The dictionary defines stress as "a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances." In other words, it is completely made up. It is something that is completely mental. Nobody hands you a plate of stress and tells you to deal with it. These words are of course easier said than done especially when things don't work out in your favor or when there is a lot riding on your success.
Harms of Stress
Stress could cause some serious damage in your life. Stress causes bad moods, weight gain/loss, acne, lower sex drive, weaker immune system, trouble sleeping, depression, and the list goes on. People often tell themselves that they work best under stress. The honest truth is that they would work best if they only enjoyed the work.
My Relationship with Stress
I grew up as a total stress case, and I have spent years finding ways to reduce my stress or manage it better. At this point, I can take on much more responsibilities and work with higher stakes without stress causing issues with my life. I would like to share my story with you about how I achieved a lower stress life.
My stress levels were at their worse when I was in high school. It was about Junior and Senior year, and I had developed horrible stomach issues. The stomach issues caused me to have terrible pain and lead to me losing 15 lbs in a single month when they were at their worse. I saw multiple doctors, logged my diet, and even went gluten free for eight months. During a time when I was taking various A.P. classes, taking the SAT, working on my Eagle Scout project, and applying for colleges. My stomach issues didn't get better until I figured out how now to freak out over little things and not stress.
Creating Stress Solutions
One day I realized that this stress was completely mental and emotional. I was creating my stress and only I could remove it. Nobody came to me and said "here Brandon, please take this plate of stress." The stress is completing made up. It only causes issues and creates absolutely no benefit in my life. This realization guided me to come up with solutions to remove stress completely from my life. I came up with three main strategies to eliminate stress from my life. The first is to believe that no matter the outcome of a situation it would happen for the best. The second is to prevent me from feeling stress. The third is to recognize when stress is about to hit and stop it in its tracks.
1. Everything Happens for the Best
While this might not always be true, you can't change the past. Believing that everything happened for the best is a great way to ease your mind about situations that might not have worked out exactly how you wanted them to. It's a way to see everything in a positive light and could really make decision making easier.
To prove my point, I like to use one of the best learning lessons that I have had in my business. When I was 21 years old I got my first large job that was paying me just over $60,000. When I got the contract I did what any 21-year-old kid with no business experience would do and I let it go straight to my head. I hired a designer that was way too expensive and hired 5 full-time employees to manage the new workload. I thought that this project would be easily done in a month and I would be profiting at least $30k and at 21, that was a lot of money. Well, long story short, I didn't have the managing experience that was necessary and ended up in debt about $5,000. This was incredibly frustrating for me because even after working long hours for months, spending a ton of money, I ended up actually losing money on this project. I ended up borrowing the $5,000 from the client since he understood that it wasn't 100% my fault and I worked it off over the next six months.
Looking back at this situation I believe that it happened for the best. Although it was hard for me to go through I only lost $5,000, and even though that is a lot of money for a 21-year-old, it is so little compared to the cost of any college business degree but so much more valuable for me and my business. The situation also happened at a great time in my life as well. I had the luxury of living at home with my parents without responsibilities like taking care of a family or paying a mortgage. Because I had such a massive failure, I implemented plans to prevent future issues, and now when I manage much larger projects for important clients, I am much more confident in handling it. At the end of the day, this failure was one of the best educational investment I have ever made and the dividends come in every time I take on a new project.
Being able to believe that everything happens for the best has been able to help me eliminate stress from both past, present, and future situations.
There some key factors that I noticed caused stress for me. Things like lack of sleep, lack of physical exercise, procrastination, being overwhelmed by tasks, overworking, and too many deadlines all at once.
If possible, I like to find solutions that solve multiple problems for efficiency. An example of this was to create a better schedule for my life. On an average day, I will get up at 7 AM and go to gym (solving my lack of physical exercise issue) and I am back by 8:30 AM so I could start work at 9 AM. I work until 5 or 6 PM and make sure to take breaks throughout the day. Giving myself a limitation on how long I work helps me to avoid overworking so I remain highly productive throughout the week. At any point in time, I am always working on 10 to 15 projects so being overwhelmed by the task and having deadlines overlapping each other is a very thing. To solve this I invested in a whiteboard that covers an entire wall in my office, I keep lists written for each of my current projects and erase them as I complete tasks. Being able to visualize tasks helps me not to freak out about having a lot of work. The whiteboard also helps with keeping track of deadlines and gives me some control on staggering deadlines. Sometimes it could help just to push one project off a day or two to get two others finished. This visualization also helps me not to procrastinate because I can't wait to check off another item.
While having a whiteboard might not be the perfect solution for you, it is an example of what helps me prevent some stress. Everyone has different stress triggers and finding ways to resolve those triggers will help you beat stress before it happens.
No matter how good I get at preventing stress there still could be some situations that affect me. That's when I have to recognize that there may be an issue and figure out how to resolve it before it takes over and causes issues. Some possible solutions to manage stress when it starts are:
- Going to the gym
- Playing a video game
- Getting a massage
- Talking through the situation with a colleague
- Switch to an easier task
I completely understand stress is different for everyone and managing it is easier said than done. But believe me, reducing your stress will help you live a happier and longer life.