By Sarah Jio
Are your mornings crazed, afternoons jam-packed and evenings less-than-restful? Always feel behind the eight-ball, running from one task to the next? We hear you! Yes, a personal assistant or an "easy" button could help, but here are some slightly more practical ways we all can learn to streamline our days-and all the pesky to-dos on the list-for less stress.
1. Shop for groceries on certain days of the week.
When you hit the grocery store, do you feel like a contestant on The Amazing Race as you push your cart through crowded aisles and jockey for the last box of frozen waffles? "If possible, try to grocery-shop on Monday or Tuesday morning, when stores are less crowded," suggests Stephanie Vozza, author of The Five-Minute Mom's Club. Even at peak hours, she says, stores will be less hectic earlier in the week, since most people stock up on their essentials on the weekend and revisit later in the week when they run out of bread and milk. And help out with the bagging, she adds. "Combine groceries and items that you store at home together [in one bag]," she says. Photo: iStockphoto
2. Work out in the morning.
Sure, fitness at any time of day is better than no fitness at all, but many experts say that when it comes to banishing stress and setting a great foundation for your day, the morning is the ideal time to get your heart rate up. Not only will you feel better about scratching fitness off your to-do list early in the day, but exercise also boosts energizing endorphins, which can help power you through hectic mornings. Morning workouts may also help you sleep better. While the jury's still out on whether late-evening exercise causes sleep disturbances or not, sleep experts generally warn against working out right before bedtime, which may interfere with the temperature regulation your body needs for sleep. Photo: iStockphoto
3. At work or home, do the unpleasant tasks first.
What do you dread most on your to-do list? Whatever it is, start there, says Tsh Oxenreider, founder of SimpleMom.net, a site where she and other contributors pass on simple living and organizational advice. "There's a classic business principle called 'eat that frog'-the idea is that if you do the worst thing on your plate first thing in the morning, the rest of the day is a cakewalk," she says. "It's taken from this Mark Twain quote: 'Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.'"
So your least favorite chore is cleaning the bathroom? Tackle that first. "This way, you can spend the rest of your day knowing you've done the most irritating task," says Oxenreider, who uses the principle in her own life-daily. "This lowers my stress tremendously because I've wiped off my plate that feeling that I should be doing more, or that I'm behind on my day. I've already done my hardest task-what's there to stress about?" Photo: Thinkstock
4. Reverse your dinner/breakfast caloric intake.
You know that eating breakfast is great for your health. But let your breakfast curb your stress and power you through the day with even greater oomph by following the advice of Debbie Mandel, a stress-management expert and author of Addicted to Stress. "Make breakfast your biggest meal of the day and dinner your smallest," she says. "Have a power breakfast of lean proteins, complex carbs, fruits or vegetables, the way they do in other countries. Lean proteins fuel your brain to think straight, and complex carbs, like oatmeal or multigrain bread, keep you in a good mood." Photo: iStockphoto
5. Don't answer emails first thing in the morning.
When you wake up, do you run to your computer or smartphone to check messages? That's a no-no, says Susan Fletcher, PhD, a psychologist in Plano, Texas. Dr. Fletcher says that the most successful (and least stressed) people have learned to take charge of email-and not let it summon them at all hours of the day. That's important, she says, because starting your day with email can often tie up your time, making you less productive and putting you behind on other important tasks. Instead, try this trick: "Designate time midday to check and respond to emails," she says. If you need more time for email, limit yourself to an hourly check-in, and give yourself only about five minutes to do it. Then turn off the chime on your computer or phone so that the email doesn't "call out to you"-beckoning you to waste more time. Photo: Thinkstock
6. Cook dinner for the week on Sunday.
If weeknight dinners stress you out, try prepping or batch-cooking food for at least two midweek meals on Sunday night. "Cooking some dishes on the weekend for the workweek ahead lightens the load," says Mandel. "On Sunday, the whole family can help you out, from menu planning to shopping to cooking." Meals like lasagnas, enchiladas and casseroles freeze well and can easily be reheated. For recipe ideas, check out Dana Jacobi's new book Cook & Freeze: 150 Delicious Dishes to Serve Now and Later. Photo: Sang An/Woman's Day
7. Let your phone help you get organized.
Could the secret to being more organized and less stressed be…your cell? "One of the best ways to deal with stress is as simple as providing yourself with an organization plan for your day, your week, your month," says Patricia Farrell, PhD, a psychologist and the author of How to Be Your Own Therapist. If a daily planner isn't working for you, consider a phone app. reQall, a new app for iPhone, Droid and Blackberry phones, lets you organize your to-do lists, projects and other daily worries into actionable tasks. Best part? It's free!
8. Use individual laundry baskets.
Ahhh, laundry. It seems to breed, doesn't it? If your laundry situation is out of control, Carly Fauth, organizational expert and "Chief Mom" of the children's clothing swap site thredUP, offers a smart strategy: "Have separate laundry baskets for each person in your family, so when you unload, fold and put away clothes, you'll only have to sort once." The technique cuts your laundry time in half, she says. Photo: iStockphoto
9. Stuck in traffic? Get some stuff done.
If your commute involves sitting in traffic, turn wasted time into productive time (when traffic is at a standstill, that is-you'll want to keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, of course!). Keep a notebook handy and go over your to-do list, plan meals for the week or brainstorm ideas for a project at work. Or, follow the advice of fitness expert Elaine Masters, the founder of Drivetime Yoga. Masters suggests using high-traffic moments to do some stretching that can reduce the stress hormones in your body.
Try her seated spinal twist. "Sitting up straight with feet flat on the ground, tuck in your tummy a bit and put your left hand on your right knee. With your right hand, either hold the armrest or reach around the back of the seat," she explains. "Keep your hips facing forward, suck in your tummy and twist your upper body to the right. Look over your right shoulder. Then, if that feels good, turn just your head to look the opposite way. Hold for up to 30 seconds, slowly release, take a few breaths and reverse to stretch the other side." Photo: Ryan McVay/ Thinkstock
10. Start your day the night before.
The key to a less stressful day is starting it hours before your alarm clock goes off, says Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. She suggests running through a before-bed checklist, paying special attention to the things that will help ease your stress the following day, like choosing your outfit (and your kids'), getting bags packed and lunches made. "You could do all this in the morning, but doing it the night before helps make the next day start more smoothly," she says. Photo: George Doyle/StockbyteSarah Jio is the health and fitness blogger for Glamour.com Visit her blog, Vitamin G.
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
Related Articles at WomansDay.com: