Nothing says “stress” quite like managing your personal, professional and family lives during a global pandemic. Lockdowns may have started out feeling like a mini-break from reality, where discovering new hobbies like baking banana bread helped fill long, homebound days. But now that autumn is on our doorstep and society is inching back to normalcy (or not), chances are more than a few of us need more than a fresh skill to cope with our collective “new” normal. So here are 5 easy ways to stay stress-free this autumn that could help you.
Personally, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on and tweaking bad habits that contribute to my family’s stress and anxiety. Goal-setting and focus aren’t a problem for me – it’s actually the opposite problem. I say “yes” to too much. I establish artificial, unnecessary and unrealistic deadlines. And though I love to pretend that I’m hyper-disciplined, deep within my soul lies an occasionally robust procrastination streak that makes me a master of perpetuating self-imposed stress.
After my husband pushed back on yet another unreasonable to-do list from me (“What do you mean, you can’t put the shed up, mow the lawn, and sort out the washing line?”), I decided to help me help myself. Enough! I declared – I’m making 2020 the year I adjusted my priorities.
Here are 5 easy ways to stay stress-free this autumn:
1. Use the 10/30 rule to do less in more time
Wait, you might be thinking. Take longer to accomplish less? How is that going to help?
Trust me – it helps. A lot.
If you’re a list-maker and box-checker like me, you probably love crossing tasks off your to-do list. But in your zeal to get s*** done, do you find yourself not quite finishing everything you need to do? For example, do you do a load of laundry but leave it folded on the kitchen table, or fill your dirty fridge with groceries?
I don’t know about you, but I do this kind of stuff all the time. It’s sort of productive – yes, I did the laundry and went to the store – but ultimately, it takes more time, because I didn’t complete the task to the best of my ability. And that’s where the 10/30 rule comes in.
Courtesy of productivity expert Jordan Page via ApartmentTherapy.com, the 10/30 rule states that to be your most productive, you should walk the 10 extra steps or use the 30 extra seconds you need to get the job done right. (To be honest, I’ve modified this to mean 10 minutes and 30 steps, because I can’t get anything meaningful done in less than 10 minutes or 30 steps.)
Here’s how it works. When tackling the housekeeping chores, instead of leaving folded laundry on the table, take the extra time to take it upstairs and put it away. Did that container of leftover Chinese food leak all over your fridge? Instead of spending 30 minutes taking steel wool to dried soy sauce in a couple of weeks, tackle it now when it will just take a few moments.
The idea is to tackle your tasks until they’re completely finished, lying on the ground and begging for mercy.
2. Store cleaning supplies where you actually use them
A dirty house will actually keep me up at night. If you’re the same way, try changing where you keep your supplies.
I used to store my germ- and grime-killing potions neatly in our downstairs utility closet. It looked lovely inside! Everything was stacked and organized neatly, easily inventoried and replaced when necessary. The problem was that I never walked by the closet and they weren’t handy when I needed them, turning house-cleaning days into sweaty, hours-long extravaganzas of bleach, dry skin and plenty of grumbling.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it’s much smarter to store your oven cleaner, stainless steel spray and disinfectant in the kitchen. Toilet bowl cleaner and disinfectant wipes? Guess what – they’re in the bathroom! I keep Windex wipes stashed in drawers near our glass-top tables and mirrors, too. Today, I don’t have to block off hours to clean – I just grab the supplies I need when I notice a problem and spend less time cleaning overall.
Have a weird cleaning task that doesn’t fall within the normal parameters of wash, disinfect and polish? Check out Good Housekeeping’s exhaustive list of 50 ways to deep clean everything from your toilet bowl to your garbage disposal.
3. Don’t establish artificial deadlines for non-critical projects
One of my worst habits is giving my goal-oriented self false, overly ambitious deadlines for tasks that don’t really need to be finished by a specific date or time. And though hanging new living room drapes no later than Thursday evening may feel like a priority, is it really mission-critical? Probably not. So while goal-setting is an important skill, really consider if a task absolutely has to be done by a certain date or time. And whatever you do, avoid the temptation to multitask – this highly overrated skill could do you more harm than good.
4. Make tech your budget-savvy bestie
Even after I’ve demolished my to-do list, cleaned my house and pared back on unrealistic to-do list expectations, I’ll still feel stressed if I don’t have my money situation under control. I’ve definitely had my moments: From impulsive spending to taking out stupid loans to buying too much car, I’ve made more financial missteps than I can count. Thankfully, this somewhat-old dog has learned new tricks and embraced silver linings, thanks to the pandemic. Here’s an example of how this worked.
Prior to COVID, I’d cleanse and tone and treat and moisturize with costly skincare products twice per day, faithfully, every day. (In reflection, I don’t even think all that effort was the best thing for my skin, but I digress). Thanks to a newly-boring social calendar and a healthy dollop of laziness, I cut back my seven-step, twice daily routine to a three-step, once-daily routine.
But even better, I got cheap. And patient.
The best part? My skin has never been happier.
5. Embrace meditation
If you’re thinking that you have to sit in lotus while chanting OM to meditate, think again. I mean, you certainly CAN do that. You just don’t HAVE to. Meditating can be as simple as giving yourself 10 minutes to silently repeat to yourself a daily affirmation or motivational phrase. And it’s remarkably effective, even for beginners.
It works wonders because it helps me focus on my priorities and achieve my goals but in a lower-stress way. The best parts of meditation? It’s free and you can do it anywhere in just a short amount of time. So no matter what your refrigerator looks like inside, you can ease back and try to enjoy the ride.
Author bio: Lisa Bigelow is an award-winning content creator and mom who writes for Little Bundle. Lisa has contributed to Finovate, Finance Buzz, Life and Money by Citi, MagnifyMoney, Well + Good, Smarter With Gartner, Popular Science and Cadre Insights. She lives with her family in Connecticut.
So there you have it, 5 easy ways to stay stress-free this autumn. If you have any tips or advice you’d like to share, let me know in the comments below. Thanks for sharing your tips, Lisa. These really do sound helpful.