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Take It Easy: 12 Ways to Kill Stress Before Stress Kills You!

Take It Easy: 12 Ways to Kill Stress Before Stress Kills You!

There’s been a lot of fuss around the blogs about the New York Time’s silly article about bloggers killing themselves. It’s clear to anyone who reads it — and should have been clear to the reporter, Matt Richtel, even before he wrote it — that blogging isn’t killing anyone. Writers don’t blog ’til they drop.

Rather, Richtel offers a picture of several driven bloggers who, quite simply, worked too hard. Not all bloggers work too hard. Not even most bloggers work too hard. But some do — just as some engineers, politicians, landscape designers, pet groomers, phone psychics, agricultural product marketing specialists, computer technicians, telephone sanitizers, and vampire hunters work too hard.

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I can see the headline now: “In World of 24/7 Politicking, Vice Presidents Hold Secret Meetings Till They Drop”.

Bloggers working themselves to death is not a trend. The fact that it was notable enough for the deaths and illnesses reported in the story to pop up on the reporter’s radar is proof of that. Dozens of corporate executives will have heart attacks while I’m writing this post — a trend the media won’t even notice.

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But working too hard, that is a trend. Working too hard until your health begins to suffer, that too is a trend. Allowing your life to be driven by stress, driven so hard that it kills you — that is a trend, and an unfortunate one indeed.

Stress Kills

Researchers suggest that as much as 60-90% of illnesses are directly caused by or exacerbated by stress. Stress is related to major illnesses like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, but can also cause back pain, headaches, tooth grinding, upset stomach and digestive problems, sleep loss and exhaustion, skin problems, unhealthy weight gain or loss, and of course, loss of sex drive. And that’s just the bodily symptoms: stress is linked to depression, anxiety, mood swings, confusion, restlessness, irritability, insecurity, forgetfulness, and a host of other negative mental and behavioral symptoms.

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For all that, stress is often worn as a badge of accomplishment in our society. It’s not enough that we compete to see who can do the most, but we compete to see who can handle the most stress doing it. With such an unhealthy attitude towards stress, it’s no wonder that stress-related illnesses are so common.

Kill Stress

The only way to minimize the negative effects of stress is to minimize the stress itself — to identify the sources of stress in your life and either a) eliminate them, or b) rethink them to reduce the stress they cause. Note that this doesn’t include only the things we hate in our lives; stress can be caused just as easily by positive, life-affirming events as it can by negative events. Getting married, having a baby, getting a promotion, planning a kids’ birthday party, or taking a vacation can be just as stressful as dealing with your overbearing boss for 8 hours a day or coming up on a big deadline.

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Since the big positive changes in our lives can be just as stressful as the negative ones, dealing with stress can’t be simply a matter of getting rid of everything that stresses you out. Instead, you need to develop practices and a mindset that dissipate and reduce the inevitable stress of life itself.

For starters:

  1. Make quiet time: Whether you meditate daily, go to the gym three times a week, practice yoga, go hiking on the weekends, or just spend an hour a night with a book, you need to create a space where you can clear your mind of everything that’s dragging at you.
  2. Stop procrastinating: You can put off important tasks, but you can’t put off worrying about them — and the stress that causes.
  3. Write everything down: If forgetting something would cause you stress, make sure you’ve got it written down in a trusted system so you know you won’t forget.
  4. Eat better: A good diet can help your body better deal with the effects of stress. A healthy diet isn’t all that complicated; as Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, puts it, Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. As a general rule, eat as much as you can from the “edges” of your supermarket — produce, bakery, butcher counter, dairy case — and save the stuff in the “middle” for once-in-a-while — Twinkies, Pop Tarts, potato chips, canned foods, instant meals, etc.
  5. Make family time: Try to eat at least one meal a day with your family (or with friends if you’re single). Better yet, eat at least one homecooked meal a day with your family/friends.
  6. Talk it out: Bottling up your frustrations, even the little ones, leads to stress. Learn to express dissatisfaction (in a constructive, non-hurtful way) and to voice your worries and fears to someone close to you.
  7. Prioritize: Figure out what in your life actually needs attention and what doesn’t. Know what you can easily let slide — and what you can drop entirely — and focus your energy on things that will actually make a difference in your life.
  8. Have routines: Having a set routine means you don’t have to worry about what comes next; after a while, it becomes second nature.
  9. Accept interruptions gracefully: Don’t let your rituals become so rigid that you can’t function if they’re interrupted. Leave yourself enough wiggle room to adapt to changing conditions.
  10. Know when to quit: Don’t stand for employers, friends, or lovers who treat you badly. Decide how much of yourself you’re willing to put into a relationship, job, or activity; when you cross that line, walk away and don’t look back. This applies to the little things (“At 5 pm, I go home”) and the big things (“If things aren’t better after 6 months of marriage therapy, I want a divorce”).
  11. Pay attention to yourself: Notice when you feel stressed, and determine the cause. Notice when your body hurts or you feel unhappy, and determine why — or see a doctor. Figure out whether the things you’re doing are fulfilling your own definition of a good, productive life — or somebody else’s. Give up unnecessary competition (you need to make a better product than your competitor does; you don’t need to have a prettier girlfriend or a faster car than he does).
  12. Love: Build relationships. Share yourself. Feel human warmth.

What do you do to beat stress in your life? How do you maintain balance between the stressful and the not-so-stressful? Let us know!

More by this author

Building Relationships: 11 Rules for Self-Promotion How to Become an Expert (And Spot out One Nearby) The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works) Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed Back to Basics: Your Calendar

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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