Did you know that stress can reduce your life expectancy? Actually the constant strain of being under stress can also increase the likelihood of developing chronic illness in your life.Reducing stress and learning how to control it, can make a huge difference to the quality of your life. Keeping a positive attitude as you get older reduces the harmful effects of stress.

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another ~William James

There is opportunity for stress to impact us each day. For example, what happens when you are running late and something goes wrong? Do you lose your patience in a frustrating situation and become angry?What causes that anger?I used to think it was the fault of the other person, or things just not going my way.  But what if time was really the only factor that tipped the balance between controlling your temper and losing it.As an example, consider my morning drive to work.Now 10 years ago, it used to take 7-8 minutes on average. Fast forward to 2012 and now it can take anywhere between 15-25 minutes depending on how many red traffic lights I get stuck  at.  Then if you throw in some roadworks, a car accident and the annoying train crossings, then it can be quite a pain in the …Take a deep breath David.Now some mornings the drive to work, despite bumper to bumper traffic, can be quite pleasant- the radio plays a couple of songs that I like so I sing along.  Some days I might just ponder and reflect as I make my way.At other times I really struggle not to get frustrated and infuriated.Why?  Why does this happen?The factor that tipped the balance is time.Generally I am quite an easy going individual and it takes quite a bit to make me mad.  Maybe I was running late and so now I feel that time is working against me. Everything seems to be taking longer than normal.Actually time hasn’t changed- it’s how I have managed my time that has changed.Maybe I slept in, maybe I had too late a night or maybe I tried to do too much before heading off to work.So what I have discovered is that the less time I feel I have, the closer that deadline is, and the more I feel like I am running out of time, then my stress levels start to skyrocket.

In other words less time means more stress … and more stress means more frustration and anger

So how can we manage our time better so as not to increase our stress.Well let’s learn a little bit about stress.

Stress is defined by how you interpret the events that occur- how you react and adapt. Stress in short doses can be good for forcing us to work harder and faster and sometimes it helps get a better job done.  But stress in our bodies over the long term weakens our immune system and can lead to health problems such as mental health disorders, like depression and anxiety, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and skin problems.

To reduce stress we need to react less negatively and with less hostility. We should accept that changes are an inevitable part of life.

Try to develop some stress resistant traits: sense of humour, be creative, be happy, relax more, be content and satisfied, calm, easy going, cheerful, self-confident, and be active.

Time is the factor that can tip the balance so how can we manage our time better?There are lots of great ideas out there for making the most of your time:Here are some of my favourites:

1.      Keep a log for a week – if you don’t know where your time goes, try keeping a log for a week. At the end of each day, evaluate the tasks that you spent your time on, and ask yourself- did I really need to do this, could someone else have done this, am I doing the things that are important to me?2.      Get an early start. If you go into work 20-30 minutes earlier that normal you’ll find that it can be quite productive to make a start before every one else.3.      Do priority work during your “peak performance” time – so if you’re most effective in the morning then set aside time in the morning to tackle what is most important to you.4.      Set time limits on projects and work- some tasks are not worth spending hours on.5.      Be decisive and act immediately to implement your decisions.6.      Expect interruptions but try to allocate a time to deal with them.  If you can batch distractions together then the rest of your time will be more effective.7.      Focus on one thing at a time- how often do we start something, and then start something else, and then start something else…. try to focus on starting and finishing one thing at a time. Give all your attention to that one thing.8.      Automate what you can- for example if you find yourself typing out a similar email response all the time, then set up a template.   If you find yourself answering the same questions over and over then set up a FAQs page on your website and refer people to that page.  Set up an auto responder on your emails to give best contact times or methods of communication and other details that people might ask.9.      Say “no”- you can’t do everything- refer to someone else or sometimes you just have to say no.10.  Try the pomodoro technique to make yourself work in shorter more effective blocks of time with regular breaks.  Essentially you need a kitchen timer and you work in blocks of 25 minutes with 5 minute breaks in between.  The maximum you work on one task is 4 pomodoros before taking a longer break.  This technique can be good for improving efficiency.

So what should I do tomorrow to gain some time and lose some stress.  Probably number 2 will help me there.So tip the balance back in your favour and gain in time, lose the stress.What do you think?  Do you find you stress more when you have less time? Do the ideas help or have you got some great ones to offer?