Ever have one of those days? You know the kind I’m talking about: when you barely have time to grab your morning coffee, when your one-minute personal check-in is on the walk to your next meeting, when you come home from work at 7 p.m. feeling like you made time in your day for everyone—except yourself.
There’s no denying it: Stress will always be a part of our day-to-day lives, but it can take a toll on our long-term health. So, instead of tearing through best-selling self-help books or creating lofty goals. Here are some manageable ways to refocus and recalibrate so you can feel better about today, tomorrow, and the days to come.
1. Do five-minute phone calls with friends and loved ones.
Unless you have an hour-long commute after work, setting aside a block of time to catch up with friends and family can be tricky. Instead, opt for a quick five-minute call to say hi, ask what’s going on, or wish them luck for an important project or event. A few minutes of casual conversation with someone you care about lifts your spirits without sucking up your time.
2. Declutter your space.
Let’s face it: decluttering can be a daunting task, but organizing a space where you spend a majority of your time—whether it’s at work or home—has countless aesthetic, emotional, and mental benefits. Dedicate one morning this weekend to sorting through your clothes, books, shoes, or papers to determine what you want to keep. Get rid of anything you don’t love or use on a regular basis. Keeping only the items that bring joy and ease to your life will make your closet, desk, or home so much more inviting and accessible. Plus, you’ll have a renewed sense of energy after discarding the items that weighed you down—both literally and figuratively.
3. Look people in the eye when you speak.
Maintaining eye contact is easy when you’re listening, but try doing it when you speak as well. Direct eye contact builds confidence and fosters a connection between two people in conversation. It also makes you appear more trustworthy, self-aware, and self-assured.
4. Try a new activity.
Sometimes you feel most energized when you test the limits of your comfort zone. Maybe you’ve wanted to visit the cool coffee shop down the street, learn to play guitar, plan a trip out of the country, or try Zumba for the first time—whatever piques your interest, go for it. Experiencing new things leads to increased productivity, renewed creativity, newfound perspectives, fun memories, and—at the very least—an interesting story.
5. Practice self-kindness.
Observe your habits, behaviors, and thought processes—are you gentle with yourself? If not, try to pinpoint why and when this occurs, then do your best to actively offer yourself compassion and grace. It could be as simple as taking the time to pay yourself a compliment when you wake up in the morning (try a positive sticky-note on the mirror in your bedroom), or saying “no” to happy hour plans with friends so you can unwind with a book and glass of wine on your couch. Or maybe it means writing down one thing you did each day that made you feel proud, whether it was as big as tackling a new project at work or as small as finally remembering to floss.
6. Break a sweat every day.
However you want to do it — running, walking to work, playing basketball, gym training, furniture rearranging, sex—make sure you get in a sweat every single day. Staying active has infinite physical benefits, and beyond those, it spikes endorphins, making you feel happier post-sweat session.
7. Keep a gratitude journal.
The best way to pull yourself out of a funk is to actively focus on the good in your life. If you have a few minutes on the train in the a.m., pull out a notebook or the Notes app on your phone and jot down three things you’re grateful for, big or small. It doesn’t have to be extensive: a bullet-point list will do. Taking the time to thoughtfully consider what you’re thankful for puts your life in perspective—and allows you to focus on what you’re lucky to have, instead of what you don’t have.
8. Read a book instead of browsing your phone.
The next time you find yourself sitting around with a half hour to kill, pick up a book or your e-Reader instead of defaulting to your smart phone and scrolling through social media. Engaging with one story or idea, rather than bouncing between hundreds of little pieces of trivial, often irrelevant news, helps your mind stay calm, focused, and present.
A simple trick to ensure you make the time to read? Carry a book or your Kindle in your car, purse, or briefcase, and open it up whenever you’re standing in line, waiting to meet a friend, or twiddling your thumbs before a dentist appointment.
9. Focus your attention on the task at hand.
Multi-tasking doesn’t always increase productivity. Focusing on more than one task at a time usually has an adverse effect—we accomplish less and feel more stressed in the process. Be mindful when your thoughts deviate from the task at hand—are you already worrying about the next thing on your to-do list? Or maybe you’re responding to group texts while trying to send out work emails? If so, it’s time to take a breath, put your phone on do not disturb, and refocus. The result? You’ll be 10 times more productive and feel less scattered in the process.
10. Make more time for the things you love.
Make time and space in your life for activities you enjoy. Give yourself permission to pursue your interests and cultivate your passions without guilt or fear.It could be as simple as spending thirty minutes every Saturday morning reading the paper at your favorite cafe, or as time-intensive as setting aside an entire afternoon to work on your latest fiction novel. Maybe it means hosting a monthly dinner party with friends, taking a language course, or spending more time at the park with your pup.
Carving out time to experience the things you love doesn’t just bring you more joy, it also gives you more purpose and a greater sense of fulfillment. Plus, doing things that bring value and meaning to your life makes it easier to deal with whatever setbacks and difficulties come your way.