Why Living One Day At A Time Lowers Stress

By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen
Tribune News Service

Do you feel depressed thinking about your major and minor problems?

Maybe you have ten or more stressful situations all demanding attention now.

While you can’t usually resolve a lot of problems in one day, you can focus on living one day at a time to preserve your sanity.

Here’s how it works:

-Stop focusing on what went wrong yesterday. Thinking about a quarrel you had with someone last week will use up your strength. Instead, look for solutions that cool tension right now.

-Don’t worry about how to deal with tomorrow. Instead, make reasonable decisions you can implement today that will prepare you for tomorrow. For instance, if you allow your mind to rest for half an hour and then work on writing a document for a couple of hours, that’s all you can do. Staying up half the night working on your computer only increases stress.

-Keep track of your decisions each day. This will steer your life in the right direction. Remember: your life is largely defined by all the decisions you’ve ever made.

The idea of living one day at a time is all about tuning out static. None of us can focus well or function at our best, if we’re constantly worrying.

“I had a sick spouse and a sick child in two different hospitals,” says a friend of ours we’ll call Joann. “I’m a sixth grade teacher myself, and I had two other children at home during this time.”

Joann says that she didn’t have the luxury to worry. “I had to focus on my husband’s issues and work with my parents to look after my sick child.”

She told us that calling in help from friends and neighbors wasn’t easy. “But,” she says, “I swallowed my pride and did it. I really focused on each 24-hour period.”

Jumping backward or forward to worry about yesterday or tomorrow will take a lot of energy. That’s why it’s good to let go of any negativity you can as you move through life.

“After my divorce, I forced myself to stop looking back,” says a man we’ll call Ron. “I honestly spent about six hours a day thinking about my failed relationship. I was a mess. Then, I started worrying about my future. That didn’t work either.”

Ron says he finally put effort into the 24 hours in front of him. “I got up each day with a plan to work, exercise at the gym, visit a friend, have dinner and read a good book,” he told us. “I did much better at my job when I increased my focus. I lost some weight and got in better shape by going to the gym. Before, I’d drive around and drink a high-calorie milkshake while I felt sorry for myself.”

Ron finally met a nice lady, and he’s in a good dating relationship.

“Focusing on using time wisely gives you a renewed sense of power,” says Ron.

Other people can tell if you’ve taken control of your time and personal energy. If you have, this is attractive to someone who is also looking for a dating partner.

We all give off vibes to others about how harmonious we feel.

Other people will enjoy blending their emotional energy with yours, if you’re sharply focused and not feeling sorry for yourself. Any of us can easily take on a worried demeanor if we get overwhelmed with yesterday’s issues and what we need to do tomorrow.
(Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website USA Wellness Cafe, Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)

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