Do More of What You Love and Cut Down on Stress

By Kristen Knight

  • Be mindful.
  • Build in downtime.
  • Interact with others.

A perfect storm of negative news and difficult circumstances may tempt you to work harder and longer without mitigating rising stress. But when you’re feeling stressed out, it can be more important than ever to take a break and enjoy yourself.

Relaxation doesn’t have to cost a lot in terms of time or money—but it can bring immeasurable benefits.

Be mindful of how time is spent

Don’t let your schedule get swallowed by stress. The first step to increasing pleasure and cutting down on stress may be mindfulness. Be conscious of how your time is spent, and take note if you begin to get caught up in a whirlwind of anxiety.

Pay attention to—and try to eliminate or modify—any activities that seem to burn up large parts of your day without accomplishing much. Start every day with a basic idea of how you’d like your time to progress—to meet a few realistic goals and also enjoy some free time.

Plan to get the most out of any “wait” time. You may be able to work toward your daily goals while waiting for an appointment or sitting on the train, which can increase the amount of free time you have later. Pull out your calendar or catch up on correspondence during those otherwise “empty” time slots.

Take a break for well-being and perspective

If you feel overwhelmed, take a break. No matter how imperative it seems to keep going at all costs, taking a break could help you maintain perspective.

If you feel guilty about taking time for a break, remember that undue stress could harm your productivity and possibly your health. High and chronic stress can negatively affect the body’s immune system, according to the National Institutes of Health. Time spent with friends or doing something you love can help restore your sense of balance and well-being.

Build in downtime

If you have family or a favorite hobby that you’re missing, plan a fun routine that allows you to enjoy what makes you happy. You’ll look forward to it, and the reassurance of your regular break could help relieve stress. Creating a routine around something other than work, worry or chores helps ensure that you actually get the downtime you need.

Be proactive

Once you make a commitment to take a break, make sure you get up and get out.

To make the most of downtime, do your best to keep your work spaces separate from other spaces in your home. This can help prevent work from overtaking your other priorities. Try to leave stress at your desk or computer, rather than bringing it into your family room or kitchen.

Minimize distractions that may eat up your free time and keep you from breaking free of stress. For example, consider limiting TV and computer use. Instead, seek out the activities you enjoy the most. Lasting memories are rarely made of sitcoms or video games, but rather laughing with friends and making free time truly special.

Interact with others—the more the merrier

If you have trouble making time for fun on your own, seek out family members or friends whose company you truly enjoy and who share your interests. You might find you take even more pleasure in your free time with a group. And you may find yourself less tempted to cancel plans if that would mean letting others down.

Consider activities that lend themselves to group participation, such as hiking, exercise classes, team sports or cooking lessons. Or, you may find that volunteering your time to a worthy cause gives you something to feel good about.

Don’t forget to take the time to recognize the positive facets of your life—even if they’re everyday details—and be thankful for them.

© 2008 Beacon Health Options


Managing Work-Related Stress

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Republished with permission from Achieve Solutions