Stress! It seems to be everywhere. We live in a high-paced, high-stress culture that celebrates burnout and scorns resting. Recently I was having a conversation with an employee about the planning I have done around my life. I don’t do stress or stressful situations well, so I have to be mindful of how I am using my time. Stress causes me unnecessary anxiety. I am always auditing myself to ask, “How can I better manage my day?” Being the encourager that I am, I shared to provide something beneficial to a colleague hopefully. She chuckled and replied, “Who has time to do that!”

I can relate to her statement because I used to wear the badge of busyness. It didn’t help that I took my busyness a step further and felt that my duty (as a good Christian) was to put my needs beneath the needs of others. I was known as someone who was dependable, always available, and always willing to lend a helping hand. When there aren’t boundaries around our work and volunteering, the next step is burnout. I compare it to routine maintenance of a vehicle. You can only skip so many oil changes before your engine malfunctions. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could do something to reduce your stress? You can! I decided to share some tips that I use to help me to have a plan of action for handling it.

Remember that you are valuable. You can only be your best if you are healthy. Stress can cause you to feel ill and weaken your immune system.

You are not superhuman. I have significantly reduced my “to do lists” to three items I can do well. You can’t do 15,000 things in one day (although you try).

Create a plan for your ideal day. What do you need to get accomplished? What times are you at your best? Try planning tasks that take extra energy at the beginning of your day.

Check your e-mails twice a day: Once in the morning and once in the evening. Getting e-mail notifications every second can be emotionally draining. It can also feel that your work will never end. Don’t worry. The world won’t stop if you can’t answer every e-mail all at once.

Plan for interruptions. What will happen if those you serve with have interruptions? Instead of getting agitated find a better way to adapt. For me, it was writing this article. Creativity helps me to focus on something positive while I wait.

Plan for the next day by creating a list of things to do at the end of the day.

Give yourself grace. Instead of beating yourself up about what you were unable to do, celebrate the things you were able to get done.

If you struggle with your planning (or go back to old patterns), ask yourself why. Why did you decide to take on more tasks than you could manage? Is it a fear that you won’t meet the expectations of others? Are you trying to avoid another crucial area of your life (i.e. procrastination)?

We don’t have to allow life to happen to us. Do things come up unexpectedly? Yes. Are some days busier than others? Yes. Will we have to say no and learn to embrace our boundaries? Yes. Every day I have to make a fresh commitment to make a decision how I will spend my day. Stress isn’t one of my options.

Here are some questions for you to help you create a plan to reduce your stress:

What adjustments do you need to make to reduce stress in your life? Be honest.

Have you created a plan of how you will reduce your stress? Write it down.

How can you build in celebration? How will you reward yourself for a job well done?

I would love to hear how you plan to put these tips into action. Feel free to share one tip that may help someone else to be less stressed.

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