Stress management. Is it even possible? Applying a few of these stress management tips could put you back in the driver’s seat … so to speak.
We know how hard it is … especially if you’re trying to juggle work, family, and everything in between.
According to WebMD, unmanaged stress can lead to further emotional, physiological, and even physical health problems, which includes heart disease and blood pressure. Long-term stress often leads to insomnia, anxiety, depression, and can even lead to drug and alcohol dependency.
Fortunately, there are several stress management tips that we can use to make us feel better. One of these is to close “open loops”.
What are open loops?
Scott Young, the author of the book, The Little Book of Productivity, describes an open loop as an “any activity that you do that doesn’t have a defined end-point.” And many activities surprisingly don’t have an end point. To further complicate things, open loops are also created in other less obvious ways.
According to Lifehacker, once we fall into the trap of neglecting to set an endpoint or goal for our work or any activity we’re doing, we are setting ourselves up for exhaustion and burnout.
Now, these open loops happen in our lives constantly. We are pulled in a lot of different directions. Every open loop will cause our mind to pause and say, “This is something I’ve got to get back to.”
However, sometimes, we think we can just forget about it and not really make an effort to go back and close the loop. If unresolved things continue to pile up, we are subjecting ourselves to stress … and more stress.
Stress Management Tips: How To Close Open Loops
Dealing with open loops is not a small subject and not a small task for any of us who are already struggling with stress management, especially with symptoms of stress and anxiety. That’s why it’s important for us to go back and close those open loops.
There are a number of ways to do that.
Identify your open loops
One of the first things you need to do to be able to start closing open loops is to identify them. Sometimes, we have so many loops open that we lose track of them. And this would cause more stress because sometimes we don’t even know which one is stressing us more!
Identifying them one by one and putting them in a list will put everything into perspective. So as you go about with your list, you can point out which of them causes more stress and which are really more of a distraction. This will help you prioritize which ones you need to close first.
Create a to-do list and set achievable goals
Creating a to-do list is a good way to start closing open loops. However, you also need to be careful because this can sometimes cause stress. You might be looking at your to-do list and think, “I couldn’t even begin to start.”
So, you have to think of the best stress management tips to help you deal with your to-do list without putting so much stress in your system.
Start by making baby steps. Set achievable goals. You don’t need to close all the open loops right away. For example, you can start by making sure you get a set number of things off the open loop list today and nothing more. This small feat will ease your mind, give you a sense of accomplishment, and reduce your stress level.
Stress Management Tips: Maintaining a Clean Slate Through Equilibrium Zero
Now, let’s say you’ve managed to close all the open loops that needed to be closed. Success! You have scored another credit on Stress Management Tips 101.
But … wait, there’s more. It doesn’t end there. You don’t want to go back to that situation where you have too many open loops that cause you stress. You have to maintain a clean slate.
How do you do that?
Let’s talk about a concept called Equilibrium Zero which was coined by Jeff Sanders, a keynote speaker, author, and founder of The Rockin’ Productivity Academy.
According to Sanders, this is a “comprehensive zero-based perspective on the work you do.” This covers everything from clearing your email inbox, finishing projects, and keeping a clutter-free home.
Let’s look first in the first two concepts.
Inbox Zero says that all emails should be processed at the end of the day.
Project Management Zero says that all current tasks should be finished before moving on to the next task or project.
Pretty straightforward, right? Simple as that.
Imagine going to bed every night knowing that you have finished everything that needs to be finished. All issues resolved. No open loops! What a joy, right? And imagine going to work every morning with a brand new task where you can inject fresh ideas and new concepts. It won’t always be stress-free, but this will significantly lower your stress level.
Now, we understand that not all tasks will not be finished right away. In cases like this, what you can do is to create a schedule and set a target date on when that task should be finished. And make sure to stick to that schedule, otherwise, everything else will be messed up.
Stress Management Tips: Keeping Things Organized and Stress-Free at Home
Okay, so you have closed all work-related open loops. Lovely, isn’t it? And then you go home … to a house in full disarray. Clutter all around. Odd stuff here and there.
Your stress level shoots up. Nothing sparks joy. You know you need Marie Kondo right away. She has said that “Tidying orders and relaxes the mind.”
Enter the concept of Home Base Zero. Basically, what it says is that you need to put away all extraneous items in your home or office each night before going to bed.
According to Sanders, to start with this process, you need to do three things:
First, trash everything that needs to be thrown away … or recycle what needs to be recycled. You can apply the KonMari method here, which is keeping only the stuff that sparks joy.
Second is to put back everything in their proper places. Nothing should be out of place. Dirty clothes should be in the hamper, books should be on the bookshelf, and so on.
Next is to assign a specific place for new things that you add in your house.
And last, and the most important, is to “freeze this moment”. This basically says that you have to maintain a clean, clutter-free, and organized home.
Stress Management Tips: How to Maintain the Habit of Closing Open Loops
Equilibrium Zero is applicable to all areas of our lives and not just in the workplace or at home. Ultimately, what we need to close open loops and fare better with stress management is to go back and work on them one by one while being careful not to add new ones through the concept of Equilibrium Zero.
Once we have succeeded in closing most of the open loops, we have to maintain it by finishing everything that needs to be done on a daily basis.
There’s no room for procrastination. We have to be disciplined enough and develop a habit of closing open loops right away, every day. Remember, putting it on the “to do list” can close the loop. If we do this, we’ll have less stress and fewer worries.