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.
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
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.
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.
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.