There’s no shortage of stress in the world today. Everyone’s dealing with some form of stress in their life, and it’s not always easy to find relief. Family and work obligations, personal goals, financial challenges; it can seem never-ending. Add to that the stress of the pandemic with quarantine, layoffs, and the overall public health crisis, this has been a very stressful year for many.
But I’m here today to tell you the good news! There are simple ways to effectively manage your stress levels so that they never get to a point where you find yourself crippled by it. I began using these methods years before the current crisis to balance working in IT, building a business, being a husband, father, and an active contributor to the community. When the stay-at-home orders were given, these were core to keeping my sanity.
Now, there’s no possible way to avoid stress entirely. But there are ways of learning to identify triggers, manage your stress levels, and cope with the things that are out of your control. I learned these stress relief methods, but it took some time to get to the point where I could practice them daily. So in this article, I’ll be helping you learn and understand three ways you can improve the quality of your life, by showing you how to manage your stress levels properly.
An easy, natural, yet incredibly powerful method of reducing stress, is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. Yes, getting out and increasing how much physical activity you do every day.
For many of us that spend a large portion of our days sitting behind a desk, getting exercise isn’t something we always make time for. It’s very easy for tasks and Zoom meetings to get in the way. But getting exercise is an essential component of resetting your mind and body each day, ultimately helping you better handle stress every day.
I understand the idea of committing to a regular exercise routine can be overwhelming for some. After all, we all live hectic lives. And it’s not always easy to find that extra time to squeeze in a workout.
But in truth, all it takes is 15 to 30 minutes a day, a couple of days a week, to see an increase in your overall mood and stress levels. Plus, there are simple ways of incorporating exercise into your current lifestyle. For example, if you’re working at home, you can get an adjustable desk that allows you to stand, or take your Zoom meeting while standing so that you can spend a few moments standing while working.
To get an idea of just how much exercise can improve your mood, take 10 minutes, and either walk or jog lightly in place.
In addition to the apparent benefits of exercise, incorporating exercise into your life can also give you some much-needed alone time. It can help you reset your mind and tackle your next business obstacle. Throw on some headphones and listen to your favorite podcast. Or leave them at home and just work out in peace. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your stress will melt away when you’ve allowed yourself to recharge.
If you’re an entrepreneur or leader, I know that this is easier said than done. We want to keep working to meet our goals and can often see exercise as a distraction. Some of my ideas and how to implement them have come to me while running on the treadmill and weight training. Mainly, I wasn’t thinking about work or anything to do with running the company in those moments. Then, with a fresh mind and a recharged body, I’m ready o execute.
Access to the internet has brought a lot into our worlds: convenience, social networking, and the ability to work from just about anywhere. But, with this convenience comes an extraordinary amount of stress. Just think about the last time you sat down to complete a task for your business. Your mobile device probably distracted you. And that means you weren’t fully focused on what you were working on.
We’ve become almost numb to the sound of notifications going off on our phones and tablets; Incoming emails, alerts, and a myriad of other online signals that pull our attention in a hundred different directions. Now that many of us work from home and online, the constant incoming noise can leave you overwhelmed and stressed. You may feel pressured to respond to customers quickly, or perhaps you’re a serial entrepreneur, trying to manage several different businesses at once.
You find yourself always having to refocus your attention because you have so many things happening at once. This is what many refer to as information overload, and can be the biggest reason why many us feel stressed.
It’s essential to learn to cut out the noise, disconnect, and recharge your mental and emotional batteries. Not only will this help you with stress relief by giving yourself a mental “time out”. But eventually, the downtime will boost your creativity levels and help you run your business more efficiently!
Now, there are plenty of theories on what the best time to disconnect from the internet might be. My experience has shown that the best time is shortly before you go to bed. Staring at a screen and scrolling has been linked to insomnia-related issues (leading to high stress levels). For a good night’s sleep, turn off all mobile devices about an hour before your bedtime. (Also, get an alarm clock, instead of using your phone as your alarm).
To wind down at the end of the day, try reading a book or watch some TV. Do something that isn’t too engaging, but still somewhat mentally stimulating so that you’re able to stay focused while still winding down and relaxing. If you’re concerned about putting away your phone and not being accessible in an emergency, then let people know that you’re only available at certain times and turn off the notifications in your phone.
This was perhaps the hardest thing for me to do consistently. However, it’s essential to your well-being as an entrepreneur or leader. There will always be work that needs to be done, and you need to be in the best frame of mind that you can be to do it, which will require some time away from your work. It’s essential to focus on your down-time every day, even if it’s just the hour and moments before bed, which takes us to my next point.
Another way to reduce stress to make sure that you get enough, but not too much sleep. When we don’t rest enough at the end of the day, our bodies begin to get tense, and we become irritable. And when we’re moody, we become stressed. This is one area where I struggled terribly when I started my journey to build a business. If you’re a leader or entrepreneur, you need your sleep.
On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that you should sleep for an incredibly long time. Getting too much sleep can be just as detrimental to your productivity as not getting enough. If you’re sleeping for longer than your body needs, you can become sluggish, which can also lead to stress when you’re unable to meet deadlines, get through your to-do lists, or beat yourself up because you aren’t productive.
To figure out how much sleep your body needs, it’s good to establish a regular sleep schedule, even on your days off. This forces your brain to go into sleep mode at the same time every night, regardless of what you have planned for the next day. Once you make this change and catch up with your sleep, you’ll find that you’re less stressed and much happier overall.
I did mention that exercise and being active is useful for managing stress. However, you’ll want to avoid any exercise about 2 – 3 hours before your scheduled bedtime to give our body enough time every night to wind down.
Another way to relax your body is with healthy foods. You could try having a banana or two, or a handful of peanuts, or even a turkey sandwich about three hours before bedtime. These foods contain tryptophan, which, after being digested, creates melatonin: a hormone that makes us sleepy. This is why we get tired after Thanksgiving dinner.
So, eating the right foods will help you relax. But you’ll also want to avoid eating too close to your bedtime. For example, if I plan to be asleep by 11 pm, then the last thing I’ll eat for the day is at 7 pm.
Many professionals, entrepreneurs, and leaders are self-professed caffeine addicts. And while some health benefits come with drinking coffee, caffeine may not be a good idea for some people at all. Everyone has a different caffeine threshold, right? Some can handle a lot, some just a little, and some not at all. It all comes down to your body’s overall chemistry, and – as with everything in life, moderation is key.
Reducing how much caffeine you consume, whether it’s in the form of coffee, energy drink, or other high caffeine drinks, is a natural way to reduce and relieve stress. Just as many professionals need caffeine to function after waking up, too much can make you jittery and scatterbrained.
If you’d like to try cutting back on how much caffeine you drink, it’s essential to do so in moderation. I want to stress the point on cutting back slowly. Caffeine can be addicting, and going cold turkey can lead to withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, irritability, and insomnia, all of which will have the opposite effect in reducing your stress.
Try cutting back just one cup a day and see how you feel. Depending on the outcome, keep cutting back after a few days. Keep doing this stress relief hack until you find that threshold that works for you. Who knows, you may find that you don’t need caffeine at all!
Many of us are afraid to say no when people reach out for help, advice, and support. It’s tough; I get it. Especially when you’re trying to make a name for yourself in business or show that you’re worthy of that leadership title that you have. However, by not considering whether “yes” is right for you, it can easily lead to incredibly high-stress levels. So, I’d like to ask you a couple of questions.
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are, in fact, a “yes” person. Again, I understand and don’t fault you for that. It’s easy to get worried that you’ll fall behind the competition in business. So, you say yes to every marketing strategy or new tactic that you can learn to help you enhance your business skills. You might not want to miss out on an opportunity, so you sign on for as many tasks or projects as possible.
More often than not, this backfires because you can only do so much before burning yourself out and draining yourself of the creative energy you have and the motivation you have to be great. Even if you’re the kind of person that thrives under pressure, the truth is, we all have a breaking point.
If you find yourself getting close to a breaking point, take a step back, and look over your workload. Ask yourself what you can get done within a reasonable amount of time. Then, discuss this with your manager, business partner, or simply yourself!
Explain why taking on a heavier workload will cause your current workload to suffer in quality. If you’re the leader or entrepreneur, consider restructuring your schedule and reducing your workload. Do it by getting rid of the tasks that you don’t personally need to do. Learn to delegate or outsource. Be selective with your overall workload and what favors you do for people. If someone is asking you for help, then chances are they understand what it means to have too much on your plate.
As you can see, it doesn’t take too much to relieve stress. But it does require paying close attention to your triggers. Moreover, it needs making a consistent, conscious effort to reduce your stress levels wherever you can before it catches up to you. I suggest making one change at a time and sticking to it for a week or so. Once that change becomes a habit, move onto something else. Incorporate the ideas into your lifestyle until you have the perfect mixture of stress-relieving tools.
These stress relief hacks are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to relieving stress and living the best personal and professional life that you can. To dive deeper, download my free guide on the seven major hacks for personal and professional success. The most important thing you can do as an entrepreneur or leader is to keep everything balanced. Not overwhelm yourself by taking on more than you can handle. This guide will help you take the first step to be more balanced. Use the link below to download the free guide.
If you’d like to find other ways you can kick stress in your business, personal, and professional life, then check out the following articles: