Dealing with Stress

Kate Moss by Terry Richardson

AARRRGRAAASSSTTTEEEERRRRRPHUUUDDGEEEEEE…

…is the noise my brain makes when it feels like it’s literally 2 seconds away from exploding with information overload. And yours?

We’ve all been there. There’s too much to do and there’s too little time to do it in. There’s someone calling you and there’s a zillion people emailing you. Your mental ‘to do’ list is longer than your arm and you don’t know where to start.

So save from allowing your brain to explode all over your computer screen, how do you deal with stress? If you Google ‘dealing with stress’ there are a million and one websites with lists of things you can do to combat those dreaded stressful episodes, however these are the things that work for me…

Get up early

I’m personally more productive in the morning. I write better. I’m more focused. I can breeze through emails much quicker. Once it gets to about 2pm I start to feel lethargic and my brain switches off. The afternoon time is when I do menial tasks like compiling invoices and proof reading – i.e. the stuff that doesn’t need me to be creative. There are also less distractions early in the morning (when twitter is less lively!) A strong cup of coffee and I’m usually good to go.

Also after a good night’s sleep I feel fresher and feel more ready to tackle my ‘to do’ list head on. I can party into the wee hours with the best of them, but nothing beats an early night followed by some early morning productivity. How very Rock n Roll!

Get organised

Buy yourself a beautiful notebook and obsessively write lists and any ideas that pop into your head in it (mine is neon pink and that helps, believe me). Allow yourself to not worry about remembering the things that you can jot down. Get yourself signed up to Google Calendar and/or grab yourself a wall planner and physically document the thinks you have to do. No one can remember everything they have to do so don’t stress yourself out trying!

Decide what works for you. I personally use my Google Calendar to keep track of my advertisers (ie when each advert needs to go up or come down) and to note dates and times of any meetings, events or appointments I have. The great thing about using a Google Calendar is you can access it online anywhere and you can set up email alerts to remind you of each thing you need to do and when. I’ve also got an app for it on my phone which means I get the alerts directly on my mobile as well as in my inbox. Great for when I’m out and about! I have mine set up to remind me 48 hours before I have to do something.

I also have a physical diary which sits in front of me… on my desk… all the time (see?). It’s a week-to-view diary and in it I note what blog posts I’m planning to publish and at what time of day. I then tick off when they’re scheduled which is super duper satisfyingly - always! In a different coloured pen I also note down anywhere I need to be that week so I don’t loose track.

Similarly keeping on top of your email (or anything that piles up quickly and needs constant attention) is VITAL. Set a certain time aside every day and just do it. No excuses! Sure, it’s not the most enjoyable part of running a business, but it’s an important one. Not only is it paramount to communicate with your clients/collegues for your sanity as well as theirs, but you don’t want to be known as someone who never replies to their emails do you?! I’m an over communicator – but I figure I’d rather be known for that than the other option! If you’d like to read more about how I keep on top of my inbox you can do so here.

Catherine McNeil in LaCrasia Buttoned Leather Opera Gloves

Have something to look forward to

It could be dinner out, a take away, a cupcake (hum… I think I must be hungry) a mini break, a shopping spree… but whatever it is it has to be non-work related and something you’d consider a treat.  Why? Well why not!? Having something to look forward to is always a good thing and will help you power through the crappy times knowing there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Schedule some time off

Like, proper time away from work. A holiday, a week off, even a day out. Looking forward to something (see above) is good but getting there is even better. You’ll come back to work refreshed and ready to tackle things head on.

Make sure you prepare for your time away though. Get right on top of things before you sign off. Clear your inbox and make sure your clients and colleagues know your’re going away and won’t be responding to emails. Set up an out of office informing people of that fact and the date that they can expect to hear back from you. People will forgive you as long as you keep them informed! If like me, you have to have social media/blog updates daily, pre-schedule these too. It’s a little extra work beforehand but totally worth it so you can completely unwind. Of course you’ll have lots to come back to but you’ll feel better equipped to deal with it after a proper rest.

Take regular breaks

Remember those BBC bitesize revision thingys? I remember using them for my GCSEs and loving how all the lessons were broken down into, what they called, ‘bitesized chucks’. The information was easily digestible and you never felt overloaded but more than that they encouraged you to take a break every hour! I rememeber thinking that was a little excessive and that I didn’t feel like I needed a break that often, but looking back I can see the logic. You’re brain can’t remain at the peak of it’s ability after a prolonged period of time. It needs a rest and a recharge to be in tip top condition.

While I don’t break quite that often anymore, making sure you allow yourself to take a few minutes here and there is good for the soul. Whether it’s half an hour away from your desk to eat lunch, a mid afternoon bath (my favourite) or a quick early evening stroll around the block, I guarantee you’ll come back to your desk with a new idea, or a better way of tackling something, or hell, maybe even a witty tweet. Inspiration and ideas never ever hit you when you’re sat at your computer willing them to come do they?

Shenae Grimes for Dirrty Glam

Get healthy

Everyone tells you to eat right, get some exercise and drink less alcohol. We all know doing so will make us look at feel better but blah blah blaaaah we all also know most of us don’t do it! I have made a conscious decsision to try and eat better over the past few weeks – mainly replacing the carbs in our evening meal with extra veg, and I do feel better for it. But I probably need to take this advice on board a lot more. I don’t exercise at all and I drink quite a lot. Although I also think a couple of glasses of wine in the evening are a great way to destress and unwind. And as long as I’m not cracking open a bottle of gin at midday, that’s a vice I’m OK to admit to!

Cut down on your commitments

Say no more often and focus on the things that really matter. It’s impossible to take on everything yourself so delegate where you can and spend your time on the things that really need your specific skills (ie you might need to be the one who writes your blog posts but can you outsource your accounts?) Similarly take a long hard look at everything you’re committed to. What really adds value to your life or your business (this doesn’t have to be monetary value) and what are you doing just because you feel like you should? You may need to make some tough decisions and drop things, but if the effort you’re putting into something doesn’t equate to what you’re getting out of it (or might get out of it in the future) then why are you still doing it?

Also try to focus on just one task at a time. When we try to multitask too often, neither job gets done to the best of our ability. Take your time and do things in the best way possible.

Walk away

Do you ever stare at your computer screen at something that’s stressing you out or annoying you and then wonder at 5pm why you feel like you’ve had such a crappy day? It’s not the fault of the person/thing/event that’s making you feel this way (OK so maybe it is but they’re not going to do anything to change the way you feel are they?)

If this happens step away – literally.  Get up, walk away from your computer and do something else. Even if its just for 10 minutes, changing your physical location will, I guarantee, change your attitude. Do something else – a blast of housework, paint your nails, organise your wardrobe, walk the dog… anything to shift your emotions and attention onto something else for a while (as a side note, when I’m angry, I tend to do housework really well… what’s that about?!)

Walking away for a bit also allows you to let stuff go. Stressing about things you can’t control is the worst (and the most pointless) kind of stress. Sitting there in a state of constant panic won’t change it… so stop it! You’re probably thinking “yeah but that’s easier said than done”. Sure it is, but why not try the above methods and see what difference they make.

And if all else fails…

Put on some loud music and dance like a loon

Seriously… you’ll feel better in an instant. Right now I’d recommend this…

In fact I’d always recommend the Deftones. Epic love.

Or if you’re in need of something more in the ‘chill out’ realm it’s gotta be anything by these guys right?

In fact I don’t think they’ve ever released a song I didn’t like. Yesterday I spent my morning listing to a YouTube playlist of 80 of their best tracks. I’ve never felt more chilled!

The fabulous people on my facebook page also had some amazing musical ideas. What an ace playlist that lot would be!

I’d love to hear some of your own de-stressing tactics. What works (or doesn’t work) for you? What musical interludes help you though the bad times? What are you stressing about at the moment and how can we help?

16 comments

  1. I find knitting very therapeutic and treat myself to knitting breaks at lunch and in the evenings to help me cope with stress. There’s something about the rhythm of it that takes me out of my own head. Plus you end up with a nice knitted something at the end of it.

  2. Great post Kat – Overworking (mostly until about 3am every night, to be up at 6am with my little girl) nearly cost me A LOT in the first year of my business. I had some big wake up calls and now have a rule that I don’t work past 6pm. Whatever’s waiting to be done just has to wait. Interestingly, my business is progressing much quicker now despite the fact I’m not at it 24-7. Sometimes it’s about quality of time, not quantity! I also figured I’d be no good to anyone if I drove myself to nervous breakdown! So, my tip; try your very best to retain some work/life balance. And if all else fails, dance like a loon! x

  3. Great post Kat, as usual. I used to teach and so I was on a pretty tight schedule, now that I’m “just” blogging, it’s as if I had less time that before. It’s the weirdest thing. That’s my problem… setting times to work because otherwise I can just work all day, which is ridiculous because I live in such a beautiful place. If anyone has any good tips on setting daily schedules when you work for yourself, please share! xo

  4. Loads of great ideas here and plenty that I use myself!

    Stress is caused, generally, by your brain fretting about something you’ve done, or something you have to do – or lots of things – namely, getting het up about the past or future, rather than concentrating on the present. Applying a bit of Buddhist philosophy can help. If your brain is stuck on the past or future, you can’t enjoy the present. Learning to clear your mind, even for a minute at a time, is a huge stress relief. I used to go to Buddhist meditation classes, and afterwards I’d walk home, feeling so peaceful, tranquil and lighter than air. Try it – you don’t have to be religious in any way!

  5. I do three main things…
    1. I run, I only started about 4 months ago – but it is the best thing ever for me. Because I so busy trying to keep my legs moving, breathe and not pass out all at the same time it empties my head.
    2. I always see my friends/family on the weekend for a lunch, catch up, or chillout time.
    3. I have banned myself from blogging and social media for the weekends. (I’m totally Monday to Friday only now!)

    The result is I am the happiest ever, don’t get me wrong – I always want more time. But, these things keep me sane, balanced and most of all happy!

  6. Kat, I thought I couldn’t do it at first but it has actually been the most amazing thing ever just to switch off; then by the time Monday comes, I’m looking forward to it again! Don’t get me wrong, I’ll probably send an evil tweet or two come Xfactor time. But, since I’ve given up – I don’t miss it! Total relaxation, it’s felt brilliant.

  7. Amma – you know I’m with you on #1!!! Taking up running about 10 years ago has been one of the best things I have ever done. It is hugely effective on stress – the endorphins, the sense of empowerment over your body, the fact that you’re literally burning off the nervous energy causing havoc… I honestly can’t recommend it enough. Plus the fact that you can eat chocolate afterwards for more feel-good chemicals and not feel guilty :) though I’m sure any other high intensity aerobic exercise would do the same (like dancing around your living room pretending to be Kylie).

    Must try the no-social-media-on-the-weekends thing. My husband would be thrilled.

  8. Great post and oh so true! A little bit of rescue remedy in your drawer is always a good one for those really bad days when leaving you desk for too long is not an option!

  9. Pasquel

    LOVE IT! Deftones on the way home from work always makes me feel better! I don’t even run my own business but do have a very stressful job – when I have big assignments due I rely on short bursts of activity interspersed with breaks for music, cuddles, and a bit of ‘mindfulness meditation’…we got forced to train in it as I work in mental health and was a little skeptical at first but now I swear by it!

  10. I’m a big fan of writing down all the internal chit-chat too! Music is key for me, be it listening to some acoustic chill out tracks or better still some time to sit down at the ol’ ivories and bash out a few tunes takes me off to another place & my mind shuts off. Driving to the coast to loud music and singing my head off (who cares if someone sees!) and arriving at total emptiness with the rhythmical sound of the waves soothes a stressed soul!

  11. I am really enjoying my daily gym classes. Yip, daily. Last year I couldn’t have fathomed doing three days a week and now I allow myself an hour and a half every day (except when shooting a wedding) where I run to gym do Zumba, Body Pump or Yoga and run home. It is amazing that when you get into a routine you can’t imagine not having the time. I made the time and now I look forward to it. It is helpful that a lot of the classes are at 6pm which forces me to switch off in the evenings. Zumba us the most fun and Body Pump is cool for really good tones results! Santorini bikini here I come…

  12. Firstly, I would recommend getting this for writing blog posts. Kat…if you are easily distracted by twitter etc ;) then this the one for you!!

    http://www.ommwriter.com/

    Then…if you want to get drastic…get this app: http://macfreedom.com/about (Be warned…it’ll make you realise how addicted to the internet you actually might be!)

    And if that isn’t enough – this app showed me how I’m being massively inefficient with my time. http://www.rescuetime.com/ (Also a scary one!)

    And if they aren’t enough… :)

    I once had a life coach lady and she taught me a couple of useful tips. (The place I worked at paid for a bunch of us to have her once a week for a couple of months…I massively needed it as I am procrastination queen and if not careful – can find myself doing 30 jobs at once!)

    She suggested…and it worked for me!
    1) Get an A3 sheet of paper (or A2 even better!!) and ‘brain dump’. Spend half an hour (or more if needed) and just ‘dump’ everything in your head onto that sheet. EVERY SINGLE THING. It can be a big ol’ mess, just scribble everything down. From appointments; dry cleaning that needs picking up; the door handle that needs replacing; the emails you need to reply to; the curtains that need taking up; the bill that needs to be paid…even the phone call to that certain someone you keep putting off. Keep writing. If you think you’ve done it all…push yourself to dig deeper. Exhaust the list until you know you’ve written everything. (Even the things that you think…”Oh, I won’t write that…I know I’ll do that tomorrow.)

    2) Now organise that list into two columns. Right now – Today. and Specific Date. Put everything into the two columns. If it can be done today – put it in the ‘Right Now’ column. If it’s impossible to do today…write it in the second column with the exact date you must complete it by.

    3) As soon as the list is complete. Start working on the right now column. From top to bottom. If one of them is to collect the dry cleaning. Get off your bum and do it right then. If you need to delete emails…do it right then. Start at the top of the Right Now column and do not skip any…just work on them one by one until the list is complete. (I always find that by number 6 on the list…I’m raring to go!

    4) When you’ve finished. Write all your specific date items into your diary or Google Calendar. And do them on that date. If you don’t do it on that date. Next time around (in one month)…that item MUST go on the today list.

    5) Feel so happy when you know you’ve completed a whole bunch of stuff you tried to avoid…and you know that your mind is clear. EVERYTHING is on that list. (I always find things come into my head during the process…just write them down…)

    6) Sleep. Each month when I do this – I sleep so soundly that night.

    I also make sure I drink ridiculous amounts of water when I wake up.

    ps. I’ve totally been procrastinating by writing this. Better get back to what I was meant to be doing! x

  13. Thanks for the tips. I used to get up late and I go to my work late to and it happens over and over again maybe I was just being so stress and lack of enthusiasm. But as I read this article it makes me realize some things.Thanks, I’ll apply all of this tips and work it out.

  14. Having 2 small kids, getting up early is the norm! Life can get pretty stressful with a house and a business to run and with little time for the exercise bit, I have a very loud ‘kitchen disco’ regularly on my own – it definitely works!! (break, exercise, de-stress all at the same time!) Oh and I am the queen of lists. Sometimes I add ‘get up’ to the top just so I can cross it off ; )

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