Sometimes, you just get a little stressed out. It’s usually on a day you least expect it, usually happens on your busiest day, and occasionally comes in the form of too many things on your mind than you can count. I’m talking about that bad stress, the kind that sends your emotions and reactions into a freakish uproar.
For me, stress grips me on a full day of teaching and evening activities. Actually, I was going a little crazy earlier this week… make that a couple days ago. Truth to tell, I wasn’t even that busy.
Why was I so stressed out, you ask? It’s because there’s a lot going through my mind, and when there’s a lot going through my mind, it’s so easy to get stressed out before I even start working.
Stress arises from a lot of pressure, and with my unpredictable teaching job, keeping up a blog, and working on a trilogy, some things that need to be done slip between the cracks (last Sunday’s showcase, for one). On top of that, I’ll be ending my JET Programme contract at the end of July and moving back to Canada. It’s only April, but moving day is already getting a little too close for comfort, and I have a hefty list to take care of beforehand. Not to mention I have no idea what I’m going to do when I get back. I’ll be starting from square one all over again, the bottom of the work status chain.
But hey, who am I to complain? (Okay, technically I just did.)
There are a number of ways of coping with stress and all it takes is a simple Google search to find a number of techniques. There are programs and courses designed to help you become more peaceful. I haven’t taken any of those courses on stress specifically, but here are a few tactics that work for me. And if they work for me, they’re sure to work for you, too.
1. Take a Break
I admit that being a single lady with no dependents makes it easier to reserve time for myself. After all, I have no one to come home to and I live a good half-hour drive from the nearest foreigner. But even singles can get stressed out from a demanding work schedule or huge life changes. I fill my evenings with a number of different activities to keep me sane until I crave social contact with other foreigners.
If you’re married and have children, you might have to schedule in some you time. Anyone will tell you that taking the time to relax out of a busy schedule is important. You’re not a machine, and you can’t just go, go, go all day long without rest.
I know I don’t have much to offer families, so I’ll use my parents as an example. My mom raised seven of us, but she always made time to practice the piano, spend fifteen minutes talking to my dad, and do other little things throughout the day. My dad usually escaped to the bedroom in the evening for a twenty minute nap, or got out for some dirt biking after work. Those small doses of relaxation refreshed them for the chaos of a busy household. When I was old enough, they took a couple of trips to Hawaii and left me in charge. (Yay for mother training!)
So take a break from the chaos. Your brain needs it. Without breaks, you’ll overwork yourself and reach burnout much more quickly than you should. Just taking five to ten minutes can refresh you enough to be more productive…and if you’re a parent, more sane!
2. Pick Up a Hobby
If you’re unsure of how to spend that extra refresh time you’ve just created, you can always pick up a hobby. I don’t recommend watching TV or other media (video games turn my brain to mush), but find something that relaxes you. Meditating and deep breathing are a great way to de-stress. You could also do a craft or journal, something that’s quiet and doesn’t take too much focus.
In my case, this blog helps me get my thoughts down on virtual paper and de-stress, as does writing my book. But since those require a significant amount of brain power, I might also break it up with some stretches or daydreaming to set my thoughts free. I like drawing as well, so sometimes I’ll turn the computer off and get my sketchbook out for a bit of doodling.
Everyone has different ways of chilling out, but it’s important that you schedule in the time every day.
3. Don’t Be Busy
This doesn’t have so much to do with having a bunch of stuff in your schedule as it is stating how busy you are all the time. Many of us aren’t actually that busy, but we say we are as either an excuse to not do something or pity we want others to dote on us. Believe me, I’m a culprit.
It got to a point a few months ago when I decided that I would explain what that “busy” was: not busy as in pulling-my-hair-out crazy, but busy as in contently doing a number of things every day. It reminds me that I have no reason to be stressed. And really, when that word “busy” creeps into my vocabulary or someone else says that about me, I usually clarify. It relaxes me and puts things into perspective. I recommend you try it sometime and see how it affects you.
Now if you are legitimately busy, then take the time to assess why your busy and prioritize the things in your life. Then skip to point #5.
4. Take Care of Your Body
Stress has a lot to do with the state of your mind and your attitude towards the tasks you have to do. It also has to do with overworking yourself. You’ve got to maintain balance in your life, and taking care of your body is one area you have to monitor. Eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep are large contributors to your stress level. Let’s look at all three of those in turn.
True, I crave the carbs when I’m stressed out, but after a bag of potato chips, I feel worse than I did before. All junk food gives me is a random hyper kick that sends me flying into a languid wall. It doesn’t do me justice in the long run.
Instead of something junky, I like to go for dried or fresh fruit and healthy munchies like carrots and celery. It leaves me feeling better and the energy lasts longer. A good cup of tea can help sooth my senses so that I’m refreshed and ready to go for another bout of productivity. I also eat regular, well-balanced meals. My biggest meal is lunch at a time when I most need the extra calories to get me through the rest of the day.
But remember: eating must be done in moderation. Binge eating when you’re stressed doesn’t make you feel any better. Even though you feel like caving and eating carbs, you don’t have to. Try chewing gum instead if you’re that desperate; it’ll suppress your urge to reach for the cookies.
And drink water! Stay hydrated because dehydration can really drain you. I’m so bad with this it’s not even funny. I bring water to work and always take a drink break despite the repercussions of a small bladder.
Exercise is my number one de-stressor. If I don’t work out at all, I go a little crazy because of what’s happening in my life. I jog three times a week for 50 minutes, during which my mind goes into a whirlwind of activity. I think about everything from my book to future plans to brainstorming ideas for my blog.
Some people hate jogging, which is totally fine. I used to hate jogging, too, until mp3 players were invented. Instead, you might fancy yoga classes, fitness clubs, walking, hiking, or sports. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you’re active and enjoy what you’re doing. A healthy body makes a healthy mind, and when you exercise, you’ll start to feel the benefits. You’ll also have more energy to get things done.
Sleep patterns work differently for everyone, but you should refrain from getting too little sleep. It can kill your productivity, and when a whole bunch of work starts to pile up on your desk, you can get easily overwhelmed. A good night’s sleep works wonders and can even improve your mood.
I know that I function well on eight hours of sleep. Seven hours is tolerable, but any less and I’m a zombie the next day. If I sleep too much, I’m a languid monster and never leave my apartment. That’s why I’ve settled on eight hours, sometimes nine on the weekend.
How much sleep should you get? A chart from the National Sleep Foundation shows preferred sleep patterns for different age categories:
The article explains that you should assess your own sleep and lifestyle patterns and find out what works for you.
After a good night’s sleep, you should feel well-rested and refreshed, able to take on any task that comes your way.
5. Manage Your Time and Make a Schedule
I have a bit of a wonky work schedule, and I’ve got a lot on my plate because of the changes that are about to occur in my life. Recently, I read an email update from Neil at blogician.com and in it, he said this: “Trust me, without having a definite plan, you are never going to be productive. And you are never going to be able to match the top bloggers.”
Wow! Talk about a slap to the face! Here I am, a newbie blogger who thought that just saying that I’m going to post two days a week was enough. Turns out, that doesn’t cut it, and now I know why. I don’t managing my time properly and low and behold, I end up getting stressed out and missing a post. Blogging, which had caused so much joy before, was becoming a stressful chore.
So, I decided to break it down further. I made a day plan for the week, including the steps I would take each day to gear up for publishing a post. I also scheduled daily word counts for Camp NaNoWriMo, what days I work out, and scheduled events like Japanese conversation class and church. After doing all that, I already feel much better.
In addition to acting on that scheduling advice, I’ve also signed up for Rob Rawson’s free time management course over at timemanagement.com. Remember when I talked about the interview with Tor Refsland in one of my Sunday showcases? Well, I also mentioned that there was a free course, and I signed up for it as soon as I published that showcase. I’m already seeing the benefits. Each email covers small steps that are easy to follow no matter how chaotic your schedule is. I really recommend you try it out.
Rob’s course is all about becoming peaceful so that we can be more productive. And that’s what we want, isn’t it? To be at peace, to not be stressed out from all the chaos in life. A well-balanced life will suppress the bad stress you’re going through. So whether it’s doing one or two of the five points I mentioned or tackling all five, you can live a less stressful life.
What are some ways you cope with the craziness in your life? How do you suppress bad stress? Let me know in the comments. If you liked this post, I would appreciate it if you shared it with others. Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to read it!