Where does stress come from? Look in the mirror. Experts say stress is entirely self-imposed—you are the one letting stress get in the way of getting more done. The good news is that if you are creating the stress, you can also control it. You can let stress drive your actions and throw your day off. Or once stress appears, you can address it. You can spend the day getting things done—instead of stressing over how much there is to do. Here’s how to get stress under control.

 Wrap up yesterday. Avoid worrying today over something you left uncompleted yesterday. Get it done now and move on to today’s tasks.

Prioritize. Avoid spiraling over everything on your to-do list—prioritize. Items that most impact personal relationships and finances take priority. Attend to these things before you spend time on less urgent ones. This is also a good time to identify matters beyond your control and remove them from the list.

 Set realistic deadlines. Avoid tight deadlines. If someone else is setting the deadline, negotiate one that gives you the time you need. The stress of an unrealistic deadline makes it hard to deliver a quality result.

Take breaks. If you find yourself getting worked up about getting something done, stop doing it. Take a five- or ten-minute break to calm down, rest, get fresh air, meditate, pray, or just close your eyes and think of something that makes you happy. You will return to the task with less stress, and the mindset to function more efficiently.

 Reduce your daily decisions. Plan out your week, deciding what must be done and when. Schedule regular activities as recurring items in your calendar. Get organized, keeping things you need for certain activities, like workouts, in one place so you skip the task of gathering them each time. The fewer decisions you have to make, the less stressful your life will become.

Get help if you need it. If you have any doubts about your ability to complete a task alone, make the call to ask for help as soon as possible, before you start having difficulties. Another person boosts your productivity and trims your stress (“a worry shared is cut in half”).

 Turn off the voices in your head. When things get busy, you might start asking yourself, “What’s happening here? Can I handle it? What if I can’t?” This immediately creates stress. To get out of this predicament, focus on someone else. Consider what they need, what they may be fearing, and how you can help. This quiets your internal voice.

Keep an eye on the big picture. It’s common to stress over things that are less critical than we think. Do what you need to, but before stressing out over it, consider its significance in the big picture. Unless a situation puts you in physical danger, it’s probably not worth getting upset about.

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