A business friend told me once that unfortunately, it took a heart attack at age 40 to make him realise the way most of us do business is not healthy. In his case, it was the constant stress due to running a small business that caused the heart attack… and forced him to re-evaluate his life.
Most of us live with chronic distress. Often we’ve become so accustomed to it that we don’t even realise it until we take a few weeks’ holidays and physically feel the stress melt away.
Stress is not all bad. Without stress, there would be no reason to change, to try harder, or innovate. Stress can become excitement. It can become motivation. This type of stress is called eustress.
However, stress becomes a problem when it becomes chronic distress. Distress leads to physical problems, inhibits problem-solving, and diminishes the enjoyment of life.
The good news is that you can train yourself to become less reactive and therefore less stressed.
Seven Ways To Manage Stress
Stress management is a daily practice.
1: Identify the stressors.
Some stressors are obvious: heavy commuter traffic, negative cash flow, etc. Dig deeper. Own your role in situations that cause you stress.
- Are you stressed about deadlines because you’re overworked… or because you procrastinate?
- Are you stressed about traffic… or because you don’t give yourself enough time to comfortably get to work?
- Say “no” more, especially if the request causes anxiety and resentment.
- Avoid drama, violence, and negativity (limit TV and toxic people).
- Take a less-travelled if the longer route to work.
- Live within your means; consume less; get rid of all unneeded possessions.
Rule #1 of life—and work—is, “You will never get it all done.” Even if you diligently tick off every item on your to-do list, more will magically appear almost instantly.
- Shift your focus from getting everything done to doing what matters most.
- Manage your time: know what you can realistically handle, don’t overcommit, do the important tasks first, delegate, and forget the rest.
- Put yourself first. Do more of what makes you happy
A situation just “is.” Your interpretation determines your response. It IS raining… Traffic IS heavy… Your boss IS demanding something you can’t deliver. But are these necessarily stressful? No. You can’t always control events, but you can always control your interpretation and your response. Practice interpreting a situation so that it’s not about something happening “to” you; reinterpret it as something neutral.
5: Burn it off.
Exercise helps release stress hormones and takes your mind off your worries. Don’t have time? Prioritise and simplify, and you’ll find plenty of time to exercise every day.
Many people have a negative view of meditation: they believe it’s difficult, or that they have to chant some weird mantra or sit for hours in an uncomfortable Lotus position. Not at all! A simple way to unplug from your worries is to focus on your breath. Listen to it! Feel it! 5 minutes of focusing exclusively on the breath is a pause that allows you to approach any situation from a calmer state.
When you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, spend more time with people! People aren’t there to fix your problems, but they can inspire you, and be compassionate listeners. Share a laugh about life’s absurdities!
In One Year…
Stress management begins with a decision to see things from a more neutral perspective, and practising being less reactive.
In one year, you won’t remember most of the things that stress you out today!