This article first appeared on my Medium page.
Recently I was asked what do I do when I am stressed. After much thought, I realised that I am rarely, if ever, stressed. This got me wondering why I don’t experience stress. Is it something in my DNA, or is it because I relentlessly organise my life both professionally and personally or is it something else?
I concluded that it is probably a combination of all of those things. However, I know I do take steps to avoid stress and to make my life work as smoothly as possible. I exercise regularly, I know the importance of getting enough sleep. I avoid alcohol during the week and I plan ahead to prevent any unpleasant surprises. These steps are a very powerful antidote to the stresses and strains in a persons life. So, here are a few tips you too can take to avoid stress and have a much more relaxed lifestyle.
This one is certainly my number one tip. If you do not plan ahead you are going to be in a state of perpetual stress. If you have no idea what is coming up, you are going to be unprepared and all the following tips are just going to fall apart.
Recently I saw this in action. My wife, who is the complete opposite of me, had an event to go to. She was the lead person in this event and she was responsible for making sure the cameras were fully charged and that the tripods and other equipment needed were ready to go. My wife got home late the night before and was feeling very tired. She decided she must charge the batteries overnight. Unfortunately, she could not find the battery chargers and spent thirty minutes looking for them. Finally she found them and she put the batteries on charge. She went to bed knowing she needed to be up early.
She then spent 30 minutes looking at her social media feeds before falling asleep. three and half hours later she woke up and rushed around looking for everything in a very agitated and stressed state. Needless to say, she ended up arriving late and leaving some vital equipment at home.
Had she thought about all the things she was going to need a few days before and made sure everything was in the right place, the batteries charged and ready to go, she could have got a good night’s sleep before the event, woken up knowing everything was ready and would not have forgotten anything.
Planning ahead, it probably the most powerful weapon you have against stress. It’s quite often the little things that cause the most stress. Not having a pen when you need one in a meeting, your phone battery running out just at the moment you have to make an important phone call. All these things add up. So just plan ahead. Look at your calendar on a Sunday evening or Monday morning and see what is coming up and ask the question “do I need to prepare anything for that?” If the answer is yes, schedule some time to prepare for it. If you are going to be outside, away from your office or home all day, make sure you have a way to charge you phone for example.
Get enough sleep
Sleep is vital if you want to get things done to a high level of quality. I understand it is not always possible to get a good night’s sleep, but it is possible to catch a quick nap when you need to top up. I do not know how I would survive without a nap during the day. I even schedule a nap and will postpone exercise to get sleep if I need to. I know my productivity drops dramatically if I don’t sleep enough, and if my productivity drops so does the quality and quantity of the work I do. This then leads to more work later and an increased amount of stress.
If you feel tired (because of a lack of sleep) take thirty minutes or so out, lay down and sleep a little. The way you feel when you wake up will result in better quality work and you will get so much more done.
Have a Plan For The Year
This one is a relatively new one for me. I used to find myself feeling anxious around June / July each year and I could never understand why. I realised it was because I really didn’t feel I was achieving anything worthwhile. So, two years ago, I started making three priority goals for the year. These were one professional, one personal and one could be anything I wanted it to be. This year’s goals are to write a book, to complete a full course marathon and to save up and buy a pair of Crockett and Jones Skye 3 boots in Chestnut.
Because I have made sure that there is a mix of professional and personal goals, it is not only fun to focus my mind on achieving the goals, but I now race myself to see how fast I can achieve the goals. I was recently able to place my order for the boots, so I can tick those off, my training for the marathon is going great and I am a third of the way through writing the book. I feel very stress free at the moment and in the past the beginning of July was the worst time of the year for me.
There is so much written about the importance of exercise and health already. But it really is important. Not only because when you feel physically healthy you have a pride in your physical appearance, but the energy you have by being fit and healthy means you can get so much more done. Exercise also gets you out of the office and your home and into a different environment. It’s ‘quiet time’ that can allow your mind to rest.
Going out and drinking a skinful of beer and filling your stomach with Burger King Whoppers just before you go to bed is going to leave you feeling dreadful the next day. You are not going to be in the mood to do great quality work and your sense of pride is going to suffer. This will only increase the feeling of stress you have. Just don’t do it
And that’s it. Knowing that you have everything under control and you are prepared for everything will take a lot of unnecessary stress out of your life. Getting enough sleep will mean you make less mistakes and the quality of your work will improve. Having a plan for the year that is both achievable and manageable will give you focus for the year and by keeping your health in good shape you will always feel great. These four things will genuinely turn your life around and make you into a happier, more productive person. So start making those plans today. It’s never too late.