My 2022 focus has morphed from ‘fun’ and ‘passion projects’ into building a more sustainable lifestyle that is better for my mental health. One aspect of this is to reduce the amount of stress that I feel. This is partly the pressure that I feel through my job, but it is also the small stresses that accumulate as a result of everyday life.

Big things like taking care of my personal finances and being in good physical shape remove a lot of underlying anxiety that I used to live with, but there are also plenty of small things that can be improved. Recently, I’ve been going through my daily routine to try and find those 1% improvements that help my day go better and avoid those little cortisone spikes.

I find that stress is compounding. It seems like when one thing goes wrong, it’s more likely to set off other problems, so I try and remove predictable problems before they happen.

I pack my work bag the night before

Any daily routine starts with preparation the night before. I always make sure my work bag is ready to go with a bunch of ‘just in case’ items that are permanently in there, as well as my gym kit. I also pre-pack my healthy breakfast and lunch so it’s ready to go straight from the fridge. I usually re-pack my work bag as soon as I get home in the evening, before I get distracted or too tired.

I have plenty of underwear

There’s nothing worse than frantically rooting around in the morning looking for a pair of clean socks! I have enough underwear to keep me going for about three weeks, to allow for travel or a long period where I don’t get around to putting on the washing machine. All my underwear is the same, and it’s all plain black so I never feel like I’m mismatched. It’s all designed for comfort too.

I rotate my work wardrobe systematically

During the week I never have to make a decision about what to wear into the office, because I have a ‘uniform’ of a plain black suit with a skirt or pants, and I just pick up the next top I have on the rack. Clean clothes get hung up from one side, and they get worn from the opposite end. If I ever pick something up that I don’t want to wear because of the weather, I can just skip it. If it’s because I just don’t feel like wearing that item however, I check in with myself to see if the item needs decluttering. If I put it on and take it off again because of the style or fit, it goes straight into a donation bag.

I keep everything in the same place

I never have to root around for my keys or work pass, because I keep everything in the same place. They’re not just in the same rough location, or in the same bag, everything is in exactly the same pocket or in the same spot on a shelf. This makes the ‘have I got everything’ scan that everyone does every morning into a motor routine as well as a mental one, and if I do need to grab something I know exactly where it is.

I keep a post-it note on the front door

For all those little things that I want to remember in the morning like washing to put on, the rice cooker timer to set or items that I need to bring with me, I put a post-it note in the same place each evening. The best place for me is right on the handle of the front door where I’m guaranteed to notice it. I’m really not a morning person, and even placing the post-it on the front door itself was not enough to stop me overlooking it!

I drive a more relaxed commute

I’ve adjusted the route that I drive in to the office to avoid any particularly stressful intersections, or mergers that are hard to make in morning traffic. This gives me a morning that has much less tension, and I’m less likely to have a negative interaction with another driver.

I use my morning to do my most important tasks

I like to get to work slightly earlier than most people start, before the emails start coming and my work becomes reactive. I block out some time in my calendar and use the mornings to work on my priority tasks. This ensures that I keep on track with my long term, but important projects and I’m working on them when I’m at my freshest. Making progress on these kinds of tasks reduced the stress that competing priorities can bring because there’s less impact if the rest of the day doesn’t go to plan.

I go outside at least once

With a busy work day, it’s easy to get glued to the desk and spend the whole eight hours in the confines of an office. I get outside at least once per day, even if the weather is miserable, either eating lunch outside or going for a quick walk around the precinct. Making sure I can get out and look at the sky, feel the sun (or wind!) on my face and breathe in a bit of fresh air gives me at least a snippet of nature in my day.

I separate my work day from my personal time

I’m not a fan of integrating work with the rest of my life, which is why working from home was not my preference. Once I leave the office, I want to leave behind the work tasks, deadlines and stresses, and switch from thinking about my companies priorities to my own. Exercise makes a really good separation for me. If I don’t go the gym, I go for a walk.

My cooking equipment is ready to go

I don’t have a lot of kitchen stuff, but I have a decent chopping knife, a chopping board and a pan. Once I’ve made dinner, I wash up or put the dishwasher on straight away so that the next evening everything is ready to go. This means if I’m hungry or tired, there is less friction to cook and I’m less likely to resort to takeaway. I also have a stash of quick, but healthy meals I can make in about 15 minutes, so there’s really no excuse for me not to eat a good evening meal.

I have a good pillow and mattress

A good day starts with a good night’s sleep and for me, this has included investing in a decent set of pillows. Our mattress was gifted to us by a family member and is ok, but it’s something that would be top of my upgrade list if it started to affect my sleep. I also try and keep to a nighttime routine where I start getting ready for bed before I get tired, and go to bed at roughly the same time. I usually read for at least half an hour each night before sleeping, and avoid screen time in this period.

Do you have any destressing hacks for your daily routine?