Are you a list maker? I love lists. I keep lists of tasks and to-do items, in both electronic and paper form. And I love crossing things off my lists and marking them as complete. If you’re a list person, you know that feeling of satisfaction.

I also prioritize items on my list. Items on the electronic list can be numbered, sorted by priority, then renumbered easily as priorities shift because they always do. On paper lists, I’ll put a big star in front of the priority items so I can see them easily until I can mark them off.

My prioritized lists help me reduce my stress level, knowing I can relax and just refer to them when I can’t remember what I’m supposed to get done. Lists help me focus when I have too many things to keep in my head. Sometimes if I don’t put an item on a list it falls off the plate, which brings me to my point… I even put myself on my priority list. When things start falling off the plate, it’s time for a break.

It’s a known fact that taking breaks from a busy schedule increases productivity and creativity while decreasing stress. A break can be a brief rest from physical work, a mental break during intense thinking and decision-making tasks, or emotional release during stressful chores.

Ways to take a short break will vary with the type of activity and work being done. During physical work, simply being still for a few minutes and getting some water or a snack can help when feeling tired. Mental breaks can be taken with a few minutes of mindful breathing, meditation, walking, listening to music you love, and even just changing the focus of your task. Emotional release can also be found through mindful breathing, but my favorite technique to deal with stressful tasks is Emotional Freedom Techniques or tapping. A three-minute tapping break helps me get out of the “OMG” mode, so I think clearly, act efficiently, and feel more confident and at ease.

Taking short breaks can become a habit with regular practice. Begin to notice when you’re at your wits’ end and then choose your favorite way to quickly break the routine for a few minutes. Soon you’ll begin to take a mindful breath or go outside for a few minutes of walking almost on autopilot.

Taking an extended break can look like an entire afternoon set aside to rest and relax, or a morning to sleep in. It might be taking a long walk at a park or an easy picnic lunch outside. Even longer breaks help from time to time to really get away on all levels. A week in the mountains or at the beach is ideal to relieve physical, mental, and emotional stress.

But taking these longer breaks means you need to put yourself on your own priority list! For example, create a list item to plan your break, make it a priority, and then do it! Set aside the time for the break on your calendar as a non-negotiable, otherwise, the time will fill up with the nonstop tasks that keep you busy and stressed out. Do you start to feel guilty when you think about taking a long break? Tapping can definitely help with that, too!

Make it a point to get on your own priority list. Identify things that make you smile and then do them or plan them daily. You matter! And you are worthy of taking the time to make yourself a priority when stress is wreaking havoc in your life.

Please remember: It's important to contact a professional if things feel too big for you, whether it be a physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, or certified EFT practitioner. Never discontinue your current medications without first consulting your doctor.