Stop Stressing Out!
I’m sure every professional has heard those words once or twice. Just in a moment when you’re about to have a panic attack, someone comes along and very helpfully suggests that you should just calm down. “Thanks, friend. Never thought of that!” It’s the equivalent of the dentist telling you to relax before she pulls a tooth. Doesn’t help.
That said, I’m on board and totally agree that people need to calm down in general. There seems to be a strange cultural phenomenon that says if you’re not stressed by your job, you’re not working hard enough. I really don’t understand where this one came from, but all you have to do is observe people in a business environment know it’s true.
If you take a step back and investigate further, you’ll notice that the most successful and happiest entrepreneurs and professionals are some of the most easy-going people in the world. These are the people who understand how to keep their stress levels at bay.
Here’s how you can do it, too!
1. Keep Your Work at Work
Smart phones are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, who doesn’t love having an internet machine in their back pocket at all times? On the flip side, it means that your emails are always with you and that flashing notification light makes you feel lazy if you ignore it for too long.
But the number one most useful piece of advice I can give you when it comes to stress management is to actually disconnect when you head home at the end of the day. Focus on your family, your pets, your hobbies. Your work will be waiting for you the next day, don’t worry.
Turn off the email notifications on your phone. You really don’t need a “beep” and flashing light every time you get a newsletter delivered to your business inbox. If it makes you feel better, check your email once (yes, only once) in the evening in case of emergencies (which is very unlikely to actually happen, by the way). Before long, you’ll stop even doing that and you’ll actually find yourself looking for something to do on your evenings and weekends. You know, something OTHER than “catching up on work”.
So disconnect when you get home and only use your smartphone for what it was intended: ordering pizza and playing Candy Crush.
2. Plan to Work, Work your Plan
Have you ever sat at your computer desk for the better part of a day only to leave thinking you’ve accomplished absolutely nothing? That’s probably because emails, meetings, colleagues, phone calls, more emails, and social media got in the way. It happens to everyone and is an especially prominent issue with small business owners.
Do yourself a favor: start making it a point to block out a 1-2 hour period of time each day for “work”. Put it in your personal calendar and make sure your colleagues/employees know you’re busy during this time. Again, turn off your email notifications (including the desktop ones!) and don’t answer calls unless you know they’re crazy-important. Now take out your long-overdue “to do” list and start knocking off the important stuff. You know, the stuff you know NEEDS to get done but that you never have the time for. Here’s your chance. You’re welcome.
Trust me. This is a very difficult habit to adopt but once you have, it’s amazing just how much you’ll get done.
3. Eat, Drink and be Merry
In other words, look out for #1 (that’s you, by the way).
A healthy body breeds a healthy mind. Give yourself permission to take a good half hour for an honest-to-God breakfast in the morning and a good wholesome lunch during the workday. Drink lots of water, and try to get a good uninterrupted night’s sleep. A good workout once or twice a week can also do wonders for your overall stress levels.
And on the flip side, make some time for yourself to truly and completely unwind at least once a week. For me, that’s a hot bubble bath with a glass of wine and a book, or a nice long walk at the dog park. For others, it might be a wilderness hike or dinner with friends. Whatever works for you!
Let’s pause. I know what you’re thinking.
“That’s all fine and dandy, but I’m TOO BUSY to do any of that! That’s why I’m stressed! Don’t you get it?”
Trust me. I do get it.
But the fact of the matter is, most of us are actually caught in the belief that our work-life defines us. And it really shouldn’t!
Think about it: if you were to take a half-hour every week for a bubble bath, would your business go bankrupt? Would you lose clients? Would your colleagues end up hating or resenting you? For 99.99% of you, the answer is “no”.
I’m hoping most people realize this truism BEFORE they burn out and have to take a few months’ stress leave. Once you admit to yourself that you can afford to take care of yourself, believe me, you’ll become a calmer, happier person.
And isn’t that everyone’s ultimate goal?
So try it. Just for a week or two at first. Think of it as a mini-challenge: turn off your notifications, don’t answer emails after working hours, set aside some time to work every day and adopt a healthier lifestyle. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for me! Just because. Try it.