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{Note from Jessica: Today’s post is shared by my dear friend Kelly Matsudaira. Kelly is passionate about personal development and reflection on life and often pops in to share words of wisdom! I hope you enjoy today’s article!}

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by Kelly Matsudaira

Stress will always be a part of our lives: the bills will always come in, the demands of children and family will always be there, our job will always need our attention, and there will never be enough hours in the day.

However, that doesn’t mean you still can’t live an easier and happier life.

Everyone responds to stress differently but it’s how we respond that makes all the difference.

If you feel like your life is out of control, there are some healthy habits you can adopt to make life easier and give you back the control you feel you have lost. We always have control over our lifestyle, thoughts, emotions and reactions.

How to Reduce Stress and Make Life Easier

Taking action when you’re feeling stressed will help you to cope with whatever is troubling you. Make things simpler for yourself and you will find that life gets easier.

Think about how you are currently dealing with stress in your life and difficult situations. You may want to start a stress journal to help release your thoughts and emotions, keeping a daily log of what is going on in your life, how it made you feel and how you reacted. As you continue to write, you’ll begin to see patterns and behaviors. You’ll also begin to notice what causes the stress and how you handle those events. Overall, this will be very helpful so you can start to strip away or cope better with the main causes of your stress.

Here are some ways to reduce your daily stress:

1. Get in the habit of being in a routine. Structure is everyone’s friend. It may sound like work at first when you’re figuring things out, but once you get in the groove, it’ll feel very normal and relieve a lot of stress. Stick to a sleep schedule, mealtimes, bathtimes, work schedules, activity schedules, and so on. You might be able to free up more of your time for other tasks and projects, or just more family time.

2. Become a pro at time management. Write down everything you have to do, events or activities planned and anything else that is on your plate. Then become a task manager and start planning out your schedule so you can see what goes where, when and how you’re going to get things done and whose help you need. Don’t be afraid to ask for help as you begin to tackle your new schedule. But you will notice that when you practice good time management, you will be able to get to everything and life will begin to calm down.

3. Learn to avoid unnecessary stress. You will feel more in control of your life as you take charge and weed out everything that causes you stress. You can alter situations that normally make you feel upset. For example, if you hate grocery shopping and the crowds at the store make you feel really anxious, then do your shopping online. If you hate commuting to and from work, find a new, less traveled route. If your screaming children distract you from working on a side business, then find a babysitter to take them off your hands for a few hours every day. Change your environment and you’ll change how you feel.

4. Become more mindful of your thoughts, emotions and reactions to things and events that cause stress. You can change your attitude at any moment and feel at peace when you pay attention to yourself and how you’re handling each situation. Practicing meditation will help keep you focused and more mindful throughout the day. Watch what you say, how you say it, your body language and mannerisms, and generally how you’re feeling throughout the day. Then you can start to change what is not working for you.

5. Make time to exercise daily. There are many health benefits to exercising, including reducing and preventing stress. You’ll feel so much better after a brisk walk, a long jog or completing a weight lifting circuit at the gym. You can burn away your anger, frustration and tension as you move your body and release those endorphins that boost your mood and make you feel great after a workout.

6. Create non-negotiables and let everyone know about them. There are just some things that you must make time for in your daily schedule and there is no negotiating with it. This can include: exercising, hobbies, family time, me time, and relaxing time. You must do what ultimately makes you happy and satisfied, and everything (and everyone) else can wait.

7. Stop trying to please everyone but yourself. Learn to be selfish! Sometimes, you just have to put your foot down and say “No!” You can’t do everything that needs to be done. You can’t attend every activity or event. You can’t please everyone all the time, at least not without making yourself exhausted and miserable. Taking back your life means turning people away and putting yourself first for once. You deserve to be happy too.

8. Plan social interactions in your calendar. Humans are social creatures and we love being around others, especially our family and friends. They make us feel safe and loved. Nothing reins in the stress like being around our loved ones. You can cry on their shoulders, vent about your frustrations or just have a good time and forget about all your worries for a night. They can help calm you down and bring a new perspective to your situation and help you deal with things.

9. Take time for yourself and disconnect daily. This may be one of your non-negotiables, but be sure to disconnect yourself from the rat race for a little bit every day. That means turning off your phone or other mobile devices, getting off social media and not checking emails. You may want to set a time that you “turn off” every day, like around 8 pm. This will allow you to reconnect with yourself and/or your family, and unwind from the day.

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