7 Things I Do To Keep From Working Stressed
About 5 years ago, I started having some really crazy physical symptoms.
It was a few months after having my little girl and I was having chest pains, weird nerve pain that would shoot up my legs and anxiety. I also had pretty regular migraines, along with muscle and jaw pain. Nothing too extreme but it was noticeable enough that it had me doing that middle of the night google search for answers.
If you've ever google-searched your symptoms at midnight before you know it almost always leads to a mini-panic attack that it might be the worst possible case scenario: "It's a heart attack. It's cancer. It's a blood clot. It's probably spread to my lungs. Oh my gosh, I could only have hours left to live!"
So of course after freaking out and reading too many horror stories, I headed to the ER. THANKFULLY it wasn't any of the above life-threatening illnesses. After undergoing a bunch of tests the doctor decided it was nothing more than stress.
Even though this was great news, I was really confused. Could stress really mess me up this much?
Yes it could! I was trying to do too many things, not setting enough boundaries, not getting enough sleep or exercise. I made a lifestyle of going constantly and didn't even notice how exhausted I was. I really wanted to to do all of the things and was acting like I had no limits.
Maybe you're finding yourself working until you collapse into bed at night. Or maybe you just have so much going on that you can't focus or think creatively. If you're overwhelmed a lot at work, you could be on your way to stressing yourself sick too.
Here are some of the things I do to help get a handle on my stress level...
7 Things I Do To Keep From Working Stressed
# 1 | PROJECT FLOWCHART
I have a really hard time saying no, both to myself and to others. I'd tell myself that the extra project wouldn't take THAT long...it's not a big deal. But all those extra little things add up. So to keep from being overly optimistic and taking on too much, I made a project flowchart.
It's kind of like a reference for when I'm not sure if I should add a project to my plate. For example some of the questions are like this... How much time will it take? Is it worth the extra income? Is the client easy to work with? Is it going to crossover into my busy season? Etc.
#2 | CREATE MENTAL SPACE
When I first started my business, I really struggled to put work down. Even when I was supposed to be relaxing, I'd be going over solutions in my head. Or when big problem came up while working with someone, I'd get angry or overly emotional about to the point of wanting to call it quits.
Especially in these times but hopefully before it gets to this point, I try to create some space between me and my work. I attempt to find unrelated activities that help me completely block it out. For me, that is reading fiction books, doing a dance workout, listening to podcasts or running errands. If you give yourself a little time to recharge, even if it's 20 minutes, I think it helps relieve so much of that stress. Usually when I come back to the problem, I can sort it out with a clear head.
#3 | HAVE A PLAN HOUR
There's nothing worse than being super focused on being successful in one area and then watching everything else fall through the cracks. Instead of being proud and accomplished after a big project was wrapped up, I'd find myself feeling guilty because everything else didn't get taken care of very well.
To combat this, I do a weekly plan hour. Every Saturday morning, I spend around 30min to an hour making all of the decisions I won't want to worry about later in the week. I lay out all of our meals in Prepear, I add all of the week's projects and deadlines into Asana. I make a note of what needs organized around the house, what events are coming up and when I'll have time to run errands. Having all of this decided at the beginning of the week = less stress during the workweek.
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#4 | SET THE STAGE FOR CALM
This tip is actually something I learned while doing autism research for my little man. You can make a huge difference in your level of calm just by making some quick changes to your workspace. Here's some examples:
Light - Dim your lights in the evening or get near a sunny window in the morning. Light candles or turn on a diffuser with essential oils.
Distractions - Clear clutter so it's at least out of sight (Fill up a bin/laundry basket if you need to get rid of everything in your space quick). Turn off your notifications!
Get comfy - Pull up a cozy blanket or dress in comfy clothes.
Quiet - Put on headphones, turn on chill music or make your space more quiet (We regularly encourage our kids to play downstairs when they want to run and yell).
Create an environment that will make you able to slow down and take a deep breath.
#5 | HAVE BACKUP IDEA LISTS
When I have a million different things on my plate (which is always) I love to have back up plans and lists to fall back on. For example, I always have a running list of blog ideas, design ideas, meal ideas, books to read, gift ideas, perfect playlists, etc.
Maybe once a season, I'll update all of my lists with new ideas so that when the time comes I don't have to spend all a ton of energy coming up with new ones. I can just get started.
#6 | DEAL WITH THE DRAMA
Have you ever tried to focus when you know that someone's mad at you? Or if you're in the middle of a big disagreement? It's really hard. Especially if you're just emotionally drained.
The number one thing I do in these situations is get it all out there and deal with the drama. Whether that means apologizing directly to the person, talking it out with my husband (he's a safe place), or journaling it to God. Most of the time I end up choosing to just let it go. But getting it all out and dealing with it helps me from having those imaginary conversations in my head that throw off my focus.
#7 | LOWER THE EXPECTATIONS
It's really easy to forget that a lot of things in life are flexible or able to be moved around. They aren't always the emergency situation we make them into. Is everything going to fall apart if I take an extra day to finish something? Does everything REALLY need to be as perfect as I'm trying to make it. Will I really miss out or make someone hate me if I have to say it won't work this time? Usually the answer is no.
Lower the expectations. Simplify by not trying to impress all the time. See if things in your schedule can be moved around. Can you lower the number of clients or projects you have lined up? Shifting things around and changing your expectations can be such a relief.
I wish I could say I'm a pro at all of these things, but I still catch myself needing to backtrack sometimes. It's so worth it to get rid of the extra stress. When you're fully recharged, you can actually think straight, be creative and have fun with your work.