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When I was commuting this morning, I realized that the amount of time that I leave to catch the subway connects very strongly to my mood for the entire day. When I’m able to find a seat and relax with my coffee, all of the people bustling around me doesn’t bother me as much. Although sometimes people don’t want to hear it, anticipation and leaving extra time to get somewhere really does have an effect on your stress level and how you’ll feel the rest of the day. For “non-morning people,” this can be a constant struggle especially during the morning commute, but being earlier than the crowd promotes a sense of ease and can really shape the rest of your day by giving you a head start. Having extra time to just relax and catch up on your people watching definitely has its benefits. Here are some tips to keep up the pace in order to have a stress free day:

1. Always leave extra time to get somewhere, even if it’s a short distance away. I feel like this is a tip I’ve heard countless times from my family, but it’s really truer than people recognize. I’m always a half hour early to work because I catch the earlier train and have extra time in case the train’s delayed. This actually saved me one morning when the subway schedule was out of whack: because of the extra time I left, I was simply on-time rather than late. It causes much less stress when there’s no question that you’ll be there on-time.

2. Leave time for food while on the run. Without my coffee and breakfast foods, I’m not sure I’d be able to function in the morning and my mood would certainly be affected. Low blood sugar levels can be dangerous, especially if you’re driving a car or walking in a busy area. If you don’t put some food into your body by a certain time, it can cause light-headness and nausea, symptoms you don’t want following you around during the day. Make sure to keep hydrated and well-fed, as these can be make-it-or-break-its for the rest of the day.

3. Get enough sleep. I know, I know, this is difficult when you’re under deadlines and it’s hard to get to bed early when you also want to have a social life. However, this is definitely one of the most important tips to remember. A solid 7-8 hours every night should get you ready for the next morning – keep in mind that less than that will make you cranky, irritable, and more likely to find things wrong with your day. Being tired at the start of your day isn’t a positive feeling, but luckily caffeine can dull some of the side effects and make it a bit easier to function.

4. Realize that you’re not the only one. There are most likely other people thinking the same thing you are. That’s why people walk so fast – they have somewhere they need to go and they want to be on time. If you recognize that you’re not alone in your need to keep on top of deadlines then it’s much less stressful and you feel apart of a productive group of people.

5. Always be one step ahead of the game. For example, even if you’re leaving work on-time and are currently not stressed, make sure you know what time train you’re taking and what you’ll do if something goes wrong. It can be time-consuming, but in the end, you’ll thank yourself for continuing to be on top of everything. While I personally live my life in a more go-with-the-flow way (see: How To Be Optimistic And Go With The Flow), my best days are when I’m able to balance being optimistic and free with in-tact expectations for my day. Life is definitely easier when you’re able to sit back and enjoy it (when everything important has been taken care of, that is!).

Thinking ahead and keeping focused on your goals can cause stress, but also it can reduce stress by making them easier to manage. As a phrase I’ve heard goes, “How do you eat an elephant? In small chunks.” As long as you know what you need to do, you can succeed and be the strong, independent woman you’re meant to be!

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