launch into one of their diatribes. Why make yourself crazy?

Give things a chance.

Today, everyone expects instant gratification. So there’s a tendency to give up on things too soon—the book you’re reading, the mutual fund you’ve invested in, the musical instrument you’re learning, the course you’re taking, the person you’re dating. Don’t be so quick to abandon something that doesn’t give you immediate results. This could prevent you from experiencing the greater benefits you’d enjoy by sticking it out longer. Be patient. Give it more time. Find out for certain if something is worthwhile rather than make a hasty departure. It’s better than someday regretting you never really gave it the chance it deserved. Why make yourself crazy?

These are just a handful of the many ways you can start taking back control of your life.

Have a healthy, happy and stress-free new year!