When we’re stressed, we tend to become more stressed. That’s because when we’re rushed and harried, we cut corners. We don’t take the time to do the little things that, though not difficult or time-consuming themselves, can end up saving enormous amounts of time and trouble.

For example, buying stamps isn’t stressful, and buying a roll of stamps isn’t any more stressful than buying twenty stamps, but realizing that you’ve run out of stamps when you’ve waited to the last possible day to mail something is STRESSFUL.

And it seems to be a natural law that every car’s gas gauge hits “Empty” at the moment of maximum inconvenience.

As a kid, I was puzzled by the meaning of the old saying, “A stitch in time saves nine.”

Now I know what it means. And it’s a very sensible saying. It means that if you make one stitch when it’s needed, you’ll save yourself the trouble of having to make nine stitches later.

Similarly, one of the best ways to lower the stress level in your life is to discipline yourself to do the little things that will help keep stress at bay.

These tasks don’t seem particularly important, and they’re easy to skip when you’re rushed, but if neglected, they can snowball into major stress.

So, if you feel like your stress level is high, try to tick off some items on this list. A little effort now means a lot less stress, later.

  1. Go to bed thirty minutes earlier than usual.
  2. Get up thirty minutes earlier than usual.
  3. Before you go to sleep, prepare for the morning.
  4. Bring a hat and an umbrella.
  5. Don’t wear tight clothes or uncomfortable shoes.
  6. Make a list.
  7. Listen to a favorite song.
  8. Keep extra cash and stamps in the house.
  9. Be polite and be fair.
  10. Laugh out loud.
  11. Have a good book to read.
  12. Keep an extra set of keys.
  13. Exercise.
  14. Always keep your passport in the same place.
  15. Throw something away.
  16. Don’t say mean things about other people.
  17. Put a Bandaid in your wallet.
  18. Keep gas in the car.
  19. Pay attention to someone else.
  20. Make your bed.

What am I overlooking? Can you think of other suggestions for little steps to ward off stress? I’m sure we all need them.

Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home and Better Than Before. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.


Image courtesy of Mia Moessinger.