Life is stressful and overwhelming; that’s just the nature of the beast. Unfortunately, it’s far too common to get caught up in the whirlwind of our daily responsibilities and let things slide along the way — important things, such as our physical health, our relationships, or even our emotional wellbeing. If you’re feeling frazzled or depressed, or if you sense that some aspect of your life is out of control, read on. Following are twelve ways to get your life back in order, and better yet, to transform it into the life you’ve always dreamed of. Just make sure, once you start utilizing the following tips, to focus on only one thing at a time — one project, change or step. Trying to take on too much at once will only backfire; you’ll end up feeling scattered and overwhelmed, and just spinning your wheels. But if you take it slowly, over time you can become the ideal version of yourself — the confident, contented, emotionally balanced and effective person you’ve always been inside.
1. Visualize the life you want to lead. This is the first and most important step in getting your life together. After all, you can’t get where you’re going until you can envision where that is. Do you want less clutter in your home? Better health? A loving relationship? A fulfilling career? Spend five or 10 minutes — or longer — sitting quietly, imagining what your goal looks and feels like. This creates a sort of road map in your mind — where you want to go from here.
2. Identify habits, vices and behaviors that are holding you back from the life you envision. Do you spend too much money on frivolous things? Do you waste your weekends drinking or partying instead of exercising or getting things accomplished? Do you spend time with people — friends or family members — who make you feel bad about yourself, or who convince you that you’ll never improve your life? Whatever you’re doing that’s holding you back, it’s time to identify it, so you can change it for good.
3. Make one positive change. Eliminate cigarettes or alcohol from your life; start eating two vegetables per day; cut up your credit cards or freeze them in a bag of water so they’re off-limits. Whatever it is, make just one change that will have a positive effect on your life. Expect it to take at least three weeks to adjust to this change, if not longer. During this transition period, be patient and gentle with yourself; it’s tough to make such a profound shift. But give yourself time, and you’ll incorporate this change into the new you — and then you can make another change, and after that, another.
4. Simplify your living and working spaces. Live by the rule that everything around you should have true value, whether functional, aesthetic or sentimental. Anything that doesn’t fall into at least one of those three categories needs to go. Take a weekend to get rid of anything broken or unused — old clothes you no longer wear, that busted blender taking up space on your kitchen counter, those stacks of outdated magazines you’re never going to read. In your office, get rid of dried-up pens, recycle old papers, and file away everything you possibly can. Scouring your surroundings, clearing off surfaces and getting rid of anything unnecessary creates a wonderful sense of internal calm — psychic space, if you will, that is reflected by the newly cleared space around you.
5. Set reminders on your Smartphone or computer for important dates and events. This is useful for everything from remembering your mother’s birthday to making sure you pay your credit card bill on time. Everything from tasks you routinely forget to things that just might slip your mind deserves a spot in your reminders list. You can even set regular reminders to call that long-distance friend you want to connect with but rarely make time for. In no time at all, you’ll become the most on-top-of-it person around.
6. Begin each day with a clear and manageable to-do list. You have a much greater chance of staying on track and accomplishing your goals, large and small, if you make a plan first. But don’t be too ambitious; be realistic about what you can reasonably achieve in one day. List just two to four items, in order of importance, with the most important item first. Cross off each item once you’ve completed it, to give yourself that enjoyable sense of accomplishment. And if you aren’t able to get to the last item or two, don’t berate yourself for it; simply reprioritize it for tomorrow, or reconsider whether it’s truly that important in the grand scheme of things. You may find that you didn’t get around to it because it just didn’t matter.
7. Engage the services of a professional. This could be anyone from a counselor or therapist to a career or financial advisor, a nutritionist or personal trainer, or even a professional organizer or housecleaner. If there’s a particular area of your life that’s making you feel extremely stuck or unhappy, know that you deserve — and may genuinely need — professional help to manage it. Whether you simply can’t keep up with the housework but can’t stand living with clutter; you want to get fit and healthy but can’t seem to make it happen; your job leaves you feeling dead inside at the end of each day; or there’s an issue from your past or present that is weighing you down, it’s time to deal with it head-on. And if you can’t do so on your own, that isn’t a failure on your part. It simply means you need some outside help.
8. Get regular exercise. Depression and anxiety are two of the biggest factors that keep people from being their ideal selves and living the lives they want to lead — and exercise has been shown to be as effective as medication at managing these emotional states.
9. Set aside some quiet alone time each day. Even if it’s just five or ten minutes, use this time to reconnect with your inner self. View it as a sort of meditation — especially if you’re the type of person who is uncomfortable with silence or being by yourself. Gradually, you’ll get used to the inner stillness created during these moments; over time, you’ll start to crave it.
10. Volunteer. Giving of your time and energy to a person, group or organization in need isn’t just good for others; it’s also good for you, since it creates empathy along with a wonderful feeling of usefulness.
11. Be honest with yourself about your past mistakes, so you can learn from them. This one hardly needs explanation. Once you can see your own mistakes clearly, you can learn from them and move on — and let yourself off the hook for making them in the first place. Which leads to the last tip for getting your life together...
12. Forgive yourself and others. Forgiveness isn’t the same as pretending that a hurt or a wrong didn’t matter. It is, however, essential for attaining a sense of peace within yourself. Once you can forgive other people for the things they did that hurt you — and forgive yourself for your own perceived mistakes, ignorance or self-destructive behavior — you can free yourself from that burden of pain. Then, you can truly move forward and embrace the life you’re meant to live.