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7 Ways To Free Yourself And Make The Most Of Your Time

7 Ways To Free Yourself And Make The Most Of Your Time

How many times have you sat there and wished for just one more hour in your day? I’ve been there. I’ve thought about taking the time to learn or do something new, like learn to speak Spanish or how to make mosaics. Even small little things that I’ve been meaning to get it done I tend to postpone them or tuck them away, like taking a trip to the shop to assess the value of my bike or calling up a magazine outlet to cancel my subscription. It took a few months for me to do it, all because then I think about how busy I am and how I just don’t have the time to add anything else.

Here’s the deal – there are lots of ways that we throw time away every day. Try out these five steps to increase the amount of time you have so that you can fit the time to learn something new into your busy schedule.

1. Make a time journal.

For a week, write down how you spend each minute of each day. This includes your time at work (and what you’re doing while you’re there) as well as at home. Keep track of things like chores, exercising, taking your kids to the park, spending time on Facebook and other social media platforms, and the like.

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You’ll be amazed at how much dead time is really built into your day. Figure out what you need to do and what you could be doing that you’re not. Also, are there things you are doing that someone else could be doing? If you are dusting while your 12-year-old son is on the couch playing on his phone, then it’s time to hand him the rag and move on to the next thing on your to-do list.

2. Set limits on your screen time.

There’s nothing wrong with a little Netflix now and then. Even a binge of that favorite show can do wonders for your mental state. But if you’re coming home from work or school and watching three hours of Netflix a night, that’s a good place to start whittling screen time away. How about cutting it down to two hours and then going to the gym for an hour? You could also use that hour to listen to French language tapes, study the new spec psychology that has been added to your units, or watch a video about how to make an impressive soufflé.

3. Organize your life.

How much time do you spend every day looking for things? These could be your car keys and your cell phone, but they could also be things on your desk at work that are simply hiding under the papers that you set on top of them the day before. When you get to work, spend the first ten to fifteen minutes organizing your area. Then put together a to-do list for the day and arrange the items on your desk so that you can knock those tasks out more efficiently.

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4. Make your chores take less time.

I don’t know anyone who enjoys doing the laundry. I do know people who like to cook, but I don’t know many people who enjoy cleaning up afterward. I really don’t know anyone who enjoys sorting through the clutter on the kitchen counter at the end of the week.

Well, I don’t have tips for the laundry, but if you do all of your cooking on Sundays for the rest of the week, then everything is ready for you when you get home from work. You don’t have to decide what to eat for dinner because you took it out of the freezer and set it out to thaw when you left that morning. You don’t have to clean any pots and pans because you did that on Sunday. As far as the counters, if you spend a minute or two keeping things tidy at the end of each day, then you don’t have a stack of letters and other stuff to go through at the week’s end.

Here’s a great list of tips to start with your household chores.

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5. Establish some boundaries.

If you’re working your way through your schedule and your son comes in and asks you for help with his geometry homework (and you feel comfortable working with triangles and spheres), you probably should stop and help for a few minutes. However, if he comes to you the third week in a row needing a last-minute trip to the store to get a bunch of supplies for a project that is due tomorrow, it’s time to sit down and talk to him about courtesy. If you’ve just sat down to listen to that Chinese language tutorial and your friend calls you and needs to talk (but you know that it’s going to be an hour of the same old complaints about her life), it is okay to ask her if you can talk to her another time. You can go up to the extent of placing a “Do Not Disturb” sign should you have a very important task to finish. These boundaries will protect your schedule- and your peace of mind.

6. Limit “unnecessary” communication.

This is a follow-up to point number five above. Not all calls need to be answered; you are not bound to reply every text message or e-mail that pops up. If you attend to every single of one them, you’ll end up being hooked with it the entire day. If you are an employer, of course this will be different since every call that are coming through are important to the company you are working. For business people, students, or anyone who wish to literally save time on this aspect, then start cutting down this unnecessary communication. Unless it is absolutely critical matter or life-or-death situation, do not instantly give in and attend to people. First thing you must do is to disconnect all instant messengers. It’s 21st century; people are more inclined to IMs instead of phone calls. Then, route all your incoming calls to your voicemail. Through this you’ll be able to sift through what’s important and what’s not. I got this idea from Tim Ferriss The 4-Hour Workweek book, implemented it, and it works like a charm.

7. Prepare for the next day.

At the end of the day, when everything’s said and done, make it a habit to set your goals and plan for the morrow. Yes, you may be tired and spent, but really, this the best time to jot down all the things needed to be done for the next. The reason behind this logic is that while our brain is slowly shifting, the information you gathered for today is still intact. There may be some tasks or appointment notices that came later on the afternoon and there’s a huge chance of forgetting it the next day, especially if it is something you haven’t expected. Also, if you do not layout the things to do tomorrow might leave you tossing and turning all night. Jotting this down will somehow rest your brain from worrying on that stressful project.

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Featured photo credit: Maizzi via themebin.com

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Junie Rutkevich

Lifestyle writer and author of "Healthy Eating Habits: A Get-Healthy Guide To Tweak And Balance Your Daily Diet"

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious

How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious

Overwhelmed with work, family responsibilities, financial challenges and health issues are common culprits which catalyze stress and anxiety symptoms that show up differently in each and every one of us.

Whilst many of us are becoming much better at identifying what can trigger us to feel these, we’re not always that great at recognizing our individual thresholds; we don’t know exactly how to calm down when the mental, emotional storms erupt.

We can almost see you eye-rolling upon hearing commonly recommended stress antidotes such as taking a bath, lighting candles or going for a walk. Let’s face it. These simply aren’t practical things you can do when you’re on a red-eye flight at 5:30am to run a full day of training interstate and then fly back the same evening not to mention juggling a young family.

You want to know your triggers, predict the impact of them and have your own suite of tools up your sleeve to calm down that impact for the long-term.

Doing a little ground work to gain a strong self-awareness of your likely reactions puts you smack bang in the pilot seat to develop a robust mental and emotional toolkit that will work wonders for you.

A few simple but well-practiced techniques may be all you need to simmer down the cyclonic intensity of emotions, and disparaging thoughts pecking away at your self-esteem and confidence. However, it’s important you do this self-reflective groundwork first to gain maximum impact for long-term effect.

1. Strengthen Familiarity with What Triggers You

When you have arguments with your loved one, do you stop and look to see if there are certain things you fight about? Are there certain behaviors they display that drive you bananas?

Take your focus off them and ask yourself: “What is my usual response?”

Perhaps you feel the anger welling up inside your chest and you then spurt out that you’ve told him or her ten times before to not leave their underwear lying across the bedroom floor.

Think a little deeper. Ask yourself what values, standards and expectations you have that are not being met here. You’ll likely be attached to certain ways you believe things should play out. Are there assumptions and expectations as to how you believe people should conduct themselves and principles about how you feel you should be treated?

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Having a strong attachment to these for yourself is one thing. Expecting others to have the same attachment is often what can make the hot water start simmering.

It is often when people behave in ways inconsistent with our belief systems and events unfold in discord with what we expect and are prepared for that we feel the most stress and anxiety.

Make a list of the common circumstances in different areas of your life that cause you to become anxious and stressed. Against each of these, describe your stress response:

What happens? What do you feel?

Now think about the values, principles and expectations you have attached to these. You’ll see you have a few options:

  • Change my values and expectations
  • Try to change other’s values and expectations
  • Recognize and be in allowance of others having different values, standards and expectations

Reviewing how you react when you’re stressed and anxious, and identifying which of these three options above is going to best serve you, can greatly increase your ability to feel and be in control of calming your reaction.

You move closer to being able to choose how you want to respond as opposed to feeling helpless and the world is spiralling out of control.

2. Have Coping Statements on Hand

When you have a washing machine of chaotic thoughts churning in your mind, trying to implant thoughts that are the complete opposite of what you’re thinking and feeling can be pretty hard.

Not being able to do it can also add another layer of us feeling disappointment in ourselves. We feel we’re failing.

Having coping statements that you can literally latch on to to help you calm down in those stressful and anxious moments, can be particularly helpful.

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Look at creating palm cards and just have three to five of these you can have in your pocket or in your purse. Here are 6 examples:

  • Even though I am feeling this right now, I am going to be alright
  • What I am feeling right now is uncomfortable. I won’t feel this way forever. Soon the intensity of what I am feeling will pass.
  • I’ve survived these feelings before. I can do it again.
  • I feel this way because of my past experiences but right now, I am actually safe.
  • It’s ok for me to feel this way. My body and brain are trying to protect me but I am actually safe right now.
  • Ah, here you are again, anxiety. Thanks for showing up to protect me, but I don’t need you right now.

Choose words and dialogue that feel true and accurate for you. Read the statements out to yourself and test how fitting they are for you. What feels more assuring, calming and right for you?

Make these statements your own. The aim is of these statements is to de-escalate the intensity of what you feel when you’re anxious and stressed.

Remember, you want to refrain from having blunt statements which feel or sound like they’re self-reprimanding because they won’t be pacifying in a positive way.

If you are unsure as to how to come up with statements that fit for you, look to work with a psychologist or licensed therapist to give you a strong start.

3. Identify and Develop Physical Anchors

You actually have within you resources to provide some of the most effective ways to calm yourself down in heightened moments you feel stressed and anxious. Renowned clinical psychologist Dr. Peter Levine and expert in treating stress and trauma, teaches us how techniques which do this, such as Somatic Experiencing®[1] can significantly help us calm down.

By learning to be fully present and applying touch to certain areas of your body (e.g. forehead and heart space), you increase your capacity to self-regulate. You also learn how to attend to and release your unique symptoms that your body has been containing in a way you have not been able to before.

Here’s one technique example:

  1. Get in a comfortable position
  2. Have your eyes open or closed, whatever feels most comfortable for you
  3. Now place one hand on your forehead, palm side flat against the skin
  4. Place the other hand, palm down across your heart space above your sternum… the flat of your chest area.
  5. Gently turn your attention to what you feel physically in the area between your two hands. Observe and just take notice of what you physically feel. Is your chest pounding? How strong are its beat and the rhythm? Do you notice any other sensations anywhere else between your two hands?
  6. Don’t try to push or resist what you’re feeling. Try to just sit with it and remain this way with your hands in place until you feel a shift, a physical one. It might take a little longer, so try to be patient.

You might feel a change in energy flow, a change in temperature or different, less intense sensations. Just keep your hands in place until you feel some kind of shift, even if gradual.

It might take you even 5 to 10 minutes but, riding this wave will help you to process what discomfort your body is containing. It will greatly help to release it so you gradually become calmer.

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Purely cognitive exercises can be tough at the outset. Learning somatic experience techniques is particularly helpful because you’re engaging in exercises where you physically can feel the difference. Feeling the changes helps you increase confidence you can control and reduce the discomfort you’re feeling. You’ll be motivated to keep practicing and improving this skill you can take anywhere, anytime.

4. Move and Get Physical

If you’re not one to exercise, you’re robbing yourself of some very easy ways which help you calm down and reduce stress and anxiety responses. Many neuro chemical changes take place when you engage in exercise.

At certain levels of physical exertion, your brain’s pituitary gland releases neurotransmitter endorphins. When they bind with certain opiate receptors in your brain, signals are transmuted throughout your nervous system to reduce feelings of pain and trigger feelings of euphoria. You might have heard the term ‘runner’s high’.

For the last 20 years, University of Missouri-Columbia’s Professor Richard Cox has conducted research showing that high intensity interval training (HIIT) is more effective at reducing anxiety and stress levels than other forms of aerobic exercise.[2] However, if you would rather slay dragons than turn up an F45 class, it’s essential you still find something that will physically shift you and alter your current mental and emotional state of mind, even just a fraction to start with. It’s 100% ok if this is not your cup of tea.

So in a day full of back of back-to-back meetings, what can you do?

If you’re sitting, stand. Change your posture and open your body up. Have a suite of discrete stretches you can do regularly as you deepen and engage in diaphragmatic breathing.

If you’re looking down at your desk at work and feeling increasingly stressed, look up and change what you’re looking at. Give yourself more than a few moments to decompress.

The main thing is to change your disposition from the one you’re in when you are experiencing anxiety and stress symptoms. You’re shaking it up to calm it down.

5. Transform Your Unhelpful Inner Dialogue and Its Energy

Learning cognitive restructuring techniques can truly work wonders in helping you recognize and re-frame unhelpful dialogue and negative critical thinking patterns. This involves a little preparation being transparent with yourself about what exaggerated perspectives you might ascribe to what’s happening when you’re feeling stressed and anxious.

When you open your email inbox and see a flood of requests which require more time and energy you have for that day, dread starts to settle in and the following comes to mind: “This is impossible. How can they expect me to be able to do all this? It’s completely unreasonable!”

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Instantly, many other thoughts that reinforce this line of thinking as well as the emotional energy of your first conscious thought start unravelling. A 4-step process you can engage to calm the eruption is:

  1. Catch and notice that first thought you had. What was it? What did you think and/or say to yourself?
  2. Recognize that what you’re feeling and be in allowance of the initial intensity of whatever those emotions are.
  3. Breath deliberately a little more deeply and slowly for a few seconds.
  4. State to yourself: “Right now (in this moment) I’m feeling overwhelmed by this, however maybe I can look at what I can make good progress and headway with as a start from here on.”

Notice the language in step 4 is tentative, supportive, soft and not resistant nor defiant of what your original thought was. You accept your original thought, but gradually you become stronger at pivoting it.[3] You’re expanding your growth mindset language.

It’s definitely worth working with a coach or trained therapist to learn how to tailor re-framing statements which can truly help you calm down.

Final Thoughts

We know, in our minds what we should do. When we’re in the thick of experiencing mental and emotional turmoil, it’s actually harder to implement what we know. In those moments, you’re unlikely to have capacity to think about what you need to do, let alone do it effectively to help you feel calmer.

The key is to practice so that when the storm is brewing, your toolkit and supplies are in easy access. You already know your safety drill well.

Knowing you have strategies and prepared processes up your sleeves helps you not only become better at calming yourself in amongst currently stressful situations. You have more confidence now to face more anxiety-provoking stressors because you have developed the resources to handle it.

How you invest time and energy into getting to know your triggers and thresholds will influence how effective these strategies will work for you. We’re not denying relaxing baths or regular massages are helpful, however these band-aid-like solutions don’t really confront the root causes.

If you truly want to turn your experience of your stress and anxiety symptoms around, dig deeper, do the groundwork and that which rattled your cage will quickly become a thing of the past.

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Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

Reference

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