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How to Take Control of Stressful Days

Updated: Sep 24, 2020

Another one of THOSE days. Too much to do, too many meetings, and a general sense of running behind. Ugh. What to do when the day feels overwhelming? It may sound overly reductive or simple but the first step is to mentally decide that you are going to take control of the rest of the day.

The Law of Control

You feel good/positive about yourself to the degree to which you are in control of your life. You feel down/negative about yourself when you feel you are not in control of your own life.

Breathe deeply

Take control of your posture and breathing. Sit up straight, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Focus on letting each exhale carry away some of your stress. Take a breathing break whenever you feel the need to get rid of some baggage.

Manage your TO DO list

Take control of your daily commitments. Most of us have TO DO lists that couldn’t be accomplished in three days, let alone one. Winnow your list down to what is reasonable to accomplish today. Keep a separate master list that identifies of the rest of what you need to do. Do not finish your work day until your TO DO list is complete. Not complete after 8 or 9 hours? This is a clear sign that you’ve overcommitted today. Pull out your master list, and plan for tomorrow with a new sense of what you can reasonably get done. And don’t forget to build in time on your daily planning for the unexpected requests and interruptions.

Stop multitasking

Take control of your focus. Research indicates that multitasking can result in a 40% loss of productivity. Rather than increasing our output, multitasking actually causes most people to lose significant amounts of time when switching between multiple tasks. Focus on one task at a time. Complete that and move. Try it for a day and see what happens. You’ll increase your productivity and reduce frustration. Tip: Disregard and/or turn off technology that is not required during periods of task focus. (Silence cell phone, turn off email notification on your computer, etc.)

Multitasking generally takes more time than focusing on one task at a time.

Say No

Take control of your life by saying no to new commitments that you cannot reasonably accomplish as requested. As a friend once said, “no can be a complete sentence”. Not that you need to be obnoxious with “no”. Rather, manage expectations. “I’d be happy to do that, and I can prioritize that for Wednesday of next week.” You are being responsible when you dodge the overcommitting trap. Reduce your stress and manage others’ expectations by saying no or not right now.

Be grateful

Take control of how you perceive your world. It is easy to focus on what is wrong; what is getting you down. Instead, take two minutes and focus on what is good and right in your world. Look around your immediate environment. Find two things that you appreciate. Try this throughout the day. This gratitude habit generally causes a change in attitude that reduces negativity. It also makes most people more pleasant to be around.

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