“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
I notice with a lot of people here on my blog and in my own life that when they go out and make something happen, they automatically fall into this trap of creating huge stress as well.
The really bad thing here is that it not only burns you out really quickly, your life can become very miserable during that time too. It can be up to a point where what you thought is living your dream actually feels like the worst nightmare: Lots of stress, conflict with others and continuous anxiety if it all will work out. “That is not what I wanted it to be!” is what you may think to yourself.
You are building up stressful states and even worse, are potentially harming your health really badly, just by trying to keep control. Stress tends to hurt your body and psyche at their weakest point first.
This is totally unnecessary. It takes some (potentially painful) experiences in the past to see this. But when you learn from them and get some things right stress can not only totally disappear, you can really enjoy what you are doing, be very productive at it and eventually achieve the level of success you set out to get in the first place. It can get up to the point where what you do feel effortless and becomes a source of joy in your life. So let’s see in which ways we could reduce the stress level…
First of all…
What is Stress Really?
Stress is your body’s bio-chemical reaction to the demand you put on yourself. It is rooted in the human historic “Fight or flight” response where your nervous system activates the stress response when you’re faced with a challenge or a threat. While it is useful in order to meet the threat (think: lion), this obviously gets unhealthy if the challenge stays and with it the stress level of the body.
Now there is something as “positive stress”, which is simple the demand on yourself that keeps you at the border of your comfort zone and helps you to achieve a maximum performance. So zero stress is not the goal because if you have no demands on yourself you start “negative personal growth”, your world and your influence starts to shrink. Not good.
But “negative stress” is just when an enduring demand gets overwhelming. So how can we reduce negative stress?
Being prepared is really the antidote of stress.
Time is a critical component. First have enough time: time for your preparations and also during the project / your work (see also my Beginners Guide to Time-Management).
Think strategically. That means to take your time upfront to think everything through and make a written plan. Create a schedule and get the people involved to be informed and have them agree.
With preparation you can cure stress very effectively. This should be your #1 thing to do.
2. Choose to Work with the Right People
The people you work with have a huge impact not only on your own level of stress but also on your level of success. Get educated on how to find and hire good people. (Hiring The Best is a great book about that!) Especially if you are looking for a partner or co-worker. Try to find people who share your passion and enthusiasm, if possible have experience, maybe complement you but share the same general vibe and values as you do. Those are among the most important decisions you can ever make in your professional life! DO NOT compromise on that one!
3. Keep up Your Good Daily Habits (and Don’t Fall Back into the Bad)
Does this scenario sound familiar to you: You manage to build up some really supportive habits (think exercising regularly, eating well, meeting with friends, self-reflecting…) but the moment you hit your big project or your new job, everything seem to fall apart. Not only you ditch good habits because you have “no time”, to make things even worse you also fall back on bad habits (think smoking, drinking, staying up late, arguing with your loved ones…).
Realize that the fact you have something new and big going now is no excuse to let go of your life! It really is not, let that sink in deep, because when the time comes you have to remember that… and avoid to let go of your good habits.
The way you do that is to lock those habits into your schedule. Work everything else around those. So when you have your time with your spouse in the evening or you have your time to work out early in the morning, plan your professional life around that. Set it up the way that you have those moments of relaxation and well-being in place, no matter what happens.
4. Realizing that Stress is in fact Weakness
Some people seem to think stress is a sign of a successful and busy person. It couldn’t be more far from the truth really. Anybody who is stressed out is on some level doing something wrong. If you want to reduce stress in your life you have to find the ability to organize yourself, starting at the very beginning: your internal beliefs about stress.
The false belief that everybody who is successful is also stressed out is in fact a hugely limeting belief. If you identify with it get rid of it by changing it to a more supporting belief. A really successful person doesn’t look busy but rather calm, because he or she mastered the art of stress-free productivity and success. If you see really stressed out people you know that these people are not there yet.
Learn to manage yourself and your emotions and reactions to everything. Often it is more how we represent and react to things that creates stress, not the events itself. You are in responsible and control of yourself.
5. Simplify Your Life
You have to stay out of the overwhelm zone. This is accomplished best by thinking ahead and continuously striving to keep your live simple. A simple life means that you stay focused on the most important things for YOU and you get rid of the rest. Make a habit out of this procedure. Maybe right not: think about how you can simplify your life. Is everything really bringing you forward? Or should you drop one or two things in order to focus and make better the rest?
Learn to say “No!” in order to reduce the commitments to take on. If you can’t say no and you are forced to add stress again and again to your life (think: your boss is driving you crazy), then it really is time to step back and look at the big picture. Are you in the right company, right job, right relationship, right business, right social circle, etc…? Think it through and maybe it is time to look at alternatives really hard, when you are continuously confronted with very stressful situations that drag you down.
Suggested follow up: The Simplicity Guide to Live a Simple Life