Last Update: September 3rd, 2014
I’m a self-employed 26 year old who has a tendency to get stressed, anxious and panicked – even during the the smallest of life’s hiccups. Beneath my steely exterior and chiseled, move-star jawline is a scared little boy.
Early on in my life I knew I’d have to figure out some techniques for beating stress.
Now, I am not saying that I have mastered these. Far from it. But I am saying that they have helped me. And as I know a lot of you lovely readers out there deal with bouts of stress and anxiety I thought I’d write a bit of an off topic post and talk about some ways bloggers, business people and everyone else online can beat stress when you just don’t feel like its possible.
And I’m going to do it by telling you why you are stressed.
NOTE: Since writing this post two years ago I am much better at managing stress to the point where it (touch wood!) doesn’t arise as often. I wish you luck!
Want to beat stress? Find out why you are stressed first…
Cause and effect.
If you can figure out the causes of your stress you can do something about it for the long term otherwise we end up just trying to temporarily make ourselves feel better. Sometimes that’s fine but after a while you might want more.
Of course, sometimes stress is caused by serious issues associated with trauma, depression, etc. but sometimes it has a lot to do with lifestyle factor that can be quite easily changed.
Take a look:
1. You aren’t organized
When you have to hold heaps of information in your mind at once there is a good chance you will be stressed. If you want to beat that stress you need to look at getting yourself organized.
- Use a diary for everything
Enter all your appointments, due dates and everything in between in to a diary. I use a mix of PC and iPhone diary systems and it works well.
- Plan each day
Have a nice pad of paper on your desk and write down your tasks at the start of each day and cross them off as you go. Rank the items in order of importance and just plug through them.
If you can get yourself organized you will be a long way towards sorting out a big portion of your stress.
2. You’re lazy with records and taxes
Let’s not underestimate how stressful it can be knowing that your taxes and financial records aren’t in order. Its just not worth it. Yes they are boring, complicated and, yes, it is really sunny outside. But do it. Everyday. Just create some simple systems of folders, drawers, plastic slips and software so that everything takes you less than 30 seconds to do.
- Use XpenseTracker iPhone App
This is the coolest App I have seen in a long time which allows you to take photos of your receipts and then file the details into certain categories. It then saves it all to a desktop PC folder so you know how your expenses are faring.
- Get a business bank account
Just set up a business bank account so that all your business related transactions are separate from the personal ones. If you can make a regular “personal drawings” payment to your account you then know the profit and loss by what is in the account.
- Set tax aside every time
Depending on where you live you will have to put a certain amount of everything you earn aside for tax. Do this regularly. My good mate once told me that you should just consider that 20% (or whatever yours is) of what you earn doesn’t belong to you. Increase your business activity and marketing to earn that back twice over.
Don’t skimp on your records and taxes thinking that you will do it later. It adds up and weighs on your mind. Just do it as you go along and you will constantly feel better.
3. You don’t exercise and so are overweight, under socialized and tight
Exercising releases endorphins into your body that make you feel well, happy and can help to keep you healthy. It also helps to keep your weight down and gives you a good excuse to see mates and get things off your mind.
This is probably the biggest thing you can do to beat stress in a very immediate way – get outside! Run, kick a ball with your brother or go and join a local netball or indoor soccer team. You need five people, once a week, and you will feel so much better for it.
I play tennis with my brother once or twice a week, indoor soccer on Thursday nights and then lift weights every couple of days outside on my lunch break. This is a wonderful mixture of sunlight (which gives you Vitamin D and makes you happy), socialization which stops me from feeling too isolated and testosterone which really helps to keep me motivated.
And, sadly, there are a lot of people out there who hate how they look. Weight is often put on due to stress and anxiety so why not kill two birds with one stone? Go out and exercise in the name of feeling better and watch the weight drop off without trying.
If you struggle with depression while you are stressed this point is super important. You need to exercise everyday.
4. You don’t read, meditate or train your mind-vice
Mind vice is a bit of a reference for all the 30 Rock fans out there. Oh what the heck, here is the whole hilarious quote:
“No, I believe that when you have a problem you talk it over with your priest or your tailor or the mute elevator porter at your men’s club. Then you take that problem and you crush it with your mind vice. But for lesser beings like curly haired men or people who need glasses therapy can help.” – Jack Donaghy
And, yes, I do have curly hair and do require glasses. But its still funny.
The point of number four is that your mind needs to be trained. It is like any other muscle in the body in that it can deteriorate if not used well. But, unlike other muscles, neuro plasticity is now showing that the brain can be changed and improved at any age by doing a variety of different things.
Meditation has been shown to reduce pain more than narcotics. And thanks to wonderful philosophical traditions like Buddhism there are literally tens of thousands of ways to train your mind to be happier, healthier and less stressed. One of my favorites is the tradition of Lojong that takes short slogans and applies them to everyday situations. Here is a good Lojong-style quote from Shantideva:
“If the problem can be solved, why worry? If the problem cannot be solved, worrying will do you no good.”
People have been having the same problems for thousands of years. Some real smart guys like Buddha, Milarepa, the Dalai Lama, Plato, etc. found some solutions and wrote them down. Read up. Read up well.
5. You eat foods that make you stressed
Yep, foods make you stressed. I guarantee it. I can literally feel the anxiety levels rise in my mind when I make that extra strong coffee. Likewise, when I flake out and get junk food for lunch I always feel more tired and down than when I make something healthy.
That little sugar rush that you think makes you feel so good actually does the opposite. Once the sugar levels crash back down you are worse off than when you started.
Cut out the white foods like refined sugar, bread, pasta and rice and stick to a diet of water, fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole cereals, legumes, eggs, milk and other natural foods. The less man-made food you eat the better you will feel. You will also find yourself getting a lot less sick when winter comes around.
6. You get your information and entertainment online and too often
The internet has done some wonderful things for the world but it has also done a lot of stuff to mess people up. And now that it is on our phones and tablets we have constant access to entertainment, porn, news and gossip. Take a good look at what you are reading and watching and how often you do it.
Do you have to check your phone every time you feel bored from the outside? Its an addiction. And when you don’t get that fix you feel stressed.
What about all the news you are worrying about? Is it coming from some half-baked internet site that hasn’t expressed all the facts? Try comparing your news source to a quality paper like The Economist, the New York Times or The Guardian. Do you know how much coverage these guys gave to the end of the world as predicted for early 2011? Not a lot.
I highly recommend that everyone reads this wonderful speech given to the graduates of West Point Military Academy a few years ago by William Deresiewicz. It is called Solitude and Leadership and talks about how we all need to stop marinating in the opinions of other on social media and learn to think for ourselves and take control of our own lives. As it currently stands we are all slaves to our smart phones and constant entertainment.
Why are you stressed?
I’d really like to hear from you all now. What makes you stressed? What has helped to beat that stress? Please leave a comment and let me know – hopefully we can come up with a nice little resource for people. (Sorry, comments are now closed).
If you feel like your stress is getting too much please go and talk to your GP. They can give you advice on how best to treat it. It CAN be treated. If you’re not ready for a doctor consider using a wonderful online support group like Beyond Blue. There’s help out there.
Photo credit: Shandi-lee