Are You Stressing Yourself Out?
In our last installment of the managing stress and avoiding burnout series, we shift our focus from external stresses to internal stresses. Sometimes the only one creating stress in our life is us. Are you stressing yourself out?
Each of the situations we are going to discuss today is going to be tied to a fear of change.
Whether we know something is beneficial to us or when we know something is detrimental to us, we can find ourselves uncomfortable making the necessary changes to improve our life.
Buried within your fear of change, you may find you fear change because
- You feel unprepared and fear your ability to accomplish something
- You are worried about losing control over a situation
- Change causes anxiety related to uncertainty
- Change can create doubt and an overall fear of failure
It is important to recognize when you are stressing yourself out because it can impact your decision-making process. Have you ever felt frantic and anxious about something and then it caused you to make things worse?
It is difficult to concentrate (to say the least) when you are worried or stressed. That is because you go into survival mode and surviving is not the same as thriving.
By recognizing and conquering the seven causes of self-inflicted stress, you will be able to avoid feelings of fear panic, uncertainty, and overwhelm.
- Eat healthy
- Write a to-do list
- Limit social media interaction
- Be active
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Ignore you stressors
- Do not abandon your good habits
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1. Eat Healthy
When you are trying to understand why you are stressed, it often has to do with your mental energy. If you start your day with an unhealthy breakfast (such as donuts, pastries, and heavily processed foods), you are going to run out of mental energy much quicker than someone who eats fruits and vegetables for breakfast.
Think of the food you eat as you think of the gasoline you put in your car. The more octane your vehicle needs, the higher the quality of gas you need to use. If you fuel a Porsche with regular unleaded, it may not start. And if it does, it is may sputter and shut off whenever you try attempt to travel at high speeds.
If you want to operate at Porsche levels, you are going to need to stop fueling yourself with regular unleaded gas. You are going to need to start becoming more consciously aware of what you are feeding yourself.
What you eat dictates how clearly you see, how well you breath, how sharp your mind is, how you feel, and how you react to situations throughout the day.
2. Write a To-Do List
You may have noticed that there is a common ingredient in successfully managing stress. In the first technique, we discussed ways to increase your mental energy. In this section, we talk about ways to maintain your mental energy each day.
When you keep your check list in your head, you are exerting mental energy every time you recall your list. You also have the untended side-effect of feeling anxiety about the list.
When you write what you want to accomplish each day on a sheet of paper, you are giving your mind permission to stop focusing on the tasks.
It is similar to the benefit of creating a grocery list before you go shopping. Studies show that those who make a grocery list spend less money than those who shop without one.
One of the key reasons for this is you are making a decision on every grocery item you pass by when you do not have a list. You are weighing whether you need the item, is the price right, how much do I need to purchase, etc.
Only 100 Decisions In A Day
If you could only make 100 decisions a day, how do you want spend you decisions?
Each of these decisions uses up a portion of your mental energy. The more decisions you make, the more likely you are to make a poor decision later. As a result, you may have exhausted your mental energy by the end of your grocery trip, so you impulsively purchase a candy bar at checkout. Or maybe you added ice cream or some other junk food that you do not really want.
That is why you see people like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and President Barrack Obama wearing the same assortment of clothes. They understand every decision brings you closer to mental exhaustion, so it is important to save your decisions for things that matter.
If you look at writing things down as an extension of your mind, you are then freeing large sections of your mind.
There are multiple benefits to automating different aspects of your life. In addition to preserving mental energy, you are also creating certainty, which lowers stress.
I keep a running list on my phone, as an open email to myself. I update the email with thoughts, questions, and “things to do” every day. At the end of the day, I will go through the list and remove anything I completed. For everything else on my list, I email to myself. That way, I can set some time aside later in the week to complete any remaining items.
Yams like write down the reason she got on her sticky notes so that she will not forget the reason she got it. Oftentimes, we get the idea to do or get something, then on the way to completing the tasks someone distracts us and we forget why we got up.
Instead of wasting all that mental energy trying to remember what it was you were originally doing, she writes it down on a sticky note.
3. Limit Social Media Interaction
There is the misconception that we can stay connected to people on social media. That all we need to do is scroll through their timeline, read their tweets, or watch their stories.
There are studies coming out that are proving people feel more separated, more depressed if they engage in social media on a regular basis.
The conclusion is that everyone is “pretending” on social media.
- People tend to share share photos that have ten filters and have been cropped from every angle.
- We take pictures from the one clean corner of our house, even though the rest of the house is a mess.
- Even family pictures that show everyone having a great time, even though the family does not hangout as often as the picture would intimate.
The Comparison Stress-Trap
If you have fallen into this trap, you are stressing yourself trying to present your life as “perfect.”
If you are someone who is mostly following others, then you start to feel as though your life is “messed up” because you think these “perfect” images are their real life.
You think, I wish my house was that clean and… they really seem to enjoy hanging out with their family, I wish my family was that close.
Social media stresses out the person trying to present their life as perfect and the person who is comparing their life to the “perfect” life.
Instead of looking towards social media for your interacts, take a moment and try engaging with people in the real world. Go out to lunch, go on a walk, whatever it is, engage with someone in the real world. You will realize we all have good days and we all have bad days. Social media can make it seem like everyone else is having good days, and we are the only ones have bad days.
Do not allow the fear of getting to know people on an intimate level worry you. It is true that the more you invest into a relationship, the more you open yourself up to being hurt.
That is probably why social media is so popular. We never really open ourselves up to the possibility of being hurt. We know everyone on a superficial level, so we do not feel we are at risk of being hurt by them.
However, the other side of the coin is also true. When you do not open yourself up to others, you also decrease that opportunity to be loved by them.
The passion and emotion needed to love or hate someone requires you to know someone on an intimate level. You cannot protect yourself from hate, without also closing yourself off to love.
4. Be Active (you will thank me later)
When people usually talk about exercising and being active, they are talking in the context of losing weight and looking a certain way. Today, we are going to talk about exercising in the context of managing stress.
You probably know someone who enjoys exercise so much that they are addicted to it. They went from a casual walk, to marathon training, to now participating in triathlons.
The reason exercise can become so addicting is because it releases feel good endorphins. The same ones that some people feel when they eat chocolate and others sweets.
Even if running is not your thing, be mindful of the fact that you want to get your heart pumping in whatever you are doing.
If you play sports, do not walk onto the field, sprint. Do not jog on the basketball court, sprint. Do not take the elevator, walk the stairs.
You will find that making small mindful changes will help to be more active without feeling like you need to train for a marathon.
I remember working on the sixth floor at the last job I had before I went into the business full-time. Instead of using the bathroom on my floor, I would take the stairs to the first-floor bathroom. Then I would walk back up to the sixth floor to return to my desk.
Sometimes when I was on the first floor, I would walk around the building and then walk the stairs back to my desk. Overtime, I eventually decided I was going to walk all 20 floors.
I was excited at my accomplishment and I remember calling Yams when I decided I was going to go for it. It was never my plan, but that is where I ultimately finished.
You do not have to set any grandiose goals in the beginning. Your only goal should be to be more active. The rest will take care of itself.
5. Get a good night’s sleep
If you have spent any amount of time following me and my journey, you know I do not get 8 hours of sleep. I have four children, three of which I home school, so I cannot get most of my work for the business completed before 10pm. That means I must work until 2-4am (sometimes longer) to make sure the business is moving at a reasonable pace.
Even though this is true in my life, it does not mean I do not understand the value of 8-hours of sleep. Studies conclude irregular sleep schedules not only deplete your energy, but make it difficult for you to concentrate.
In addition, irregular sleep schedules increase your body’s production of cortisol, which is linked to stress. When you do not allow your mind to rest, you are leaving a lot of loose ends untied. Dreaming is your mind’s ability to complete thoughts, prioritize the information you absorbed, consolidates your memories, and moves some from your conscious to your subconscious.
Also keep in mind that your physical body needs the rest. Gravity is wearing on your body all day, every day. That is part of the reason our skin is sagging or our posture is not the best when we are older.
Just Lay Down
The only way for us to take a break from gravity is for us to lay horizontal every day.
The best way for you to get your rest is to avoid over-stimulation. Over-stimulation (just as it sounds) has your mind thinking and absorbing a lot of information.
This why you may have found yourself dreaming about the last thing you were watching on TV or reading on social media.
6. Ignoring Your Stressors
If you want to manage your stress, you must know what is causing your stress. This means you are going to have to listen to your body.
Stress can cause everything from loss of appetite to an irregular heartbeat. By assuming these changes in your body are not random, you increase the change of finding what is stressing you out.
Only by recognizing what your stressors are will you be able to create solutions to remove them.
In some of your situations you already know what is stressing you out, and you have a few ideas on how to remove it, you just have not allotted the time.
You believe you do not have enough time to meditate or go on a walk in the middle of your day. You could spend 30 minutes organizing your day each morning, but you do not believe your day will allow you to “waste” time putting a plan together.
Think of every action you take as a step towards stress management or away from stress management.
We all only have 24 hours in the day, so we make the time for what matters to us.
If managing your stress and avoiding burnout matters to you, you are going to need to put in the time. And the best thing about investing in your stress management, you are easily going to get that time back with improved productivity, communication, and overall effectiveness.
7. Do Not Abandon Your Good Habits
You are starting to see some results and you take your foot off the gas. Think of the childhood story of the Tortoise and the Hare. The rabbit was much faster than the turtle, but it decided to take a break. The rabbit put its guard down because everything looked like it was a foregone conclusion.
I won’t bore you with the details but the turtle ended up beating the rabbit in the race.
You do not want to abandon the momentum you are building by thinking everything is okay. The action you took towards managing your stress and avoiding burnout is the same action you need to continue taking.
- If you added a walk in the middle of your day, keep walking.
- You may have started writing things down more (creating lists and checklists), keep writing.
- If you started to prepare healthy meals at the beginning of each for the entire week, keep packing your meals.
This is not the time to get complacent and take a break, this is the time to put your neck on the throat of burnout and remove it once and for all.
The trick to making a life change is to make the changes you are implementing into your life as enjoyable as possible.
For example, when someone tells me, they want to lose weight, I like to discuss the approach they want to take. If someone tells me they want to start a business, I ask them how they chose that industry. Whatever the goal, I attempt to understand their motivation behind their choice.
Based on how enjoyable and realistic the approach is for them, I can tell if they are trying to do something for a few weeks, a few months, or the rest of their life.
Resource: Robin Hilmantel - 7 Ways You Stress Yourself Out