Stress. We all encounter it. But with these six stress management tips on your side, you can make sure it won’t get the best of you. Updated Feb 2013.
Stressed out? You’re not alone – The American Institute of Stress (AIS) states that 62% of Americans experience stress related to work. And if you’re an online business owner doing all the work, you might even fit into this category: 25% of employed workers say their job is the #1 cause of stress in their lives. One of my elders even said, “If you’re not stressed, you’re not working hard enough.”
No disrespect, but I beg to differ. Take a look at how this problem can affect you and your business, from the American Psychological Association:
- Stressed individuals are less productive than their counterparts, averaging more time spent on the job with fewer deliverable results.
- Job stress is of concern for employers, costing U.S. businesses an estimated $300 billion per year through absenteeism, diminished productivity, employee turnover and direct medical, legal and insurance fees.
- Overly stressed workers are more likely to suffer from mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.
One of the main takeaways is to not stress over stress. Take a look at some of these tips to help you break through the anxiety and get back to a balanced, productive lifestyle:
Make a to-do list
To-do lists are a tried and true stress management technique, especially with the right focus and direction. First, think of the tasks you need to do today, and then determine which ones are both important and immediate. Then, instead of throwing every single project on your list, only put those important and immediate tasks on it. Then, tackle each task one at a time.
Another stress management tool very closely related to the to-do list is the to-don’t list. A to-don’t list is exactly what it sounds like: a list of bad habits that get in the way of you doing your best. Whether that’s getting distracted by your inbox, or bringing yourself down with unnecessary fears and negative feelings, take a careful eye to your own behavior and put on paper what you’d like to eliminate. With these roadblocks out of the way, you’ll get more done and feel much more at ease.
Get away from technology
No one can argue that wireless communications have helped increase efficiencies across the board. The downside? It’s also made it significantly easier for work to leak into your personal time, and much more difficult to separate yourself from your job. Work on its own carries some stress, but add the “never-ending” aspect to it and it’s a recipe for a huge mess.
So try taking some time every day to completely unplug. Whether it’s half an hour or a couple hours, give yourself that distance from technology and use it to really be engaged in the world around you. Without the distractions of your phone buzzing or iPad notifying you of an email, you’ll find it’s much easier to be fully “present,” which can put a refreshing take on even the most common of occurrences.
Eat well and exercise
A large part of effective stress management is being good to your body, specifically, by giving it the right foods and giving it enough activity. Eating healthily provides your body with the right nutrients it needs to be at its strongest, and thus, better able to handle whatever problems that come your way. If you’re looking for more specifics as to which foods make the best stress-reducing snacks, foods high in folic acid, vitamins and antioxidants are ideal, like almonds, blueberries and tuna.
Getting up and active is another big part of this equation. Exercise has many benefits, from a better mood to a stronger body in general. And what’s especially nice about this stress-reducer is that there’s a ton of ways you can get active. From sports to dancing to yoga, or even taking a slow walk around your neighborhood, the choice is yours. Plus, by focusing on whatever physical activity you’re engaged in, it’ll help you take your mind off work and give your mind the rest it needs.
Get enough sleep
This tip is a lot easier said than done, but the benefits of getting enough sleep are astounding. From improved memory, to better moods and possibly even a longer life, our bodies (and our work) can only be at their best with enough sleep. The sad fact though is that a majority of American workers are very sleep-deprived, and it’s costing us our health, as well as some big bucks.
If getting to bed on time is a struggle for you, there are several things you can do to combat your night-owl tendencies. For starters, try avoiding back-lit screens (i.e.: TV screens, laptops, iPads, basically all electronics) for at least an hour before your intended bedtime. The light from these screens tricks your brain into thinking it’s day time, and can keep you awake for much longer. If you really must be on the computer, try installing software like f.lux, which adjusts the color and brightness of your screen to match the time of day.
Let it out
Expressing your frustrations and fears is a sure-fire way to feel better and get a clearer picture of what exactly you’re dealing with. Many people are stressed out but don’t really know why. By speaking to a friend, family member or trusted colleague, they can help you find the root cause of your stress and you can take steps to address it.
But what if you’re not much of a talker? Or what if the matter is something you can’t quite share with others? Try writing your feelings out in a journal of some sort. Although you may not have kept a journal as an adult, there are many benefits to journaling as a stress management tool.
Take a break, or day off (and don’t feel badly about it)
If you’re feeling stressed, burned out or just plain ol’ tired, you may think your best bet is to try and power through it. Science, however, says otherwise. Instead, know your limits and take breaks when needed. Two particularly effective break activities: meditating and laughing (though not necessarily at the same time). Meditating has been shown to reduce negative feelings and help gain a new perspective, while laughter can get you relaxed and even improve your immune system.
If things are really overwhelming, consider taking a day off. Although it may seem counterintuitive at first, taking a “mental health day” recharges your brain, gives you a better perspective and, most importantly, gives you time to relax and delve back into what you love. Whatever you love defines your personality – and taking a day off can make sure you don’t let stress strip that away.
Believe it or not, your stress can pass over to your employees, coworkers and loved ones. To help prevent spreading a problem, try some of these tactics to lessen your anxiety on the job. In this whirlwind of an industry we call ecommerce, working smart helps you succeed online better than working hard.
-Matt Winn, Volusion