Ten Ways to Reduce Stress and Increase Your Zen (Part Two)

by Farhana Rahman


Photo by Daniel Mingook Kim

This is the second in our two-part series on the top ten ways to reduce stress in our everyday lives. In part one, we talked about food, sleep and gadgets to name a few. Here are the other tips we’ve found useful.


6. Set Aside Time to Plan Your Day

Many of us find it difficult to relax or be present as we’re continuously running through all the things that we have to do. We’ve become a world of incessant list makers.

Our list addiction isn’t helped by the endless videos, articles and apps that teach us new and improved ways to make lists. Jotting things down on post-it notes ? That’s so 2001. If Pinterest  or Instagram are anything to go by, we’re now making elaborate bullet journals filled with lists that contain calligraphy and beautiful illustrations. HOW HAS ANYONE GOT THE TIME FOR THIS?

So what should we do ?  Sometimes it is necessary to get organized and make a list. Try setting aside a few minutes each day to do this and then let it be. Don’t spend the rest of your day adding or refining it.

Make the list manageable – aiming too high and failing to complete everything will only increase stress levels.  Trust that if you forget to add something to the list, it is unlikely to be the end of the world.


7.   Reduce Choices

The overwhelming amount of choice we have courtesy of the internet is amazing but can be stressful. There’s a great scene in ‘Master of None’ where they decide to eat tacos but then spend so long researching where to go that it’s shut by the time they get there. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is now so endemic that I find myself Googling everything to check that there isn’t a better option.

This is where reducing choices can help. We place a social commodity on new experiences but sometimes it’s okay to be repetitive.  Eating the same dinner might be more convenient than losing 3 hours reading reviews about the latest beach-themed vegan pop-up.


8.    Be Smart when Socializing

This feels controversial and counter-intuitive. There is a large body of evidence showing that well-being and happiness are linked to social support networks. So why would we modify our social behavior?

Well, it is not about quantity but quality.  It is important to weight up our social commitments and be truly honest about the ones that add value to our lives versus those that are obligations.

Catching up with a good friend at your favourite restaurant is a great way to spend an evening. Spending your Saturday at your neighbour’s sister’s baby’s first birthday because you couldn’t say no – not so much.

We’re not telling you to be a hermit or be rude, but don’t be afraid to skip the odd event or night out if it’s going to be draining rather than enjoyable.


9.  Sweat

Exercise can help reduce stress  Photo by Justyn Warner

Exercise can help reduce stress

Photo by Justyn Warner


There is a huge body of evidence about the beneficial effects of exercise on stress.

But sometimes the range of choices can make it difficult to know what to do. HIIT training or boxing ? Yoga or Pilates ? Spin classes or mountain biking ?

It doesn’t matter. Anything that gets you moving and your heart-rate up is fine. It doesn’t have to be at a fancy gym or boutique studio. Whether you’re walking up a hill or dancing in your bedroom, just pick something you enjoy and can do consistently.  


10. Work

This is the one that people immediately think of whenever they talk about de-stressing. “I need to work less!”, says everyone.  But we’ve intentionally put this at the bottom of the list as people often don’t realize that there are many other driving forces that contribute to high levels of stress outside of their jobs.  By all means though, review your commitments and make positive changes so that you can effectively manage your workload.  Work-related stress is common and a difficult one to balance. Try not to take your work home with you if possible and if you do, set some boundaries to maintain a healthy work-life balance.


Ultimately, stress is a natural physiological response.  But as modern life continues to evolve beyond recognition when compared to our ancestors, we must take stock of the fact that our bodies have yet to catch up.  We are running at near constant levels of high stress and we are not coping.  It’s time to re-set the balance.