10 Simple Ways to Lead a Less Stressful Life

Friends and social activities help create a stress free life

Stress is a major problem for many people—a hectic, stressful job, a chaotic home life, bills to worry about, and bad habits such as unhealthy eating, drinking, and smoking can lead to a mountain of stress. If your life is stressful, like mine once was, you can do some simple things to enjoy a less stressful life.

George Burns said this: “If you ask what the single most important key to longevity is, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress, and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.”

Is a Stress-Free Life Possible?

Now, your life will probably never be stress-free. I don’t think that’s even desirable, even if it is possible, because stress is something that challenges us and helps us grow at a reasonable level. But when stress gets too high, it causes us to be unhappy and unhealthy.

It wasn’t that long ago when I was working long hours in a very stressful job, with little time for my family, smoking and eating fatty foods, and not exercising. I had a lot of debt and too many bills. I was unhappy and stressed out all the time. I was losing hair … okay, actually, that was because of genetics, but still. I was pretty stressed.

So I made some drastic changes. I quit my job. I simplified my life. I quit smoking and started exercising and eating healthier. I began to eliminate my debt. And I learned some habits that, when applied on a daily basis, can really transform the way you live in a positive way.

How to Move Toward a Less Stressful Life

How did I do all of this? One thing at a time. I didn’t do a major rehaul of my life. I changed one habit a month, and gradually over the course of a year or two, changed a lot of things in my life.

I won’t guarantee that all of these will work for you. They worked for me, but each person is different. Pick and choose the ones that will work best for you, and give them a try—one at a time.

10 Simple Things You Can Do to Enjoy a Less Stressful Life

1. One Thing at a Time  

 Portrait of overjoyed 20 year old girl enjoying nice time on weekend morning holding cup of coffee and making happy grimace.

This is the simplest and best way to start reducing your stress, and you can start today. Right now. Focus as much as possible on doing one thing at a time. Clear your desk of distractions. Pick something to work on. Need to write a report? Do only that. Remove distractions such as phones and email notifications while you’re working on that report. If you’re going to do email, do only that. This takes practice, and you’ll get urges to do other things. Just keep practicing, and you’ll get better at it.

2. Simplify Your Schedule

A hectic schedule is a major cause of high stress. Simplify by reducing the number of commitments in your life to just the essential ones. Learn to say no to the rest, and slowly get out of commitments that aren’t beneficial to you. Schedule only a few important things daily, and put space between them. Get out of meetings when they aren’t absolutely essential. Leave room for downtime and fun.

3. Get Moving

Group of yogis practicing in yoga class fun, movement and for a less stressful life.

Do something each day to be active. Walk, hike, play a sport, go for a run, and do yoga. It doesn’t have to be grueling to reduce stress. Just move. Have fun doing it.

4. Develop One Healthy Habit This Month  

Besides getting active, improving your health overall will help with stress. But do it one habit at a time. Eat fruits and veggies for snacks. Floss every day. Quit smoking. Cook something healthy for dinner. Drink water instead of soda. One habit at a time.

5. For A Less Stressful Life: Do Something Calming 

Pleasant looking calm woman meditates indoor, holds hands in mudra pose. Meditation concept for a less stressful life.

What do you enjoy that calms you down? For many people, it can be the “get moving” activity discussed above. But it could also be taking a nap, a bath, reading, or having sex (which can also be considered a “get moving” activity if you do it for longer than five minutes). Other people are calmed by housework or yard work. Some people like to meditate or take a nature walk. Find your calming activity and try to do it each day.

6. Simplify Your Finances 

Finances can be a drain on your energy and a major stressor. If that’s true with you, figure out ways to simplify things. Automate savings and bill payments and debt payments. Spend less by going shopping (at malls or online) — much less. Find ways to have fun that don’t involve spending money.

7. Have a Blast: A Great way to lead a Less Stressful Life

Multi generational women having fun before yoga class with concept of fun and exercise and socialization for a less stressful life.

Have fun each day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. I like to play with my kids. They take my mind off everything and are really hilarious. I also like to play sports (again, often with my kids). Board games are fun. Sex, again, can be a fun activity. Whatever you choose, be sure to laugh.

8. Get Creative 

Throwing yourself into a creative activity is another great way to de-stress and prevent stress. I like writing, but others like to paint, play music, sketch, make pottery, do interior design, or build things.

9. Declutter

Woman hands neatly folding underwear and sorting in drawer organizers on white marble background. Closet tidying and decluttering concept.

This is a favorite of mine. I like to take 20 to 30 minutes and just go through a room, getting rid of stuff we don’t use or need anymore. I look around at anything that’s cluttering up a room and get rid of it or find a better place for it. When I’m done, I have a nice, peaceful environment for work, play, and living a less stressful life. Do this a little at a time. It can be one of your “fun activities.”

10. Be Early

I will admit that it’s hard to be early when you have to get six kids ready (seriously, try it!). But being late can be very stressful. Try to leave earlier by getting ready or scheduling more space between events. Things always take longer than normal, so schedule some buffer time, extra time to get ready, to commute, to do errands before you need to be somewhere, or to attend a meeting before another scheduled appointment. If you get somewhere early, having some reading material is good.

Loafing needs no explanation and is its own excuse.” – Christopher Morley

Reprinted with permission from Leo Babauta and Zen Habits.
Leo Babauta

Zen Habits is about finding simplicity and mindfulness in the daily chaos of our lives. It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness. It has over a million readers.

My name is Leo Babauta. I live in Northern California with my wife and our two teenage kids (we have 4 adult kids, for a total of six!), where I eat vegan food, write, run, and read.

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