Microstressors are small nagging moments of friction that occur daily in our lives, that sometimes go unnoticed but can snowball to impact our wellbeing. But the truth is, microstressors drain your energy, waste your time and creative resources and remove your attention from what is really important. Small things like looking for your keys every day, struggling to remember passwords, forgetting meetings or deadlines, or having to look for items in overly cluttered cupboards quickly add up to an invisible but stressful load.
The first step towards tackling pesky microstressors is to identify them. Spend a few mindful days observing yourself – where are the snags, those daily occurrences that create friction? Identify and make a note of them.
You can do something about some microstressors immediately – if the solution is short-term – for instance, add a simple 3M hook for your keys next to the door and allow a few days to get into the habit of actually putting the keys in the correct spot. In no time, you will reach for the keys in the right spot without having to think about it.
But if the micro stressors have more complex causes, take a bit of time to mindfully note them and reflect on what the best solution is.
Is dinner always a last minute dash? That is the path to small frictions, more money and time spent on last minute shopping and reaching for that unhealthy, expensive takeaway menu more often than you’d like. And while these can be occasional occurrences in all our lives, based on the hectic lives we lead, having a meal plan or at least an approximate structure can ease stress and be friendly to your budget too.
Are there other members in your household? Can they be roped into a rotation of helping with small meals once a week? With a weekly plan, shopping is less stressful and meals are no longer using your daily decision budget and time.
The same goes for laundry, cleaning and washing up. You can use a wall calendar and pre-printed shopping lists (some FREE printables are available on my website here) as well as cleaning planners or make use of the many digital tools available. Many families have started using synchronised calendars or apps like Trello to manage family tasks and activities.
There is of course always a balance between having our lives completely regimented and being completely laissez-faire. Most people enjoy having a high level structure that is unobtrusive but offers a simple to follow routine. For instance, you might want to simplify meal planning by having one vegetarian, one Mexican and/or one Italian themed meal every week – without having to repeat the exact same dish on exact same nights. Strike the balance that works for you!
Is the problem your never-ending to-do list? Last-minute reminders where you have to dash into meetings unprepared or deadlines that you struggle to meet? If these are in your life on a daily basis, they will end up burning you out and tumbling into bigger problems down the line. Take back control by looking at your calendar and reflecting on what is the source of the problem. Sometimes it might be just that there are a limited number of hours during a day and some difficult conversations must be had around your tasks, responsibilities and work-life balance, but other times simple behaviour changes can remove some of those daily microstressors.
A good example is email. Are you constantly interrupted by notifications and pings from unnecessary emails? You can switch off email notifications, re-organise your inbox so you focus on the really important ones, or establish time blocks throughout the day dedicated to opening your inbox. Read more about managing your emails effectively here.
Our minds rest when we look at a minimalist zen garden, but get stressed when we look at untidy shelves, cluttered surfaces and messy desks. All these visual queues trigger small stress responses in our minds and distract us from our focus. So bring peace of mind with a peaceful space. Aim for organised, tidy spaces – they will make a difference to your frame of mind. To help you with getting started, use the “little and often” approach, where you tackle one small job every day. Soon enough you will see progress and calm will be re-established. Get inspired on taking a minimalist approach to life by reading this blog post.
If you find going out for food, clothes and other items stressful, maybe it’s time to look at online shopping. Sure, it takes a while to get used to a different experience, but it might be worth it. Some supermarkets remember your previous order and make it easy to repeat for staple foods, so routine tasks can be reduced to minutes.
If, however, this is part of your self-care ritual and you enjoy trips to shops, trying out items and making a whole day out of it, by all means, hold on to that and move on to other microstressor sources.
Having a holistic view of what is really causing pain and making a decision on whether you are able to delete or delegate the item is a deeply personal journey.
Need further help and inspiration with the consequences of shopping? Read this recent blog post on organising your wardrobe,
You wake up in the morning, reach for the phone and light up your favourite social channel. A friend posted a sunny photo of breakfast in a tropical setting, others achieving their 10k run before coffee, switch to the news and see disturbing and stressful images, you feel tired after last night’s takeaway and reach for the coffee groggily while worrying about what to wear for work and about the day’s tasks and deadlines. That’s a number of microstressors before we are even properly awake. There is a substantial case for having an evening and morning wellbeing routine and it starts with stepping away from screens. Here is more on creating special evening and morning routines for yourself – just be patient with yourself and tweak them to what best suits you, it takes time for new habits to stick.
I hope all these tips have helped you become more mindful about microstressors in your life and set you on a path to minimising them. But if you need further support, a professional declutterer and organiser like myself can work with you to streamline your home – or parts of it – in a way that will put you back in control of your time. Simply book a quick confidential chat so we can explore how I can offer you the gift of time.
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