You Don’t Need More Time, You Just Need To Spend It Doing What Matters

There’s a common misconception that everything in life comes down to time. Every day I find myself slipping into these same statements: If only I had more time. I just need a few extra minutes. A couple hours of work. Yet it feels like we’re all working longer hours without getting more done.

This post originally appeared on the Crew blog.

We believe that everything we want can be achieved if only we had more time. We mistakenly believe that our issues are ones of quantity. Yet Americans already work some of the longest hours in the Western World.

So is more time really the answer?

The Shackles of Freedom

From our earliest days we’re taught the importance of a daily structure based on time. School days are 8 hours long, with classes structured around slots of time, rather than what can be completed. We’re taught that what matters is ‘putting in the time’, not necessarily finishing the work.

Yet more and more, we’re moving away from this standard practice.

More and more people are working remotely, or in non-standard ways as part-timers, contractors, or shift workers. The 8-hour day has been edged out. But is this really the release from structure that we hoped it would be? The freedom to do our work whenever ostensibly gives us the freedom to create our own schedule-whether that means 9-5, 7-2, 2-10, 1-4 or whatever works for you.

It also means we’re free to spend as much (or as little) time at work as long as the job gets finished. Yet, research shows that those with the freedom to work less, end up working significantly more.

A comprehensive study on hours worked and productivity by the International Labour Organizationfound that the average worker who had the freedom to set their own hours worked 54 hours per week, versus 37 hours a week by those with set schedules.

That’s 17 extra working hours a week, just from the ‘freedom’ to choose your own hours. Even worse, those extra hours don’t lead to quality, productive work.

When the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development looked at the effect of longer hours on productivity in 18 European countries over a 60 year period, they found that our per-hour productivity during an increase in working time always diminishes. Not only that, but the returns diminish more rapidly for longer working times.

The more we work, the less efficient we become. And once we pass a certain threshold it only gets worse.

Which means more hours spent working the next day to catch up and fix the mistakes we’ve made. Which means more hours worked in total. Which means even lower productivity. And on and on and on. So why do we do it? I know we’ve all faced those moments where we feel braindead yet continue to slog through the work, only to redo most of it when we’re fresh and rested. Maybe it’s pride. Or a sense of responsibility.

One answer, which seems to make the most sense to me, is Parkinson’s Law:

This ‘law’ was coined by Cyril Northcote Parkinson as part of a humorous essay in The Economist. As one example, Parkinson explains how:

“An elderly lady of leisure can spend the entire day in writing and despatching a postcard to her niece at Bognor Regis. An hour will be spent in finding the postcard, another in hunting for spectacles, half-an-hour in a search for the address, an hour and a quarter in composition, and twenty minutes in deciding whether or not to take an umbrella when going to the pillar-box in the next street. The total effort which would occupy a busy man for three minutes all told may in this fashion leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxiety and toil.”

The more time we give a task, the more time we spend on it. And, the more time we spend on a task, the worse of a job we do.

We can’t fire on all cylinders for hours at a time. Motivation, willpower, and focus are all limited resources that we need to use sparingly throughout the day. Spending more time only kills motivation and weakens the work we’re doing.

So if we work less, we’ll be happier and more productive?

I’ve always felt that I just didn’t have enough time to see friends, keep up relationships, and do the things that I wanted that would keep me happy. Even though spending time with my friends and family is one of my core personal values, I still saw the issue as one of quantity. I just didn’t have enough time to make it all work. Working less opens up more time for socializing are doing things that help with our personal well-being. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Spend less time working and have more time for leisure and visiting with the ones we love. Yet it doesn’t quite work that way.

A study by Cristobal Young and Chaeyoon Lim from Stanford University, found that among 500,000 workers, our general levels of happiness closely follow the workweek. We’re happiest on the weekends, and are the least happy on Monday-Thursday. Obvious, no?

What was surprising was that the study also found this same pattern in unemployed people. Even those without the requirement to be somewhere during the week were less happy during the work week. Young and Lim tie this to the idea of network good-that connecting with others is more important for our well-being than just time to ourselves. You simply can’t get ‘more weekend’ just by taking an extra day off yourself.

Choose to Make Time for the Work That Matters

So we can’t work more hours to be better at our job, and we can’t spend more time off to be happier. So what choice do we have? The goal is to focus on efficiency, rather than output.

There’s a trap we fall into of justifying the work by the time and resources put in. “I’ve spent 60 hours/4 months/8 years on this. I deserve it to be a success.”

The modern workplace adage is that it’s not about the hours, it’s about the work. Yet for many remote workers or those working non-standard hours, this means completion no matter the cost. But to celebrate spending X amount of hours on a task vs. 10X that time is ridiculous. If we’re to measure only what gets done, negating the context of how long it took to complete the task and how efficient someone is, we’re missing the whole picture.

As Lynn Wu, an information management professor at the Wharton School explains, it simply doesn’t work to measure productivity by output. Productivity isn’t just about what you get done. It’s how efficient you are at getting those tasks completed.

A recent study by Julian Birkinshaw of the London School of Business found that most knowledge workers-engineers, writers, and those who ‘think for a living’-spend on average 41% of our time on jobs we could easily pass off to others.

Instinctively, we cling to tasks that keep us ‘busy’ (and thus, important). We feel good with a full schedule and a get-out-of-jail-free card for all of our lives responsibilities. Paradoxically, as we all strive for more time, we hold onto the things that take up the majority of our time. So vanity, again, is a reason we lose productivity. The need to appear busy and important.

Yet working towards becoming more efficient is something that is incredibly hard to track. Upfront investment in skills, planning, or training others to take over always leads to long-term efficiency, opening up the time you have for the work that matters. Not the busy tasks.

Re-Imagining How We Work and Live

In all aspects of our lives-whether it’s work or personal-quantity is almost never the issue. Time spent working is a vanity metric. And time to ourselves without connecting to friends and family is almost meaningless.

The problem of quantity is one we can’t change. There just is no way to get more time in your day. And the compound effects of working long hours and late nights means that you always come out on the bottom. So it’s a matter of quality. Efficiency. Choosing how much time to spend working and deciding what’s the best way to spend that time. When we choose, we stop thinking of time as the only measurement to our day.

Here’s a few ways to help you choose how to spend your time that came up during my research for this article. Each one can be used as filter to decide whether you’re working efficiently or not.

Schedule for Tasks, Not Time

In his essay on maker time versus manager time, essayist Paul Graham suggests that workers such as writers and programmers work in units of half a day at least, rather than the hourly or half-hourly chunks of a managers schedule.

Personally, the best work I do comes when the tasks that I have to do aren’t ones that require a strict timeline or schedule. Reading, writing, editing… all of these work best for me when I don’t have to stretch or stress to fit into the allotment on my schedule.

Working a task to completion gives you a measurement of success-something you can use to answer:am I working efficiently?

When You Find Value, Keep Working

Motivation and energy are limited resources, and wasting them up ruins our chances or completing meaningful work. In Dr. Steel’s experiments on procrastination and motivation, he found that value is one of the most important aspects for maintaining our motivation. When the work we’re doing has value to us, we’re more motivated to continue working. Then why stop?

Meetings can be pushed, flow can’t be easily replicated.

Focus on Being Better, Faster, Stronger

As Henry David Thoreau wrote:

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

As creative business coach Mark McGuiness explains, we need to focus on the one big thing each day that will make us feel accomplished. Don’t sit at your desk just to be there and pat yourself on the back. Focus on completing your days work and feeling good about it. Then walk away.

The only way we can change how we work is by changing our mindset about how we work.

Ask for Help

Oftentimes we get so wrapped up in busywork that we forget we can ask for help. Especially in small teams where you know everyone’s plate is full, the idea of stepping into someone’s else’s workday and interrupting them is one that few of us actually want to do. But that quick question or short conversation could be the difference between spending an hour or 5 minutes on a task.

Use the knowledge of the people around you so when you do work, you work efficiently.

You don’t need more time. You need better time. And that only comes through approaching your work and life with the understanding that long hours spent working does good work. As Seth Godin so aptly puts it: “You don’t need more time… you just need to decide.”

Time is almost always an issue of quality, not quantity. So decide on what matters, and then get it done.


13 Cheap (or Free!) Online Classes You Can Take to Boost Your Digital Skills

By Alyse Kalish

We live in a digital world. Just look at where you’re reading this article right now—without that phone, tablet, or laptop in front of you, this content would never reach you.

Now, I’ll be honest and say that I’m old-fashioned, which is why I prefer using Post-its instead of Apple Calendars, holding a physical book rather than reading with a Kindle, or talking in person rather than through social media. But like everyone else, I’ve had to adapt to life’s changes—and quite honestly, it’s actually made me a lot more productive and efficient in everything I do.

So, while none of the skills below are completely necessary to survive and thrive in this world, they might be pretty useful to pick up in your free time. If nothing else, understanding what other teams in your office do will help you communicate more clearly with them when you’re collaborating on projects.

The best way to learn anything nowadays? Online classes—they’re cheap (or completely free), and you can take them anytime, anywhere, and in any fashion you prefer. See, the future isn’t so bad after all.

To get you started, here are 13 courses you can take—starting today—to boost your digital knowledge (and even add some bullet points to your resume!).

1. Social Media Marketing With Facebook and Twitter

You probably write “Proficient in Facebook and Twitter” on your resume in reference to posting photos of you and your friends or tweeting about your latest antics, but do you really know how to use these platforms in a professional sense? Check out this social media tutorial to learn how to create a valuable and attractive online presence that’ll benefit your career, as well as your personal account.

Cost: Free with trial or $19.99/ month for unlimited membership
Length: 1 hour, 26 minutes/ 9 lectures

2. Beginners Adobe Photoshop Tutorials

Just like with social media, editing photos is one of those skills many people claim they have, but don’t really know how to do anything beyond the basics. Luckily, Adobe’s offering a free course on all you need to know about this popular program. If nothing else, you can make your LinkedIn photo perfect.

Cost: Free
Length: 13 hours, 31 minutes/ 26 lectures

3. Final Cut Pro X 10.2 Essential Training

If your company does anything with video content, it might be in your favor to learn how it’s done. This course will take you through filmmaking from start to finish, from cutting and refining your movie, to adding audio and other media, to uploading and sharing your creation with others.

Cost: Free with trial or $19.99/ month for unlimited membership
Length: 8 hours, 31 minutes/ 14 lectures

4. WordPress for Beginners

For all those out there who have ever wanted to start their own website or blog on the side, now’s your chance! This tutorial will teach you all the basics of WordPress, a common platform for website beginners—and a great way to advertise your hobbies, from crafting to writing poetry.

Cost: Free
Length: 2 hours/ 19 lectures

5. Programming for Everyone (Getting Started With Python)

Ever wanted to learn how to program but never had enough time—or someone to teach you? This simple Python tutorial covers all the basics and provides all the essential materials for you to move forward with more advanced programming, such as Java or C++—either at your job or just for fun.

Cost: Free (without certification)
Length: 2-4 hours per week

6. Intro to HTML and CSS

And if HTML and CSS are more relevant to you, or if you’re looking to create your own digital platform, this class is great for learning all the basics—and getting on the path to becoming a front-end developer.

Cost: Free
Length: 6 hours a week/ 3 lessons

7. Search Engine Optimization for Beginners

Even if you may not need SEO for your current job, it’s a great skill to pick up to better understand how the internet works. No, really, SEO drives most of your Google results. In this class, you’ll learn what search engine optimization is, how to craft keywords, and how sites compete with each other for the most visibility.

Cost: $47
Length: 1 hour/ 11 lectures

8. The Complete Google Analytics Course for Beginners

Like SEO, analytics is a great resource for tracking traffic to any site. This course will walk you through the different aspects of the program and how to analyze the data presented to you. With this information, you’ll be able to spot patterns that’ll give you insight into what customers or clients want—and how to continue following that trend.

Cost: Free
Length: 3.5 hours/ 20 lectures

9. LinkedIn Training Course

Boost your professional network and promote your personal brand by learning the ins and outs of LinkedIn in this lecture. In less than two hours, you’ll understand how to efficiently and effectively connect with others, send messages, join networking groups, and share content, and how to do all this on your phone, too.

Cost: Free
Length: 1 hour, 51 minutes/ 26 lessons

10. Outlook 2016 Essential Training

It’s hard to keep track of all your inboxes if you don’t know how to properly use Outlook. With this course, you’ll learn how to save and organize your emails, how to create meetings with others, and how to even use Outlook for completing tasks and note taking. Sure, checking email sucks, but this makes it suck a little bit less.

Cost: Free with trial or $19.99/ month for unlimited membership
Length: 2 hours, 49 minutes/ 9 lectures

11. Fundamentals of Google Docs

Did you know that there are so many aspects of Google Drive you’ve probably never used that could drastically increase your productivity and efficiency? Don’t just know how to use it—become an expert on how to create, edit, and share docs, sheets, presentations, and more.

Cost: Free
Length: 1 hour

12. Google Advance Search—Search the Web as a Professional

If you’re like me and can’t seem to find things on Google that you’re looking for, despite how many keywords you try, this class is perfect for you. It’ll teach you how to take advantage of the search engine, as well as all the tips and tricks to getting the most results.

Cost: Free
Length: 1 hours/ 9 lectures

13. Writing for the Web

Knowing how to write well is an important skill for just about anything, but have you ever considered that doing it for the web requires even more thought and energy? Because we look for quick answers on the internet and social media nowadays, online content has to be short, engaging, helpful, applicable, and easy to find all at once. This course will help just about anyone—from journalists to technical writers to developers to aspiring bloggers—create content that really engages.

Cost: Free
Length: 4 lectures

10 Simple Ways You Can Stop Yourself From Overthinking

Overthinking doesn’t sound so bad on the surface–thinking is good, right?

But overthinking can cause problems.

When you overthink, your judgments get cloudy and your stress gets elevated. You spend too much time in the negative. It can become difficult to act.

If this feels like familiar territory to you, here are 10 simple ideas to free yourself from overthinking.

1. Awareness is the beginning of change.

Before you can begin to address or cope with your habit of overthinking, you need to learn to be aware of it when it’s happening. Any time you find yourself doubting or feeling stressed or anxious, step back and look at the situation and how you’re responding. In that moment of awareness is the seed of the change you want to make.

2. Don’t think of what can go wrong, but what can go right.

In many cases, overthinking is caused by a single emotion: fear. When you focus on all the negative things that might happen, it’s easy to become paralyzed. Next time you sense that you starting to spiral in that direction, stop. Visualize all the things that can go right and keep those thoughts present and up front.

3. Distract yourself into happiness.

Sometimes it’s helpful to have a way to distract yourself with happy, positive, healthy alternatives. Things like mediation, dancing, exercise, learning an instrument, knitting, drawing, and painting can distance you from the issues enough to shut down the overanalysis.

4. Put things into perspective.

It’s always easy to make things bigger and more negative than they need to be. The next time you catch yourself making a mountain out of a molehill, ask yourself how much it will matter in five years. Or, for that matter, next month. Just this simple question, changing up the time frame, can help shut down overthinking.

5. Stop waiting for perfection.

This is a big one. For all of us who are waiting for perfection, we can stop waiting right now. Being ambitious is great but aiming for perfection is unrealistic, impractical, and debilitating. The moment you start thinking “This needs to be perfect” is the moment you need to remind yourself, “Waiting for perfect is never as smart as making progress.”

6. Change your view of fear.

Whether you’re afraid because you’ve failed in the past, or you’re fearful of trying or overgeneralizing some other failure, remember that just because things did not work out before does not mean that has to be the outcome every time. Remember, every opportunity is a new beginning, a place to start again.

7. Put a timer to work.

Give yourself a boundary. Set a timer for five minutes and give yourself that time to think, worry, and analyze. Once the timer goes off, spend 10 minutes with a pen and paper, writing down all the things that are worrying you, stressing you, or giving you anxiety. Let it rip. When the 10 minutes is up, throw the paper out and move on–preferably to something fun.

8. Realize you can’t predict the future.

No one can predict the future; all we have is now. If you spend the present moment worrying about the future, you are robbing yourself of your time now. Spending time on the future is simply not productive. Spend that time instead on things that give you joy.

9. Accept your best.

The fear that grounds overthinking is often based in feeling that you aren’t good enough–not smart enough or hardworking enough or dedicated enough. Once you’ve given an effort your best, accept it as such and know that, while success may depend in part on some things you can’t control, you’ve done what you could do.

10. Be grateful.

You can’t have a regretful thought and a grateful thought at the same time, so why not spend the time positively? Every morning and every evening, make a list of what you are grateful for. Get a gratitude buddy and exchange lists so you have a witness to the good things that are around you.

Overthinking is something that can happen to anyone. But if you have a great system for dealing with it you can at least ward off some of the negative, anxious, stressful thinking and turn it into something useful, productive, and effective.

7 Science-Backed Ways to Be Happier—Starting Now

By Peter Economy of Inc.

Why do we work so hard and get so little in return? Sure, we may be paid well for the work we do, and we may enjoy our co-workers and the work itself. But for most of us, we work harder and longer hours than ever before, believing that by doing so, we’ll find the happiness and success we want in our lives.

According to Emma Seppala—science director for Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education—working harder and longer hours will not necessarily make you happy or successful. In fact, hundreds of neuroscience and psychology studies suggest that the opposite is often the case. The key is to find happiness first. When you’re happy, then you’ll find the success you’re looking for.

In her book, The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success, Emma says, “Happiness—defined as a state of heightened positive emotion—has a profound positive effect on our professional and personal lives. It increases our emotional and social intelligence, boosts our productivity, and heightens our influence over peers and colleagues.”

Here, according to Emma, are seven scientifically-proven ways you can build your happiness—and become more successful as a result.

1. Live (or Work) in the Moment

Instead of always thinking about what’s next on your to-do list, focus on the task or conversation at hand. You will become not only more productive but also more charismatic.

2. Tap Into Your Resilience

Instead of living in overdrive, train your nervous system to bounce back from setbacks. You will naturally reduce stress and thrive in the face of difficulties and challenges.

3. Manage Your Energy

Instead of engaging in states of mind that exhaust you, learn to manage your stamina by remaining calm and centered. You’ll be able to save precious mental energy for the tasks that need it most.

4. Do Nothing

Instead of spending all your time focused intently on your work, make time for idleness, fun, and irrelevant interests. You will become more creative and innovative and will be more likely to come up with breakthrough ideas.

5. Be Good to Yourself

Instead of being self-critical, be compassionate with yourself. You will improve your ability to excel in the face of challenge and be more likely to learn from mistakes.

6. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

We tend to think we’re good at only certain things, and we play it safe when we should be taking risks. Understand that your brain is built to learn new things—that’s how we attain new skills and expertise.

7. Show Compassion to Others

Instead of focusing on yourself, express compassion to and show interest in those around you, and maintain supportive relationships with your co-workers, boss, and employees. You will dramatically increase the loyalty and commitment of your colleagues and employees, thereby improving productivity, performance, and influence.

When You Should Fake it ‘Til You Make It (and When You Really Shouldn’t)

By Avery Augustine

It’s advice that’s tossed around quite often: Fake it ’til you make it.

On the surface, it sounds harmless. Put on a confident façade as you learn your way around—and eventually, you won’t have to fake it anymore.

But is it advice that you can effectively use in your career? Not always.

After being put in a number of professional situations in which I had no idea what I was doing, I’ve determined a simple rule for determining when it’s beneficial to fake it—and when it’s best to admit your weakness.

Do: When It’s a Matter of Confidence

In almost every professional role you’re in—at least, until you have several years of experience under your belt—you’re going to be tasked with responsibilities that will push you out of your comfort zone.

For example, you may be asked to give a training presentation to new hires, to speak up in front of a panel of executives when you have an idea, or, in my case, to lead weekly meetings with your employees.

And while you may very well know how to do these things in theory, you may not feel confident doing them. You may be familiar with the material for a presentation, for instance, but simply don’t love the idea of speaking in front of a group of people. Or, like me, you may have read every article out there about the ins and outs of leading meetingsbut are nervous about commanding a room full of your employees.

These are situations in which you have full permission to fake it ’til you make it. You have all the knowledge you need, so feigning a little courage won’t do you any harm. Putting on a brave face will not only help you get through it, it will give you genuine confidence for the next time you’re in this situation.

Don’t: When It’s a Matter of Knowledge

On the other hand, you’ll also be given responsibilities that you don’t know how to handle—down to the very core.

For example, maybe you’re asked to develop a budget forecast for the next quarter, but have zero financial experience. Or, you’re tasked with running an ad campaign from start to finish, when you really only have experience with one specific component. As a first-time manager, I remember being asked to fire an employee for the very first time—and had absolutely no idea of where to even start.

In situations in which you truly don’t know how to do something, when it comes down to basic knowledge of a task or responsibility, feigning expertise isn’t going to help you. In fact, it will likely hurt.

Simply putting on a confident face while doing an unfamiliar task won’t actually give you the ability to successfully complete that task. More likely, someone will eventually catch onto the fact that you don’t know what you’re doing and call you out on it. And then, you’ll have to waste everyone’s time starting from scratch.

Plus, if your co-workers, employees, or boss find out that you’re doing something wrong—but pretending you know how to do it—they’re going to be less likely to trust you in the future, which will limit your opportunities to lead and advance within the team.

In my example, pretending I knew how to fire someone would have been detrimental to everyone involved. Without being aware of the standard protocol, I could have easily left out vital information in my conversation with the employee, which would have created an HR nightmare (and possibly some tricky legal repercussions for the company)—and would have been confusing and unfair to the terminated employee.

This situation alone could have affected both my team’s view of me as a leader and my boss’ opinion of me as an effective manager—and could have been a wrecking ball in my career (no matter how much confidence I displayed).

In these situations, it’s a much better idea to own up to your weakness and track down the information you need before attempting the task. Once you have that knowledge, go ahead and fake it all you want.

15 ways to manage stress according to scientists.

By Dragan Radovanovic, Lydia Ramsey and Jessica Orwig.

Stress is an unavoidable aspect of life. From overwhelming public gatherings to project deadlines, it’s easy to get caught up in it all and let the stress overcome you.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. To help you cope, here are 15 science-backed tips to keep your stress level down this holiday season.

Make a game plan.

Staying organized will keep you from doing all of your holiday-related shopping at the last minute and give you more time to spend with your loved ones instead of scrambling for everything at the last minute.

Not only will having a to-do list reduce stress, it will help you stay more focused, according to Cal Newport, a computer-science professor and author of the book “Deep Work,” which comes out in January.

Without such a list, said Newport, incomplete work can eat away at your concentration. This stems from something called the Zeigarnik Effect, which is the tendency to remember incomplete tasks.

Take deep breaths.

Sometimes, the holidays can be so jam-packed it’s hard to remember to even breathe. But taking a second to step away from the kitchen or the crowd and breathe in deep may help your body handle stress a little better. The idea is to get your breath slower to activate the body’s relaxation mode, with lower blood pressure and an overall better feeling.

Scale it down.

While there is a lot of pressure to get the holidays just right, setting realistic expectations can help manage stress. Anumber of studies have pointed to lofty expectations as a reason for higher stress levels. Instead of stretching yourself too thin by taking on too many fancy holiday dishes, stick with manageable tasks and spend the rest of the time enjoying the company of friends and family.

Know the signs of stress.

There are so many stressors in any given day that it can be hard to realize when you’re getting stressed before it’s too late. Here are a few of the physical signs to watch out for, according to the American Psychological Association:

-Upset stomach
-Change in appetite

Make a budget.

Money is considered the most stressful factor for Americans, even more so than work or family, according to a recent poll from the American Psychological Association. To keep yourself from stressing out even more, be realistic about your holiday budget and don’t go overboard. Setting up parameters will keep you from having the stress of spending too much hanging over you all season long.

Eat — and drink — wisely.

The holidays might be filled with delicious treats and foods you only get to enjoy once a year, but your diet does impact your stress levels. Eating balanced amounts of whole grains, lean meats, fresh fruits and veggies can help you manage your stress levels much better than a diet high in processed and sugar-filled foods.

And if you’re incredibly stressed, turning to the spiked eggnog might not be the best course of action. According to the CDC, alcohol can actually add to your stress.

Remember to laugh.

Hanging out with family and good friends can often bring up memories, the good and the bad. Taking a minute to enjoy those good memories and let out some laughter can be a great way to cope with the stress of the season. In a study of the effects of laughter, yoga, and reading on college student’s stress level, researchers from Seton Hall University found that these activities significantly decreased the amount of stress students had.

Chat up a friend.

Talking with a friend about what is stressing you out is a great way to alleviate some of the pressure you might feel this season, according to Carnegie Mellon University psychology professor Sheldon Cohen.

“Friends help you face adverse events. They provide material aid, emotional support, and information that helps you deal with the stressors,” Cohen told the online health site WebMD.

Moreover, according to a 2014 American Psychological Association survey, 43% of Americans who said they have no one to turn to for emotional support also generally reported that their stress had increased in the past year.

Turn up the tunes.

One way to lower blood pressure after a stressful situation is to turn on the tunes. Numerous studies have found that listening to soothing sounds like nature soundtracks or classical music like Beethoven, Mozart, or Verdi can lower blood pressure. Not all music is created equal, though.

One study, presented earlier this year at a conference of the British Cardiovascular Society, found that fast-paced music like most pop or upbeat hip-hop either does not affect heart rate or can actually increase it.

Go for a trot.

Any cardiovascular exercise stimulates the release of feel-good hormones in our brain called endorphins, which can help us feel happier and less stressed. This includes everything from a Turkey trot before the big meal or an after-meal walk, which might be the best thing following a long day of relatives plus a relatively large dinner.

Get enough sleep.

A good night’s sleep is crucial for staying focused and healthy, but it could also help you manage stress levels, according to a small 2012 study. Researchers asked 53 healthy adults to complete a series of high-stress cognitive tests after controlling how much sleep they received the previous night.

The group who were sleep-deprived reported greater stress, anxiety, and anger than the control group. This led the researchers to conclude that sleep deprivation lowers our tolerance for stress and makes us more prone to it throughout the day.

Better yet, take that post-holiday meal snooze.

There is likely nothing better than a nap after a big meal. And it’s a good way to cut back on stress. In a study in which participants took a nap after a sleepless night, researchers found that the people had decreased levels of cortisol, a hormone connected to stress.

Confront the situation head-on.

For anyone trying to manage their stress, one of the key pieces of advice is to try and resolve a stressful situation at the time it happens. If you ignore or poorly manage everyday stressors, then they can build up into something far more serious called chronic stress, which can contribute to anxiety and depression, according to the American Psychological Association.

Talk with a doctor.

About one-third of Americans have reportedly never discussed ways to manage their stress with a healthcare provider, according to an American Psychological Association survey. At the same time, chronic stress is becoming a public-health crisis across the US.

If you’re not sure where to begin tackling your stress, then a good way to start could be by consulting a physician.


How to stop stressing out about money

Right now, at this moment, how much money do you have? Before you answer: Does the mere question begin to stress you out?

If so, you’re not alone. According to the number crunchers at theAmerican Psychological Association, the top three causes of stress have money at their root.

Those stress inducers would be the actual money category, work problems and the economy. If you’re nodding your head in agreement, you’ve probably been stressed out at some point about all three of those issues.

What can you do to stop being small minded around money issues?

Two options: win the lottery or change the way you think. You probably don’t have to be told that changing the way you think is a lot easier than winning that big jackpot. Here’s how to reframe your thinking around money:

Know that money fixes are temporary.

Whoever first said “money can’t buy happiness” was on to something. While it’s true that you can take a trip with money or go to a fancy restaurant, you’ll still be hungry tomorrow and back in your home when the vacation is over. Will you be happy then? Perhaps, but being happy is really about the long game.

Money can provide a temporary burst of happiness but unless you can get there without being propped up by cash, you’ll always be chasing that next big purchase. Is that any way to live?

Follow the budget.

The cornerstone of any budget is the amount of money you bring in and the amount you spend. It’s not that hard to track your finances, especially with the amazing apps and programs available. Once you have an accurate portrait of just what you owe and what you can expect to earn, you can get serious about saving.

Having extra money in the bank can be a nice stress reducer but you can only get there by living within your means. It’s not fun saying no to a purchase but in the long run, you’ll feel better knowing you’re building a stronger financial future for you and your family.

Embrace the freebies.

If you see someone beaming with a smile, it probably has nothing to do with money. They could have just been told they were loved. Maybe they’re remembering a great party they went to on the weekend. Perhaps they’re just thinking about the goofy dog waiting for them back home.

There are a lot of paths to happiness that won’t cost you a dime. Try a hike on a mountain trial. Spend the day on the beach. Lose yourself in the library. Read anything. Act like a tourist in your own town. We could go on but you get the idea.

Make the cuts.

Here’s the tough news: Being small minded about money has a lot to do with not spending money. There are dozens of ways you can cut back on your expenses.

For instance, you could take the Starbucks challenge for a month. If you forgo that daily jolt of four-dollar java for a week, you’ve got an extra $20 in your pocket. At the end of the month, you’ve saved $80 — just enough to pay your cell phone bill. See how that works? What will feel better: Getting that bill paid or having a cup of coffee that you won’t remember the next day?

Have a plan.

Suppose you were to conduct an honest survey of your friends and family about the issue of debt. You might be shocked at some of the numbers. Yes, we all carry debt. That person you seehaving a blast with their new car? They’re either paying on an installment plan with their carrier or getting slapped with huge finance charges every month as they pay off their credit card bill. The same thing applies for all those new iPhones you see people carrying around you.

Does knowing that everyone else is carrying debt ease your stress? Perhaps. However, the big difference is that you now have a plan for how to lower your debt.

Count your blessings.

Finally, you should take a moment each day to be grateful for what you have. This can cover the basics of food, shelter and clothing but counting your blessings can go a lot deeper. You can easily take plenty of things for granted, like having power every time you flip a switch or water whenever you turn on a faucet. Even having a friend you can count on means a lot.

If you really want to see how fortunate you are, then volunteer your time. Spend some time at a food bank or soup kitchen. You’ll see a lot of folks who wish they had what you have. Yet, those folks are still getting by. They’re resourceful and they haven’t given up no matter what lousy hand they’ve been dealt. Sharing your time with others can be a game changer for your attitude around money.