Dealing With Stress and a Busy Life

I am a busy guy. A really busy guy. People often ask me how I have time for it all. For a while, my answer was focus. For a while, I said that I didn’t waste time on things like TV. Lately, however, that level of focus and drive has started to take a toll.

Stress

If you are anything like me, you will take on virtually any project that you find meaningful, fun, or potentially profitable. Right now, I am on two non-profit boards (I am treasurer of one), have three small businesses, enjoy a busy social life, and, oh yeah, a full time job.

It is no surprise that I feel stressed every once in a while. In fact, it would be no surprise if I felt stressed every day. I can’t blame anyone else, though, I do it to myself. It is not anyone else’s fault that I traveled three weekends in a row. It is no one else’s fault that I scheduled my calendar so full that I have not had an evening off in three weeks.

I do that to myself. Whatever the stress situation is in your life, with some exceptions for your job and family situation, stress is something you create in your own life.

Priorities

I have found that a big way to deal with stress is to set clear priorities. If I try to do everything, and do it all at once, I end up doing a bad job with everything and feel even worse about it.

To deal with stress, make sure you know what is at the top of the list. Whether that is in your personal life, your job, or a project, know what you have to get done first no matter what, and then move onto the next thing.

I have clear to-do lists that help me navigate the priorities. I have a to-do list at work that I use to stay on top of projects and monthly responsibilities. I cross things off as I go and re-sort it based on priority every few days.

Saying No

Outside of work, I have learned that sometimes I have to say no to people. I like being involved with great events and organizations. I like to have a behind-the-scenes look into my community. However, I learned that I can’t do everything.

For example, in one non-profit I am the treasurer of the local organization and on the marketing committee of the international organization. I worked on a big project to hire a new staff person for social media and web focused projects.

I was asked to help with the resume and interview process. After working through the resumes and getting it down to our top candidates, I found I was not going to have time for a phone interview with multiple candidates. I said no and they thanked me for the help I was able to give up to that point.

It is harder to say no at work, but it is possible. Ask about the value of projects you are working on. If it is not very useful, maybe you can cut it. I have cut out a lot of the manual reporting I do regularly so I could focus on more valuable projects for my company.

Relaxation

When you are booked up almost every day, like I do to myself, it is important to schedule relaxation time and find out what helps you decompress. Here are some popular ideas for relaxation:

Exercise – Schedule time at least 2-3 times a week for 30+ minutes of cardiovascular exercise. I like bike rides myself.

Sleep – A good night’s sleep is huge for dealing with stress and living a healthy lifestyle. Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Make sure you get it.

Diet – B vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids, and bananas are known to help people deal with stress. A balanced diet is important. If you are looking for ways to supplement your diet, B vitamin stress supplements and 5-HTP may be helpful.

Alternative Methods – Massages, acupuncture, yoga, and hypnosis are all ways some people deal with stress. I didn’t find a massage very helpful, and acupuncture scares the crap out of me, but I have a self-hypnosis CD for stress that I do find helpful when I listen to it before bed. (Don’t knock it till you try it!)

Balance

Like with everything else in life, balance is key. Make sure you enjoy the activities and projects you have, but don’t forget to have time for yourself, time to relax, time for a hobby, time for a nap, or whatever else you enjoy doing.

Every Wednesday night, my calendar is blocked off for my favorite way to let loose of the week. I go on a giant bike ride around Denver. I also like to make time to go dancing at my favorite nightclub at least once or twice a month.

What Do You Think?

How do you manage stress in your life? What has worked well for you? Do you feel stressed out and not know what to do next? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Image by 05com/flickr

Comments

    • says

      I have only ever had one professional massage. I got a deal from Google Offers for $30 for a 1 hour, full body massage. I don’t think I would do it all the time, but it is a nice way to relax every once in a while.

  1. says

    Years ago, I started work at a small mom and pop company. The boss never said no to anybody, so he was shocked when I started declining some of the customers requests.  I’d say ‘No, we can’t do that at that time’ or ‘No, we can’t do that within that amount of time’, but then I’d always give an alternative with a rationale ‘Why not do it this day so that you have staff here to test’ or ‘We can do it in 4 days, not 2, which will allow us to work out all the bugs’.  99 percent of the time the client was right on board, and it actually taught my boss that saying NO was OK as long as it was handled professionally.

  2. Jenna from Adaptu says

    Working out, talking with friends over beers and sleeping, helps me keep my stress under control.

  3. says

    I watch ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) videos on YouTube. They’re kinda weird, but apparently, there are a ton of people who respond to them. For the past week, I’ve been taking relaxing strolls on the trails in my neighborhood. There’s only one problem: I have allergies. 

  4. says

    All great tips.  3 that stand out to me in terms of handling stress:

    1) Learning to say NO! This has been something that has not come easily to me, as I have an inclination to overextend and also don’t like to say no. But, I’ve learned that I must say no much more often.  We need to maintain some control over our schedule, and be in charge – while making sure that we do what we NEED to do first. Control leads to much less stress, as least for me.

    2) Sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to a world of problems, and I’m convinced that sleep is entirely underrated. There is no badge of honor in cutting back on sleep to get things done.  Be well rested, and things seem less stressful.

    3) Diet.  Food is the fuel that keeps us going, so it’s vital to eat the right foods.

  5. Dave-Financial Conflict Coach says

    Periodical meditation and disconnecting from technology for a day or two works for me.

    • says

      I think I would be more stressed if I disconnected from technology. If I don’t know what is going on, I freak out

  6. says

    Meditation and waking up early are a big help. Plus, if I don’t want to do something, I don’t do it (goes along with saying no.” The hardest thing is to change your mindset to a point where you are comfortable not caring about everything that happens in everyone’s life.

    • says

      Waking up early? I feel much better when I sleep later. Knowing that one person’s stress mechanisms is different from your own is good too. Some tips will work for each of us, others will not.

  7. says

    Great list! I try to tackle the small things if I can wipe them off my list quickly. Sometimes I find just looking at my list makes me SO stressed.

    • says

      The small wins are an easy way to feel better. When you get the low hanging fruit, it is easier to keep at it and knock things off one at a time.

  8. Dannielle @ Odd Cents says

    Prioritzing really helps when I have lots to do. I deal with stress by sleeping – I drop everything and hit the sack.

    • says

      I wish I could do that! When I am stressed, I can never fall asleep. I end up lying in bed for hours tossing and turning.