We have all been there in life, huge work load, huge amount of stress, confused and completely unhappy. The purpose of this article is to keep your productivity up and return that smile to your face.
Source of stress
One of the first steps of creating balance in your life is to identify what your main sources of stress are. For many of us our main stressor is our work, and many of us just leave it at that, assuming that work is always going to be stressful. This same thinking will cause an individual to let stress levels spiral out of control causing productivity and happiness to deteriorate. Stress like everything else, can be managed and controlled to levels where it can actually benefit your health.
Eustress and Distress
There are two types of stress, Eustress known as the positive stress, and Distress the negative. Eustress is healthy and can be motivating and put purpose behind our goals and objectives. It is found in life events such as job promotions, raises and starting new projects. Distress commonly occurs with increased workloads, demanding deadlines, and Job insecurity. High levels of Distress are linked will all sorts of health problems and shortened life spans. In the end, you definitely want to avoid this kind of stress, or work to take control and keep it at bay.
Performance levels at level of Eustress and Distress
Once you have found your main sources of stress the next step is finding ways to manage and bring down distress levels. Firstly, you have to know what your next couple of weeks will look like, what’s your workload and what is expected of you. For myself, I measure this in hours I will need to spend in the office. From there I can determine when I will have to wake up, what time I will get home and how much time outside of work I will have. The time away from work is very important. This is time that should be used to recover/prepare for your work week, although very little time should be spent thinking about work if any.
After determining the amount of time you have away from work, you now have to make of use of it as effectively as possible. This is your time- do whatever you want with it but your main goal is to have fun and grow as individual. Now this is easier said than done, work often takes up the bulk of an individual’s energy and passion, and it’s hard to find the energy to do anything other than eat, watch some T.V. and go to bed. The reason for this is you have no stimulation in your life other than your work and paycheque, and in worse cases for students your studying and unfortunately lack a paycheque. This routine often becomes a vicious cycle where one can neither focus during work hours or outside of work hours.
So where do you find stimulation? How do you find energy to do things after work? Understandably for some, most hours of the day are consumed by the hours they spend at their job but even despite that, many of the excuses for high stress loads are inexcusable. What you lack is discipline not time. Many people are extremely disciplined and dedicated to their work but the opposite may be the case in their personal lives, and your work being your number one priority is not an excuse. There is no work without living, and your life comes first or, before you know it, your work may destroy your life. It is essential to take care of your mental and physical health outside of work because it will not only help you live a longer happier life it will help you be more successful in your work.
Gaining freedom through discipline
Freedom is defined as the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. Lack of discipline may disallow freedom but stress overwhelms one with thoughts surrounding work and your failures or shortcomings. This is because your life revolves around your work. Freedom is attained from maintaining a routine that benefits all aspects of your life.
To establish a healthy routine, we go back to determining your work and non-work hours. Next you need to define how much you need to sleep and how you are going to attain those sleep levels. Many successful people sleep less than 8 hours at night and take naps, but it is important you are getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep is detrimental to your performance in work and creates more stress, creating a vicious cycle that never ends. You sleep less to get more work done but you are gradually becoming less and less productive and increasing your stress levels.
I would argue that it is not how much sleep you get in total but how much sleep you get consistently. You want to keep variables consistent so you can constantly perform to the best of your abilities. So I would prefer getting seven hours of sleep every night than varying amounts between five and ten hours.
I like to track my sleep with my Fitbit watch, allowing me to monitor my moods and productivity based on my sleep. Other methods of tracking sleep include apps for your phone and other tracking watches. I have had good experiences with the app sleep cycle alarm clock. The app analyzes your sleep patterns by tracking your movements during sleep, it also slowly wakes you up with interval alarms to not disturb rem sleep. It is beneficial to be tracking your sleep as well other aspects of your life including your diet.
It is my belief that diet can have the most drastic effect on one’s life. Arguably, this could be a blog post on its own but I will focus on stress-reducing diet tips. The most crucial advice I can give someone is eliminate sugars, any non-naturally occurring sugars should be eliminated from your diet.
Have a wholesome breakfast with some protein, stay away from cereals and granolas they are filled with sugars and little nutrients. I have found either a shake with protein or eggs to be a good start to a day. Try to avoid keeping snacks at your desk they will usually lack nutrients and actually increase hunger and cravings. I like to pack a mid-morning snack and two salads to get me through the day. My snack usually consists of soaked oats with honey or the rest of my shake from breakfast.
The main principles to follow in diet are to limit sugar, try to eat as many earth nutrients as possible, and to keep hydrated.
Hygiene and Cleanliness
The practise of keeping good hygiene, clean workplaces, and living spaces if very often overlooked. Throughout university I would often let my hair grow long and couldn’t care less about my dress wear especially around finals time. My thinking was my studying was more important than everything else. I was wrong! When I let one thing slip in my life so did everything else, my diet would deteriorate along with my sleep schedule.
Keeping proper structure in your life can really influence the rest of your daily life and eliminate microstresses that add up over time. Especially when I work at home I like to make my bed first thing in the day symbolizing structure in the rest of my activities. I also do my laundry every sunday and clean my place every saturday. Keeping this schedule allows me to stay on top of things and not allow simple things to add to my stress levels.
Visualization and focus
It is easy to let yourself get down. It is easy to be defeated, and for the rest of your life you will be constantly fighting these emotions. They will never go away and can deplete you and add to your stress. It is essential to combat these emotions with positive ones, the power of positive thinking and visualization is endless.
Growing up playing sports I would visualize at the end of all my practices what I wanted my game performances to look like, you can do the same with your work. Visualize every part of your day from the morning to the end, it is a very powerful technique but takes practice.
Finally you must come into your workweek with confidence. Every monday on my way to work I think what would the perfect week look like, after this I provide myself with positive self-talk to achieve the perfect week. Obviously the perfect week rarely happens but without the confidence to do so and the visualization to know what a great week looks like it will never happen.
I wish the readers of this post the best in their stress eliminating strategies and encourage you to share any tips you have below in the comments!