Stressed? 4 Steps to Re-Prioritize Your Life

Stress has become such a commonplace emotion that the severity of stress is often overlooked. Stress that continues without relief can lead to a condition called distress, which is a negative stress reaction. Distress is so powerful it can lead to physical ailments like headaches, chest pain, trouble sleeping, elevated blood pressure, and an upset stomach. In fact, 75 to 90% of visits to the doctor are stress-related ailments and complaints. Your mind is so powerful that when under continued, high-levels of stress it can make you physically or mentally ill.

Before you make yourself sick or allow the weight of life to bully you into submission, you need to take steps to control of your life in a way that allows you to reprioritize based on what is truly important. In the midst of work deadlines, appointments, and errands, you may be overlooking things that really matter. Life’s little obligations and to-do lists have a way of distracting us from the big stuff: relationships, family, friends, personal health, and alone time. The question is, where to start? Cheat Sheet’s advice: start with the clutter.

1. Cut the clutter

Brain lobes in different colors

Brain lobes in different colors | iStock.com/alex-mit

Clutter may make you think of the physical clutter that comes from having too many old magazines lying around or a whole shelf of kitchenware from infomercials, but mental clutter is the enemy here. Most likely you’re too busy, over committed, and information obsessed. You have three text conversations running as you’re emailing your boss as you’re thinking about what to make for dinner while you’re planning what you’ll pack for your weekend trip to the mountains.

The stream of seemingly important, time-consuming thoughts doesn’t stop. The truth is your to-do list is too long and is filled with tiny things that feel so important, but really don’t matter. While you’re running around worried about having enough time to stop by the dry cleaners, the things that matter sit neglected. You may tell yourself that this is the nature of the world today and you can’t let that text message sit with no response, but in reality you have a say over what you do and how you spend your time. 

2. Get organized

Man lying down after workout to think

Man lying down after workout to think | iStock.com

Once you’ve cut the crap its time to reassess and manage your priorities. What truly matters to you? Your physical health? Alone time? Family? Time spent with friends? Assess the very core of what matters in your life and then put those things first. Most likely the number of Twitter followers you have or a weekend Netflix binge won’t make the cut. Next, come up with a list of second priority items — things that are necessary but maybe not as important as being there for your kid’s birthday. Maybe it’s checking your work email from home or getting the car serviced. Whatever these items are, focus on them only after you’ve attended to your big ticket priorities. After you’ve recognized your first and second priorities, you’ll see the massive list of fluff that follows, often in the form of technology, TV time, and social obligations. With these filler to-dos off the table and the things that matter taken care of, you’ll feel a load of stress released from your shoulders.

3. Act

Person sitting down reading to destress

Person sitting down reading to destress | Amazon.com

Once you’ve established what truly matters in life, it is time to act. With pressures at work and at home, this may sound easier than it really is. If you’ve decided that an hour of daily alone time is a priority, but your partner finds this selfish, you may have to stick to your guns and fight for the things that are important to you. If you want to spend an hour on your physical fitness everyday, it may require to you actually take your lunch break rather than working from your desk. Be prepared for a period of adjustment when you start focusing on what matters to you rather than what matters to other people. It takes courage to reassess your priorities and be honest with yourself. Unfortunately some of the most important people, activities, and aspects of your life may seem unimportant to those around you so be prepared to explain your needs and reasons.

4. Maintain it

Man breathing deeply to stay stress free

Man breathing deeply to stay stress free | iStock.com

Once you’ve cleaned out your life, re-prioritized, and gotten rid of some of the filler that makes you feel overburdened and stressed, you’ll need to do regular maintenance to keep this simplicity intact. This means knowing your limits and sticking to them. It means saying “no” when you don’t’ want to do something, avoiding people who leave you feeling stressed and anxious, and taking control of your environment to create an atmosphere that is devoid of unnecessary stressors. For some this may mean saying no to a dinner invitation, backing off from certain friendships, or grocery shopping online rather than battling the hoards of shoppers. The goal here is to be aware of yourself and your needs to an extent that you’re not afraid to alter of the things you can control to keep the stress at bay.

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