Lately, I have been sensing way more stressed. A number of excellent things have been befalling to me, but along with those real stuff comes stress. Recently, my associated agency offered me a raise, which brings with it a host of new liabilities. I am in the transformation phase now, which fundamentally means I am working both my old work and my new work as I migrate existing work to other employees and take on new work while learning the job. Harder yet – it is a management position with a new team who is still learning the ropes, and it is a highly technical leadership role. As a result, I have constantly put off work on my trade even though I have a very short list of things to do before launch. I am already working too many hours and finding time for my loved ones is hard enough.
Since I am feeling so many stressors at once, I thought I would put together a bingo list of stress reduction tactics I have used over the years along with my perceived cost of practice and short and long term benefits.
Excelling my list is meditation. The mode of sitting tranquil and trying to conceive nothing! I individually find Zen meditation to be the best, but each soul is different, so use whatever school works for you. If you have never come across this, it’s very easy to begin. Easily find a calm place where you will not be obstructed for a few moments, and there is as little distraction as possible. Relax on the floor or a chair with your back straight, close your eyes and try to have no thoughts come into your mind. If a thought comes, notice it and then immediately return to not thinking.
If you are honestly starting out, you can count each time you breathe in to help train your mind in the practice of avoiding thought. Count to 10 breaths, then restart at 1. Set a timer for 5 minutes and continue this for the entire time without breaking. As you get better, allow yourself to stop counting and increase the amount of time you sit for.
Benefits: Extremely relaxing, reduces stress, improves overall life quality, thought function and clarity.
Cost: It will probably add to stress the first few times you try it. Meditation takes practice and time. Completely worth it.
Tips: If you find it hard, use meetup to find local meditation groups which can help spur your growth. This may involve additional time and possibly money.
#2. Physical Exercise
Working out 5 days a week will do wonders for stress management. I always feel happier and more energetic while on a regular workout schedule. Unfortunately, I also haven’t been on a regular workout schedule for a year now, and need to get back to it.
I personally found the best routine to be about 30 minutes of weight lifting, followed by 30 minutes of hard cardio to be the best overall combination. Each day I would focus on a different part of the body for weight training.
Benefits: Long term health, less stress, morale booster, you are more aesthetically pleasing.
Cost: A lot of time, generally 1.5 hours a day for me when including travel/stretching/showering. You may also have to pay for gym membership and workout clothing.
Tips: 30 minutes of cardio is almost unbeatable as a motivational tool.
#3. Project Planning
I was once told that if you feel overwhelmed, make a list of things to do. This actually works. Make a detailed list outlining how to get from point A to point B. Once you are done, start executing, but by then a lot of stress will have gone away already. I also like to add in task dependencies, completion dates, required resources, and a host of other stuff and make it into a full-fledged project plan, but that’s a personal choice. The downside of this is that sometimes it shows you how much you have to do and can be de-motivating.
Benefits: remove the unknown from the stress, increases productivity.
Cost: May add to the stress, takes up significant time and effort.
Tips: Use excel or learn how to use project management software.
#4. Being Present
This is an incredible tactic I picked up during some of my most stressful times. When I am feeling overwhelmed, my immediate instinct is to start multi-tasking in an effort to complete as much as possible. Instead, focus only on what you are doing right now and on nothing else. If you are writing a blog, then focus only on the blog. If you are driving, then be present while driving – notice other people in their cars, the sounds of the road, the signs, and the sights you pass. Don’t let anything but what you are doing at this moment distract you.
Benefits: meditation-like clarity. Improves efficiency, sense of well being. I usually sigh in relief after about 30 seconds of being present in a non-working environment (walking/driving/waiting).
Cost: This is very hard to maintain.
Tips: Remind yourself how beautiful the world is if you look around, and how ineffective multi-tasking truly is. I also find it helps to remind myself that in the scheme of things, all my worries are petty things and I probably won’t remember them in years’ time.
#5. Eating Healthy
Another common thing I try to do when stressed is to grab quick and unhealthy food like a burger or a pizza. In the long run, this only slows you down and makes you feel terrible. Instead of grabbing a pizza, make a quick salad. Eating healthy will energize you more over the long run and improve your thinking, allowing you to get more done. Additionally, the release of positive chemicals such as B12 from a healthy diet will improve your mood and reduce stress and physical causes of stress.
Benefits: long term health, increased energy, improved thinking.
Cost: doesn’t taste as good, and takes willpower.
Tips: find a good juice bar and learn to love protein shakes.
Even with all of this stuff, you will feel stressed if you don’t take proper sleep. How many of you think a balanced work life and a good amount of sleep can reduce your stress load? You should aim for falling asleep fast.
Does anyone have some additional tips they can share so we can try out?