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How I Keep My Sanity As A Designer

How I Keep My Sanity As A Designer

The truth is that there is no actual stress or anxiety in the world; it’s your thoughts that create these false beliefs.

You can’t package stress, touch it, or see it.

There are only people engaged in stressful thinking. –  Wayne Dyer

Deadlines, deadlines and more deadlines, this has been my life in the past couple of years due to a very difficult, challenging and intricate project.

Everyone in the office is pulling their hair out as the client’s Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) keep finding new and ‘creative’ ways to change their original brief and technical recommendations and now it has become a vicious circle.

It is almost like they keep changing their minds on purpose, but it is not so, when one works in a project of that magnitude and scope, there are things likely to go ‘amiss’ during the planning stages, and somehow these missing pieces are compounding to become an eternal barrage of modifications.

This is my life, the customer gets what he pays for and we make sure they do get that and more.

 

How do I keep sane during this challenging period?

These are some suggestions on how I keep my sanity during times of stress. Whether you are a Designer or not these principles can cross-pollinate to other industries and occupations, they are as follow:

 

Be like water my friend – Bruce Lee

I love Karate and Martial Arts in general, and Bruce Lee’s advice transcends age and time.

When we become rigid in our attitudes there is no room for adjustment and sometimes we have to allow some ‘wiggle room’ in order to accomplish our objectives.

Life, career and love will throw a few curve balls and by being docile we accept sometimes we have to take a different path to get to our goals and it is far less stressful if we keep an open mind.

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I use humor (laugh, laugh, laugh)

It is encouraged in the Special Forces to use humor to channel stress and keep a positive state of mind even when there seems no way out.

Laughter releases ‘endorphins’ which is our inbuilt happy drug, this helps us prolong our lives and improve our health when it’s naturally released and laughter is the key.

I have a favorite comedian; the late Robyn Williams, he had this ability to make anyone laugh with the simplest of skits.

Eddie Murphy’s ‘Raw’ and ‘Delirious’ always help me snap out of a grim spell, Eddie takes me back to when I was a teen.

If I am in a real desperate need for a laugh, Dave Chapelle’s old comedy shows cracks me right up.

 

Read about role models and draw inspiration from them

When I am stuck in a ‘hole’, I find inspiration from reading the following Greats:

Sir Norman Foster             – Architecture

Daniel Libeskind                – Architecture

Frank Lloyd Wright            – Architecture

Leonardo Da Vinci             – Inventor, Artist, Architect

Stephan Sagmaister          – Graphic and Visual Design

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Max Miedinger                  – Swiss Graphic Designer and Typographist

Ken Done                           – Australian painter and artist

Jean-Michel Basquiat       – Painter (RIP)

Don Norman                      – UX and Human Centered Design

Stanley Kubric                    – Cinematographer

Tony Robbins                     – Life coach and entrepeneur.

Wayne Dyer                       – Spiritual teacher

Neil Kramer                       – Modern Day Philosopher

I find reading about these inspiring gentlemen a real treat for my soul, they are my role models and I would try to adopt as many of their qualities as I can. I picture myself in their position and that makes me feel better about myself.

 

Exercise and Sports

I love Karate and I also have a gym set up at home, and after a stressful day in the office my wife and I find ourselves working out together listening to music we both like.

Not only do we channel all the frustration and negativity out, but funny enough we bond and find solutions to many challenges we are seeking answers to.

When you spend most of the day staring at a computer screen, there is not a lot of movement taking place, there is a slight muscle atrophy and if under constant duress (as most graphic designers) aches and pains will develop.

By ‘moving’ we also focus on the activity at hand, we clear our thoughts and like a computer we dump useless information that no longer serve us.

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Spend time in nature

Spend time in the woods or at the beach, take yourself away from the city and you will see how wonderful it feels to leave it all behind, whether for a few hours, a day, long weekend or a few.

In Melbourne, we are very lucky we have small parks in every suburb, and I go for a walk every morning tea time for 20 minutes when the weather is good.

Not only is it a good ‘pick me up’ during the day, but it is nice to see other people doing the same, we usually say good morning and it is a great way to bond with other people and is specially extra nice when they take the time to ask you how you are going.

 

Reward yourself for those little wins

When you have a ‘breakthrough’ reward yourself, it doesn’t need to be something big, it can be something as small as a cup of coffee, a muffin, buying lunch or a quick drink after work.

Why reward yourself? Because, it gives you motivation for the next win, re-enforces positive behaviour (good habits) and also makes the effort worth the while.

It is also good on a psychological level because ‘all work and no play, makes your world all grey’ this is my own variation, feel free to use it.

Find your tribe, support network

When the chips are down it is important to have people who will support you and give you that much needed assist to get you out of the mess.

It is important to gravitate to people who have a positive attitude because not only will they be willing to help you, they are likely to have others like them who can potentially come to your aid.

If you have a ‘tribe’ you are a lucky person, but if you don’t, find solutions because they operate at a higher vibration.

If you want to grow, do not spend time with negative people, as they have a problem for every solution, life is way too short.

 

You are not your just your job

Society has taught us we have to define ourselves with what we do for a living and this has originated since the beginning of civilization.

This is where a lot of Old English surnames or last names come from: Tailor, Blacksmith, Arrowsmith, Spinner, Weaver, Baker, Clark, Carter etc.

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Think about it this way, you are way more than your occupation, you are a father, mother, brother, sister, friend, grandpa, grandma, etc. and there is no one else like you in the world, and even if they could clone you there would be a few differences here and there.

When down, I remember I am the winning sperm out of 400,000,000 others.

When I am facing challenges, I remind myself I am the winning sperm out of 400,000,000 and if I made it here I can pretty much accomplish anything if I put my mind to it.

I constantly ask the question: ‘How can I be of a greater service to others’ and one of the answers so far is to be kind, compassionate and caring to other people.

But my burning question is: ‘How can I become better at whatever I do’ that is, having the greatest impact, because this transcends occupation, this delves into the realm of purpose and my own mission in life.

 

Connecting to ‘Source’

This puts things in perspective and helps me raise my vibration, connection to source, God, Yahweh, or whoever you believe in.

I am not preaching Religion, I am preaching ‘Faith’ in yourself and your ability to manifest what you want in life with the help of our Divine Creator regardless of what you call him or her.

We have to start listening to that inner voice and block out all the noise around us, the TV, news, ads, internet, smartphone, sex, drug, rock’n’roll, Justin Beaver, Kylie Minogue, etc. are craving for our attention, and sometimes we need to block them out to listen to your own voice.

There are many people out there who think (preach) to know the truth, but have they ever walked a mile in your shoes? Unless they have, how do they know is best for me or you?

 

You and I are in control of our own destiny

And as a last point, we have been taught we have no power over our own lives, but it is not true, we have the power to make anything happen, all we have to do is to have a vision, develop a plan/strategy and be willing to work hard for it.

By bettering myself and improving my skills I feel more confident about the future and takes away a lot of the uncertainty I feel about the future, every person at some point is concerned about the future, take charge and manifest a better tomorrow by improving yourself now.

If you feel you are stuck in your job, do some online courses, every skill counts and it will look favorable on you CV. Believe it or not, studying has helped me focus on other things rather than the stress of work as it has given me the skills and confidence to solve problems at a higher level.

If you have any other ways you deal with stress, please comment below, let us get the conversation started.

More by this author

Louis Salguero

UX, HCD, UCD, GUI, graphic and web designer

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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