Secrets To A Less Stressful Life

In our hectic lives, we leave little room to carve out space for ourselves. Here are some ways to create a less-stressed lifestyle.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

ah, the serenity. There you are, the sand between your toes and the wind in your hair but when the vacation ends, it doesn’t take long for the pressures of work and daily life to take over. That’s why we’ve put together a toolkit of handy stress-busting habits so you can weave a little serenity into your life every day for the rest of the year – even during the busiest of schedules.

Create Buffers

Like a cup filled to the brim with anxieties, we carry the pressures and concerns of one sphere into another, ending up overwrought and overwhelmed. You may arrive home frazzled after being stuck in traffic or with lingering work challenges bouncing around your brain so you’re only half listening to your loved ones or, if you live alone, never truly able to switch off and chill. In the morning, you may arrive at work run ragged by the kids, or still fraught after battling to find parking. It’s important, therefore, to mark the transition between one sphere and the other so you can hit pause and regroup. Here are some simple ways to create a buffer between one realm and another:


When you arrive home from work or your otherwise busy day, don’t dash into the house but sit in the car for five minutes and try a simple meditation or breathing exercise. Apps like Headspace or Buddhify offer short, do-anywhere guided meditations and mindfulness sessions designed for people on the go. By doing this you send a mental signal to yourself that it’s time to let go of the work day and enter your personal realm. Even if you have to continue working later in the evening (not ideal, but hey, it happens), you’ll walk through the door ready to greet the kids/partner/cat in a calm and loving frame of mind. Do this in the morning too so you can commence your tasks with your mental desk free of clutter. Better still, park the car a little further away so you can walk and enjoy 10 minutes of your favourite podcast or music. On a Friday, perhaps make a date with yourself to have a cafe breakfast en route to the office as a “Yay, I made it through the week!” celebration.


Yes, really, it’s that simple. There’s a saying “dress for the job you want” – so why not apply this to your private sphere too? If you want your domestic job title to be “Calm, Relaxed Individual”, then have a shower, get comfy, and the “Office You” will take the hint and slip quietly out the door. Yes, everyone will want your attention and the groceries may need unpacking or the washing machine has to be unloaded, but be firm. Delegate the jobs or simply say,“Give me 10” and disappear. It’s easy to blame everyone else for not letting you relax – the fact is, it’s up to you to enforce it. They’ll soon get used to the habit, and you’ll be a much nicer person to be around for it.


This can be anything from five minutes’ stretching (once you’re out of your work clothes, of course) to lighting a fragrant candle, making a cuppa (and sitting to drink it!), going for a brisk walk or watering the plants in the garden. Whatever relaxes you, do it as soon as you get home. This will set the tone for the rest of the evening. The start of the day is usually more rushed but you can still set the alarm five to 10 minutes earlier to allow you time to establish a daily habit like sitting outside, stretching, meditating, writing in a journal or even going for a quick walk around the block. At the end of the week, mark the start of the weekend in some way. Get the kids to help you set the table with candles and/or flowers; have “Takeout Friday”; make Friday games night… whatever floats your boat.


Deepak Chopra lists poetry as one of his keys to happiness. And there’s nothing that calms the mind and silences the cacophony of our thoughts better than some beautiful lyrical writing.You don’t have to focus on a plot, just the words. If you’re new to poems, here are some good “gateway” collections: And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou; The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems by Billy Collins; Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur or Love: Poems by Pablo Neruda. Anthologies are also good, such as A Poem for Every Day of the Year, edited by Allie Esiri.

My Reading Room
My Reading Room

Connect With The Spiritual

In our more secular times, any of us can feel that a sense of higher purpose is missing in our lives. Every day can become a slog in which we’re just struggling to meet the mortgage or rent payment. But there are ways to tap into our spiritual sides, even in our modern busy world. Try these:


The most time-poor among us can take five minutes to get outside and contemplate the natural world – even if it’s just the flowers in our (or other people’s) gardens or the trees at the side of the road. And on weekends, instead of hitting the mall, make time to be active outside – ideally a stroll on the beach or through a public garden, but even a walk through a city park can do wonders to lift the spirits. Take this time to be fully in the moment, noticing the sounds, smells and visual pleasures of the natural world. And for the best possible kind of natural connection, don’t forget to kick off your shoes and feel the grass between your toes.


Compassion is a cornerstone of spirituality, and you can practise this daily, in the smallest of ways. Pay it forward at a cafe, tell someone how much you appreciate them, let someone into the traffic lane with a smile, let an elderly person or someone with young kids into the supermarket checkout queue in front of you, take flowers to a friend who’s been feeling down, write a letter, ask your partner or a friend how they are and listen without launching into how your day was… the possibilities are infinite. Stress thrives on self-absorption so by taking the focus off yourself, you’ll be doing yourself the power of good too.


Yes, you’ve heard it a million times before – and that’s because it works. Recover that sense of ceremony by doing some small task with awareness, focus and purpose. Make yourself a lovely herbal tea (treat yourself to a pretty cup and saucer), wait for it to brew in the pot, and drink it without doing anything else. Wash the dishes and focus only on that. Don’t multi-task when brushing your teeth or eating breakfast. Commute without listening to music, the radio or a podcast and simply notice what is going on around you.

How Real Women Cope
We got two busy women to share with us how they manage and deal with stress on the daily
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Joan Liew

Early 40s, International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) Pro Athlete

As Singapore’s first IFBB Pro to compete at the upcoming Women’s Physique in USA, Joan shares that with a busy schedule every day, she tends to multitask a lot just to maximise time. “Sometimes, the multitasking becomes too often and too much, and when that happens I start to get stressed out,” says Joan. The competitive bodybuilder who recently launched her book The Skinny Sumo Wrestler, shares that to deal with stress she reminds herself to be mindful of her state of stress, to be aware of it before it gets overwhelming.

On how she copes with stress, the fitness and nutrition expert shares that daily exercise is the most effective way for her. “I train with weights daily and that helps to calibrate my mind when I get a couple of hours off work to focus on my workout. I feel very energised after because my blood circulation is better.” 
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Thong Xin Ling

29, Corporate Banking Analyst

Working in corporate banking is often fast-paced and high-stress. Xin Ling shares that she faces stress when she encounters the challenge of hitting corporate targets and rising up to customers’ urgent requests. “The tight timelines are definitely some of the aspects that are stressful at work,” shares Xin Ling.

To stay calm, she gives a mental prep talk to remind herself to do the best. “By taking deep breaths and having a quick 5-minute pantry break helps to soothe the anxiety. Also, having lunch and talking it out with fellow colleagues always help as well.” Ranting about the issues we face at work always helps to relieve the pent-up stress. Don’t bottle it up.

When things get overwhelming, she would go for a run to release stress. “I almost always feel better after having a good workout,” confides Xin Ling.