Along with a New Year comes the opportunity to let go of the past and start fresh and anew. It’s a perfect time to get serious about getting healthy. Don’t think of it as a new year’s resolution. Think of it as a brand-new start on your life.
Out with the old, and in with the new. What’s more is that it’s not as difficult as you think. You can have less stress with a few simple daily actions, eat better by adding in more healthy food and get healthier by exercising more without feeling like it’s so much work.
In addition, just a few money and time management changes will make all the difference in your life. Finally, you’ll have more time for more fun without spending tons of money. You’re going to feel so much better with just a few specific changes, that you’ll have the very best year you’ve ever had. Let’s get started.
Lower the Stress in Your Life
There are many factors that cause stress, both internal and external. Thankfully, for the most part, there are ways to limit exposure to stress and decrease the effects stress has on you that you can’t control. There is no way to totally limit stress from your life. Some stress is good, too. You have good stress and bad stress. You have some stressors that you have control over and some that you do not.
Your first step to lowering your stress level is to first identify stressors you have in your life. Get out a piece of paper or a document on your computer and make a list of everything in your life that causes you stress. Don’t worry yet if they’re fixable, internal or external. Just write them all down.
Examples to get you started:
- You’re always running late.
- You hate being stuck in traffic all the time.
- You’re too tired to cook dinner at night.
- You’re always losing things.
- You have family and friends who are difficult.
- You get frustrated getting dressed in the morning.
- You can’t fix your hair the way you want to.
- Your kids are often late to school.
- Mornings are a nightmare.
- There’s too much clutter in your home.
- You forget appointments.
- You have trouble paying bills each month.
- You hate your job.
- Your boss requires too much of you for the pay.
- You have too much work.
- Your health is not as good as you want it to be.
You get the idea. Write down anything that comes to mind. If you want to, take a week and write down anything that happens to you that causes stress every single day in that 7-day period.
Organize Your List
Once you have a good list, it’s time to separate into internal and external. Pretty much everything that is internal should have a solution that’s totally in your control. The things that are external you may only be able to control your own actions. But, there is still a lot you can do to lower the stress in your life.
Now we can look at each stressor and come up with an appropriate solution. For example, if you’re always running late for work or getting the kids to school this is an internal issue. It’s not controlled by outside forces and you’re in complete control of it. It might not seem like it sometimes, but you are.
Have a family meeting about how you’re all going to work together to make mornings better. Each night, ensure that everyone has their clothing laid out for the next day, including you. Ensure that everyone gets to bed on time so that everyone is well rested in the morning. Set alarms. Teenagers can get themselves up and fed. Take that off your plate. If you prefer to ensure everyone eats healthy for breakfast, prepare it the night before, or let everyone eat fruit for breakfast. Fruit is the original fast food. Two or three bananas for breakfast is super healthy and better than a bowl of sugary cereal.
If you take them to school tell them what time you will be leaving each morning. Anyone not in the car at that time gets left. It will only take once or twice for your child to be on time. It might sound controversial to let a teenager miss school, but ensure that there are other consequences such as you won’t write them a note, and they don’t get to do things they want to do if they don’t go to school. If you do have access to school buses, start using them for even more freedom from this type of stress.
If you have younger children, get them ready for school first, and put them in front of the TV or computer game while you get ready. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from your spouse. You can’t expect a spouse to know what to do if you don’t tell them and let them do it. Don’t micromanage them. If everyone is in the car or at the bus stop on time, that’s really the important thing. Everything else doesn’t need to be perfect. Most school age children can dress themselves and should do so the minute they’re able.
Let’s look at an external factor that you have no control over.
Traffic. One way to deal with traffic is to try other routes to work. There may even be a longer route that is quieter. Even if it takes a little longer, less traffic is preferable and less stressful. If there is no other way, then you need to find another way to control your reaction to the traffic.
Listen to good music that makes you happy. Listen to a book that you wanted to read but don’t have time to. This is going to be very helpful, because it makes being in the car something to look forward to rather than something to dread, even if traffic is not great. If you’re a nervous driver, take steps to lessen that problem.
For example, don’t have your first cup of coffee until after you get to work, since caffeine can heighten stress levels. Take a defensive driving course so that you know what to do in aggressive traffic. Ensure that your vehicle is the right one to drive in the type of traffic you need to navigate each day. That high gas mileage 3-cylinder car might not be made for driving in Atlanta traffic efficiently.
Eat Right to Reduce Stress
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve likely heard it 1000 times. Eating bad contributes to stress. It stresses your body so that you’re not as healthy as you could be, and lack of health causes stomach issues, health issues, lack of energy and other problems.
- Limit Caffeine & Alcohol – If you need caffeine to get through your day, you’re addicted. The best thing to do is stop using it. Choose a time where you can take off work to go cold turkey or cut down slowly over a 30-day period. If you want to have a glass of wine at night after the kids go to bed, that’s okay, but keep it to a normal 4-ounce serving size. Choose dryer wines to avoid a sugar kick. If you wake up with headaches or feeling dehydrated, you may want to limit your wine intake to one or two nights a week.
- Create a Stress-Free Meal Environment – Eating when everyone is rushed, yelling, and unhappy is not good for your digestion at all. Your home is supposed to be a safe place for every member of your family. Work hard to create that by keeping the TV off, making things easier by getting the whole family involved. Give children their own colored plates and cups that they can easily get out of the dishwasher to bring to the table to eat. Keep flatware in cups right on the table. Let kids load their own dish, plus one other. If everyone works together it makes life a lot easier.
- Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time – Meal planning is essential to success if you are committed to eating right. However, you plan to eat, planning will help. You can plan menus and use that as your shopping list yourself, or you can purchase a meal plan based on your needs. A couple of good meal planning sites are emeals.com, plantoeat.com, andcom.
- Don’t Medicate with Food – Some people use food like other people use drugs. If you find that you’re stress eating at certain times of day instead of trying to fight the urge to eat, just replace your normal snack food with something healthy like fruit. There are rumors that fruit is bad for you, but most people, even diabetics, can find fruit to eat. Choose low sugar fruit like berries if you’re worried about your blood sugar.
- Stay Hydrated – Drinking plenty of water and eating water-rich foods will ensure that you stay hydrated. How much you need to consume depends on factors such as climate, weight, body mass and more. But in general, the common suggestion of 8 glasses of water a day is a good average to go by. But, if you’re thirsty, you should drink.
- Eat Whole Foods, Mostly Plants – Kaiser Permanente recommends a low-fat, plant-based diet for maximum health. Eating this diet will naturally lead you to become the healthiest version of you. You’ll lose weight, or gain weight if needed, lower your cholesterol and other signs of illness simply by following this way of eating. Don’t worry, it’s simple to get enough of every nutrient you need eating a plant based diet.
- Eat Enough Calories – Everyone has a different caloric need which depends on your height, weight, muscle density, and activity level. In addition, health issues may affect your caloric needs. But, in general, women should eat at least 1500 calories a day and men about 2000 calories each day. Eating fewer can cause problems with having enough energy, headaches, and other signs and symptoms of a poor diet.
- Take the Right Supplements – Regardless of diet, today because we wash our food so well, most people need to supplement with vitamin B12. It can take a lot of years for a deficiency to show up, but it can cause permanent neurological damage, so it’s super important. Ask your doctor if you should supplement and get yearly blood tests to be sure what you’re doing is working for you.
Eating right is simple to do and totally in your control. If you have issues with getting meals on the table at night without pulling your hair out, you need a plan to follow. Create a menu that enables you to shop fewer times each month.
For example, go shopping every two weeks instead of weekly. Try to prepare some portions of your meals in advance so that at meal times you only mix a few ingredients together to make a meal. Example: Make a big pot of rice each week that can be combined with different ingredients to make meals such as rice and beans, stir-fry, wraps and other dishes.
If you can afford it, consider joining one of the meal delivery plans where the food comes to your door and you prepare it per the directions. Many of the meal delivery plans are very healthy, easy to prepare and can (for the right family) save money.
Get More Exercise
The word exercise often brings its own level of stress to people. Most people hate the word exercise and feel as if they have no time to do it anyway, much less the energy. But, intentional exercise is essential to good health. Good health helps lower stress levels. Therefore, instead of getting all worked up about working out, find ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
- Desk Exercises – If you’re stuck in a cubicle all day it can be hard to figure out how to get moving more. But, you can do exercises right at your desk. Tap your toes, squeeze your bottom, do Kegels, and move your arms – all while at the table.
- Take the Stairs — When you need to deliver a document to someone, take the long way, walk up the stairs – get in as many steps as you can rather than scanning and emailing. Not only will this help you physically, but getting more face time at work with people is always a good thing.
- Walk at Lunch – Grab a lunch that you can hold in your hands such as a smoothie or a wrap, and go for a walk. Sit outside on a bench, enjoy your time outdoors even if it’s cold outside. Just bundle up properly. The sunshine, even when it’s cold, is good for you, as is the movement getting to the park bench and back.
- Ask for a Standing Desk – Some companies are starting to be aware of the dangers of sitting more than four hours a day. If you can get your company to spring for a sit/stand desk or at least standing stations, you’ll save your health and everyone else’s, too. Some people find that they’re even more productive at a standing desk, as well.
- TV Exercise – Have a favorite show you like to watch? March in place while watching the show. In fact, anytime you want to watch a show, add some form of exercise to it, especially if you’re a regular TV watcher. You can march in place, jog, do jumping jacks, pushups, sit-ups and other exercises and not miss a thing. Plus, you get built-in rest times in the form of commercials.
- After Dinner Walk – The after-dinner walk is a great way to not only get some extra steps in during the day, but is also a good way to connect with your children and/or your spouse. Plus, you can meet other walkers in your neighborhood, which is always a good thing to do. As studies show, more connection with neighbors, family and friends lower
- Buy Experiences – Instead of going out to eat or doing things that require little movement for fun, find things to do that cause you to move. Miniature golf, horseback riding, bike riding, roller skating and so forth area all fun experiences that you can pay for instead of paying for eating out. You’ll get more exercise, and feel better, and be closer, too. It’s a win-win for sure.
- Park at a Distance – When going shopping or to work, park far from the door. You’ll get in a few extra steps and have more energy just from that short walk to the door. Walking back to your car after shopping or working will also give you time to decompress from stress as you breathe in the fresh air on the way to your vehicle.
- Waiting Movements – You’ll find that when you pay attention to your day, you’re doing a lot of waiting. You wait for the microwave to beep, you wait for the printer at work, you wait for your kids to get to the car after school. Each of these moments is an opportunity to add more movement to your day. Squat in place, park away from the school and have kids walk to you while you walk the area as you wait.
Finally, remember to have fun. When you want to be with your family, try having experiences together that are active. After all, a day boogie boarding at the ocean or paddle boarding at the lake is more memorable and fun than sitting in front of screens all day. Sure, there is a place and time for sitting around and cuddling, but the more you move, the more you’ll want to cuddle.
Incorporate Better Money Management
Many people identify money as a major cost of stress in their lives. Sometimes there are genuine reasons to feel stressed out about money. Being under educated, underemployed, and underpaid can cause all sorts of stress. Not having enough money can make all other stressors seem even worse. Whether we like it or not, everyone needs money.
Money is important for shelter, food, and medical care. Money helps you not only get healthy but stay healthy, because when you have enough money, you can pursue the things that are important, such as time with your family, eating healthy, and so forth. But, what’s shocking is that people worry about money no matter how much they have. This suggests that the stress surrounding money isn’t always really about dollars in and dollars out.
- You Don’t Need as Much as You Think – Most people overspend because they think they need so many things. But, if you really started only buying things because you truly need them, because they’re useful because they add value to your life, instead of you just think you need them or you want to impress someone else, you’d realize that you can do with a lot less. I mean really who needs dust-collecting knickknacks? No one.
- Money Doesn’t Make You Happy – Okay let’s get real. For most people, money can make you giggle a little – at most. But, true happiness comes from things that are free. The love of your spouse, the love of a parent, the love of friendship – these things can be had totally free. You only need give of yourself. Beyond your basic financial needs, everything else is truly extra. Plus, study after study shows that owning less makes people happier.
- Money isn’t The Best Contribution You Can Make – Some people lament the money they don’t have to give to special causes. But, you have something far more valuable that you can give to society and that’s your time and attention. This is true with family and friends, too. Nothing is as important as giving of yourself to feel truly good about yourself.
- Money is Corrupting – Often people don’t realize how much of a pain it can be to have an enormous amount of money. It can corrupt the best people. People are happiest when they have enough to provide the basic comforts of life plus enough to save for the future and perhaps one good vacation a year. After that, most people get more stressed out.
Finally, when you can accept that money is a tool to help you live a happy, worry free life, you can then manage what you have and find ways to make more if you need it. The biggest way you can affect the stress around money is to set a budget, stick to the budget, and plan for problems. Spend money on experiences and not things unless the things are truly things you need and will truly love.
Use Better Time Management
As mentioned early in this report, one stressor that people experience is feeling as if they don’t have enough time. Time is one of those things that is equal for all people. Everyone has the same amount of time in each day. You cannot control time. All you can do is manage the time that you have better.
- Schedule Everything – Use a good calendar like Google Calendar to schedule every aspect of your day. Even if you plan to spend 2 hours reading a book, or 30 minutes walking with your daughter, write it down. By filling your calendar in this way, you’ll be more likely to do what you say you will. Plus, it’ll make it easier to say no about something when you look at how full your life already is.
- Be Realistic About Time – When you put entries into your calendar, ensure that you’re giving enough time to get certain things done. If you need to go the store after work to get milk, how long will it really take? Don’t say 10 minutes when you know in heavy traffic it’s more like an hour.
- Set a Time Limit – For many projects and tasks, it’s important to set a time limit so you don’t keep doing it longer. Cleaning house, watching TV, sleeping, and exercising are all things that you can control the amount of time that you do them.
- Give Yourself a Buffer – Don’t schedule things back to back. You’re sure to get more stressed out and burned out. Instead build in a buffer in between different tasks. Try ten minutes, then if you find yourself bumping into time issues, increase it five minutes each time until you aren’t having as many issues.
- First Things First – When you have a list of things to do, put it in order that makes sense. For example, if you need to run errands and grocery shop, don’t shop first because that has to be last or at least before you go through the drive through to bring dinner home to your family.
- Sleep 7 to 8 Hours Each Night – This may seem like a strange thing to add when discussing time management but sleep is very important. Getting enough sleep, the right amount of sleep for you will help you work more efficiently each day.
- Learn How to Say No – Many people suffer great stress because they don’t know how to say no to anyone. Being the go-to person for your friends, family and co-workers is However, it’s also very difficult to maintain that level of involvement without ending up stressed out. You may not even be able to perform up to your own standards if you’re overbooked.
- Give Up Multitasking – One of the most horrible habits people have today is multitasking. People even multitask when they drive now. The fact is that people do not perform well trying to do that. In truth, no one is capable of true multitasking. Your brain can only focus well on one thing at a time. Focus on each task that you need to do 100 percent and you’ll find you do it better and faster.
- Don’t Try to Be Perfect – Striving for perfection causes a lot of stress to many people all over the world. The sad fact is that perfection is impossible. The trick is learning when you’ve done your best and to stop and end a project instead of wasting time that won’t produce additional results.
- Create New Habits – Some things that help with time management are habits. For example, creating a weekly meal plan and grocery list can become a habit if you make it one. Going to bed each night at the same time so that you have more energy each day can also become a habit, as can other common activities that you must do.
- Avoid Too Much Screen Time – Nothing can suck up time as much as screens. They get in the way of intimacy with your family and friends. They interrupt and overcome your desire to exercise and get healthy. And, screens can get in the way of managing your time well so that you can lower your stress.
Time can seem like your worst enemy. But, if you learn to schedule everything in, including fun times, you’ll soon be able to take advantage of time in productive ways. You may even find time to smell the roses.
Have More Fun
Life is supposed to be a fun adventure. It’s not supposed to be all work and no play. When was the last time you truly had fun? When was the last time you laughed until you almost wet your pants? These are experiences that everyone should have, not only children. Having fun anchors the rest of your life and makes everything worth it.
- Stop Worrying About What Others Think – One huge impediment to fun is worrying about what other people think all the time. It’s not that you need to do things that are controversial to have fun, it’s just that for some people it’s hard to be themselves. If you find yourself feeling that way, consider changing your thoughts and let yourself have fun.
- You Don’t Want to Spend Money – Some people think the only way to have fun is to spend money. But that’s not true. You can have plenty of fun without spending a time. Play cards, go for a walk, play Frisbee, read a book together. Imagine what people did for fun before we had mass transportation, TV, and movies.
- You’re Not Sure How to Make Plans – While it’s good to make plans, not everything has to be planned. You can have fun at the drop of a hat anyplace at any time if you can get yourself into the right frame of mind. Think positively, tell a joke, give someone a hug. Life is fun.
- It’s OK to Not Be Serious – If you tend toward a serious personality, realize that you don’t have to be serious all the time. It doesn’t matter whether you’re at home or at work. There are always opportunities to let your fun side shine through in appropriate
- Don’t Wait for Perfection – Sometimes planning to have fun can bring disappointment if you think it’s going to be perfect. That family vacation to Disney will be a great memory for your kids, but will it be a good memory for you? Are you able to let go of the fact that tired kids will cry, whine and complain, even at Disney?
- It Doesn’t Have to Be Spectacular – Another deterrent to having fun is thinking things need to be over the top to be fun. But, real fun doesn’t have to be crazy, it should be natural and feel good. When you try to make things bigger and bigger you’ll take away some of the fun.
- Bring Back Date Night – If you’re married, have a significant other, or in another type of long-term relationship, it’s imperative that you find time to spend together at least weekly without interruptions. Date night can be as simple as a picnic on your floor or you can go all out dress up and go out to dinner and movie or dinner and dancing. Even Karaoke if you dare.
- Bring Back Family Game Night – You can have a great time playing games with your family. Get out the board games, get out the old-fashioned cards and play games at least one night a week with your kids. Remember to be kind to teenagers and don’t make game night Friday or Saturday night. Make it a weeknight. It only needs to be a couple of hours after dinner. Set a timer for games like Monopoly that can last longer and compute the winner based on accumulation by the time.
Finally, just find ways to laugh more. Laughing is not only wonderful exercise, it boosts endorphins and makes you happy. The more you can laugh, the more fun you will have doing even “boring” things. For example, even grocery shopping alone with your spouse can be fun if you make a day of it. Turn off electronics, head for a walk in the park, have a picnic, then go grocery shopping leisurely. Make fun a priority in your life and you’ll naturally be healthier, happier and have an amazing year, every year.