18 Stress Reducers, By Waking Hour

18 Stress Reducers, By Waking Hour
This post was previously published. It has been updated.

I look upon my methods for stress reducers as tools in a toolbox. This gives me a selection of things to choose from when I come across various stressful situations. I decided to classify those tools by the hours of the day, as they all have their place.

  • 6 a.m. Use a pleasant alarm. Starting the day with your adrenaline pumping from being startled out of a sound sleep gets the whole day into a stress mode. Choose an alarm that wakes you up but doesn’t aggravate you.
  • 7 a.m. Have your morning ready to go. As much as possible, put things together the night before. Lay out your clothes, assemble lunches, set up the coffee pot; not having to rush around will keep your stress levels lower.
  • 8 a.m Get out the door with everything needed. For errands, I will put necessary items in my car the night before – not in front of the door where I will step over them. Packages to be mailed, books to be dropped off, items to be returned all sit on my front seat, and I don’t have to worry about forgetting them. Note this works because I have a garage — when I lived in a place with a communal parking lot I put things in front of the door. And stepped over them.
  • 9 a.m. Plan your day. I take a bit of time every morning to plan out the day. I look at upcoming deadlines, appointments and urgent tasks to figure out where they are going to fit in. I also look at whether or not I have enough time to do everything, and start shifting things around if I don’t.
  • 10 a.m. Check email sparingly. My email is a stressor for me. When my email program is constantly notifying me of incoming email, I am constantly looking at it, and then I don’t get to actual work. I check my email at work at the start of the day, 10 and 2. Home email I check once a day, and it no longer pings my phone with updates.
  • 11 a.m. Limit instant messaging. We rely on an instant messenger at work to communicate among our team members in various areas. But when I am concentrating, I turn it off so that I won’t be interrupted. Since many of my colleagues use IM to chit-chat, answering the near-constant pings sends my stress level up.
  • 12 p.m. Get away from your work at lunch. I never go into the work day saying “I aim to be stressed today.” But stress can build up without my really thinking about it (see “Boiling Water, Or Being Aware of Stress”), so interrupting the heat on the pot by getting away mid-day can really help. Even when I am working from home, I make it a point to leave the room where I work and do something else.
  • 1 p.m. Limit interactions with abrasive people. We all work with them. They’re the divas, the know-it-alls, the backstabbers or the generally clueless. I feel my frustration level going up when I deal with these people, so I set buffers. I redirect people to voice mail and email so that I have the space of time to formulate a nice response that I can live with.
  • 2 p.m. Keep your energy up with a snack. When I’m hungry, I’m cranky. And when I’m cranky, little things get to me and add to my crankiness. I find that having a high-protein snack mid-afternoon (even when my stomach is not rumbling, but I start to get tired) helps to avoid that dip in mood.
  • 3 p.m. Stretch. A masseuse once told me that humans have a remarkable ability to store tension in their muscles. She also told me that to keep the muscles from “kinking” they needed to be stretched. Taking a few minutes to stretch arms keeps my upper back from getting knotted. Having back pain is a sure-fire way to make me cranky, which in turn feeds a lowered level for annoyance (see above).
  • 4 p.m. Clear your desk before leaving work. Putting papers away, getting rid of garbage, noting where you are in your work and neatening things up has two benefits: it clears the deck for work tomorrow, and lets you take care of any loose ends that are urgent. I make notes as to what I need to start on so that I don’t spend time trying to recapture my mindset of the night before when I sit down in the morning.
  • 5 p.m. Take some down time after work. I learned this one from my daughter. Abrupt transitions are difficult for me, so if I take a few moments after work to relax and unwind, my stress level goes down. I may listen to a podcast on the way home, and I try to have a cup of tea and a few minutes to enjoy it when I walk in the door.
  • 6 p.m. Use a crockpot/pressure cooker to simplify dinner. Dinner time can be a major stressor. Few people I know want to come home after work and spend a few hours in the kitchen getting dinner ready. My crockpot is my secret weapon for workday dinners. I have a few standbys I throw in and dinner will be ready when I get home. I also have a go-to selection of quick meals in the pressure cooker that don’t require me having to start it in the morning.
  • 7 p.m. Remove personal email from your mobile device. I didn’t think this was a stressor until I removed the notifications. I used to have my phone “ding” when I received an email. The trouble was that I then felt the need to check my email. By removing the sound and the automatic fetching of email, I check home email on my schedule.
  • 8 p.m. Avoid bedtime stress with 10-minute warnings. Those people with kids know what a hassle it can be to get the tykes into bed. My daughter didn’t do well with abrupt transitions, so I kept an eye on the clock and let her know when shifts in activity were going to occur. 10 minutes before bath time I let her know she needed to wrap up what she was doing because she is expected to take a bath in 10 minutes. This virtually eliminated the struggles of getting her into bed.
  • 9 p.m. Avoid media that makes you angry. There is a lot of bad stuff going on in the world. The “news” is usually a rehashing of the same themes. If you find yourself shouting at the television, don’t watch it. Going on a news diet won’t hurt. If something really major happens, someone will tell you.
  • 10 p.m. Turn off the screens one hour before bed. Blue lights right before can trigger interruptions in the sleep cycle, causing insomnia. Turning off the screens can help prevent the stress of insomnia, which feeds into the cycle of too-little sleep.
  • 11 p.m. Have a bedtime routine to soothe you into sleep. Having repetitive actions at bedtimes can soothe adults as well as children. The same actions repeated daily gives our bodies and minds the signal it is time to ramp down and get ready for sleep. Again, insomnia feeds into a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation and stress.

Most of these things are incorporated into my daily routines. By using these tools regularly, I find that I am in a better frame of mind from the time I get up until I go to bed.