5 simple ways to reduce stress this year

It never fails. We fantasize that as we charge into January, somehow, magically, all the stuff that stressed us out last year will disappear. We're especially delusional when we check out for a holiday break, but then we abruptly re-enter reality with a crash.

Now that we're solidly into 2018, do you feel the stress creeping back? Is your business calendar quickly filling up? Are the gray skies and arctic air bringing you down? Do you feel your resolutions slipping away?


Help is here. Here are five simple habits you can integrate into your day that will help you stay connected to the peaceful state of mind you enjoyed before you returned to work.

Increase water intake


Dehydration is linked to depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, decreased cognitive performance and confusion. This happens because lower water amounts in your brain directly affect the brain's energy output.

In addition, stress causes dehydration. When we are stressed, our adrenal glands produce more cortisol, which dehydrates the body, Adrenal glands also produce aldosterone, which regulates the body's fluid and electrolyte levels. As our adrenal glands fatigue, they produce less aldosterone, which results in dehydration.

How to do it: Get a large BPA-free container with a filter and fill it up with tap water. Keep it at your desk, sip throughout the day and refill frequently. (Avoid buying water in plastic bottles because of the terrible impact they have on the environment.)

Commit to exercise

I've been a fan of strength training and working out regularly for 35 years, so I've learned how to stick to a fitness routine. The most important success factor is to set a goal that works for you. People abandon their fitness goals because they've set themselves up for failure with unrealistic expectations.

Signing up for classes allows for structured time and the presence of others to keep you motivated. You also are likelier to work out harder when there are others around to motivate you.

Also, people go to gyms most often if they are located less than seven minutes from their home.

How to do it: Find a gym close to your house or office. Determine if you are a morning or evening exerciser. Commit to a certain number of weekdays and enshrine it in your schedule. Think of it as an investment in your future health.


Schedule mind time

I'm purposely not calling this "meditation" because the idea of starting a meditation practice can seem daunting. However, setting aside a few minutes each day to pause, breathe slowly and calm the mind does wonders for our well-being.

Meditation can rewire the brain. It improves our concentration and memory, increases our creativity and compassion and reduces our anxiety and stress.

How to do it: I love the app Insight Timer. You can search for meditations according to length (as short as one minute), topic (anxiety, creativity, self-awareness, breathing, sleep), music versus no music, guided versus instrumental, etc. You can join meditation communities, and all meditations are user-rated. I've also downloaded guided meditations from Tara Brach and Deepak Chopra.


Journaling can transform you. It untangles all of the thoughts, ideas and emotions that form throughout the day. Your journal becomes a repository for everything you didn't even know you were thinking or feeling.


How to do it: Buy a journal just for freestyle journaling, separate from a productivity journal or gratitude journal. Buy a special pen. Keep them together. Find a place in your home where you will journal each night, away from computers and cellphones.

Read a non-business book

You probably have a stack of business books to help you be a better leader, be more productive, build better cultures, hold better meetings, hire smarter, etc. This is not good bedtime reading material because it doesn't allow the brain to disengage from work. When was the last time you read a book that took you away into another world?

How to do it: In addition to asking friends to trade books, I regularly scour Goodreads and best-seller lists for recommendations. When you're done with a book, place it in a little free library in your neigborhood or donate it to a local organization. Thinking about releasing your book into the world for another person to enjoy is exciting.

These habits can help keep you connected with physical health, mental health, spiritual health and with the simplest pleasures of life.