Last Update: June 6th, 2016
NOTE: This post is about dealing with the stress and anxiety that can arise when you work for yourself or are starting a new business. It’s not intended to be a guide for those suffering more serious stress or mental health issues. If you need someone to talk to I encourage you to visit your GP or Beyond Blue and have a chat to one of their awesome staff.
I’m a self-employed bloke who has a tendency to get stressed, anxious and panicked – even during the the smallest of life’s hiccups.
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 techniques – far from it – but they have helped me a lot.
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.
I genuinely hope it helps someone out there – even if it’s just a catalyst to talk to someone who can help you more.
Want to beat stress? Find out why you’re stressed.
I have found that it’s often important to figure out what is causing my stress in the first place.
Of course, sometimes stress is caused by serious issues associated with trauma, depression, etc. but often it has a lot to do with something in our work life that can be quite easily changed.
Take a look:
1. We get too much information and phone time
Research is now showing that smartphones might be having a bigger effect on our brain than first thought.
I deleted Facebook from my phone because I found myself constantly needing to check it, just because I was bored. It as almost like an addiction and, if I didn’t get my fix, I started to feel stressed.
Studies are also telling us that our brain is not designed to take in as much information as we get from our computers and phones every day. It seems to be having a really negative effect on a lot of people.
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.
2. We are 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.
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. I have found that putting it off was, for me, a lot worse than actually doing it.
3. We don’t exercise and so are overweight and under-socialized
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 we 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.
Exercising outdoors, especially with others, is a wonderful mixture of sunlight (which gives you Vitamin D and makes you happy), socialization which stops you from feeling too isolated, and testosterone which really helps to keep me motivated.
Exercise also has the dual effect of helping to combat the weight gain that often occurs due to stress and other lifestyle factors – often making us feel worse and worse. If we go and exercise in the name of combating stress we’ll also naturally start to lose weight, which also makes us feel better.
Daily exercise has been really important for me in my quest to manage daily stress levels.
4. We don’t read, meditate or train our mind-vice enough
The term “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 it’s still funny.
The point of number four is that we need to try and train our mind. It is like any other muscle in the body in that it can deteriorate if not used well.
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.”
Many studies are now being done into the positive effects that that mindfulness and meditation can have on the human brain. There are even MRI results to show how a meditation practitioner’s brain looks different from everyone else!
5. We eat foods that make us 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.
Consider cutting out the processed and heavy foods like break, sugar, take away and maybe coffee, 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. I’ve also found that I don’t get the common cold very often anymore.
6. We aren’t very organized
When we have to hold heaps of information in your mind at once there is a good chance we’ll become stressed. Getting organized can go a long way to freeing up some space in your brain:
- 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.
I’ve really found that by simply putting things down on paper I don’t seem to go over them in my head as much. It also prevents the stress of missing deadlines because you had too much stuff on your mind and forgot to take action.
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.