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Knowing how to handle stress is great advantage for anyone who wants to get something done in his life. You don’t have to be a high achiever to feel stressed and overwhelmed once in a while. Everyone has to deal with it sometimes. However, since you are reading this article, you are probably highly motivated and hard-working hustler who has to face this challenge on almost daily basis. Luckily for you, in this article you will find a handful of tips to deal with this challenge and to make your way to greatness smoother. Without further ado, let’s start!
The Brighter Side of Stress
If there is anything I had literally no idea about for a long time, it is that stress is not necessarily bad. In a fact, there are actually two types of stress. First one is good while the second one is bad. It’s just like yin and yang. You can imagine bad stress as anything draining your psychological energy and causing you anxiety or even depression. On the other hand, great example of good stress can be challenging yourself with learning something new. Another example can be crushing yourself in the gym. Yes, that’s right. When you are training or working out, you are also putting your body under stress.
Although it can look differently, sharpening your skills and busting your ass can induce the same hormonal and chemical response in your body. Both of these things are good and healthy stressors. Looks good so far? Unfortunately, even if you are exposing yourself only to good stress, it can have negative outcomes if you overdo it. In other words, your body can handle stress, but only to certain point. Then, it needs to take a break, recharge and heal itself. If you don’t believe me, try to train really hard multiple times a day every day. It is only the matter of time until your body will not be able to handle stress you are putting it under and you will collapse.
If you are not fun of exercising and healthy lifestyle (as you should because your life and business depends on it) you can try learning something instead. Try to immerse yourself in studying certain subject without taking any breaks. How long will it take until you will exhaust yourself? Sooner or later, it will be hard to just read the letters on the page, not to mention remembering it. Your body – specifically your brain – is not able to handle stress you are putting it under anymore. You either have to take a break or your brain will reject working on full speed.
Too Much of Stress Is Harmful
These issues with stress may not look like a big deal on the paper. You just take a few minutes to relax and everything will be okay. This will work only until you will regularly engage yourself in relaxing activities. When you put yourself under stress, your body will start to create harmful chemicals and radicals. When your body has time to recharge and heal itself, it will naturally remove these chemicals and radicals. This will prevent them from causing any more serious damage to your body. Have you ever heard about antioxidants? Well, these good chemicals are creates when you allow your body to relax.
Interestingly, when you finish your training and allow your body to start repairing the tissues damaged during training, it will start creating its own antioxidants. This is something I have no idea about for a long time as well. By the way, if you are taking some vitamin supplements before training, you are disturbing this process. So, if you want to take any vitamins (although it may be waste of money), do it after exercise. Anyway, back to our subject. When your body has no time to remove these bad chemicals and antioxidants, they will start to stack up and cause you some more and more serious troubles.
This is the reason why both, good and bad stress, can be bad for you. Fortunately, if you give yourself time to relax and recharge, your body’s ability to handle stress will grow. Meaning, with time it will be able to handle more stress and work longer without negative side-effects.
Set SMART Goals
Although it may not look like better goal setting will help you handle stress better, the opposite is true. The main cause of stress for many professionals or businessmen is lack of good goal setting strategy. We take on too much work and projects and then we become simply overwhelmed by all that work. This is the main reason to that I want to give some space to the topic of time management and goal setting in this article. One of the often cited and used goal setting strategies or systems is to always make your goals SMART.
This term stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. In other words, in order to set SMART goals, and hopefully handle stress better, is to make sure your goals first and foremost specific. Making your goals specific will make give you much greater chance to accomplish them then if you would make your goals vague or general. This applies to your work and projects as well. The best way to test whether your goals, work and projects meet this criterion ask six “W” – Who, What, Where, When, Which and Why.
Who is involved in this goal? What do I want to accomplish? Where do I want to accomplish my goal (location)? When do I want to accomplish my goal (time frame)? Which requirements and constraints I have to work with? Why I want to accomplish this goal (benefits, purpose, reasons)? Answering these questions will ensure your goal is specific. Second requirement is to make your goals (or projects) measurable. Meaning, you have to set concrete criteria for measuring your progress on every goal you want to accomplish. Also, you have to set a specific criterion or conditions that will tell you if you reached your goal or completed your project.
Third part of SMART principle is to find out ways to attain your goals. This can mean developing new skills, abilities and much more. It all depends on what goals you want to accomplish. Fourth part is to make sure your goal is realistic, at least relatively realistic. This doesn’t mean that you should shy away from setting high goals. Not at all. In a fact, according to one study (PDF), higher goals are often easier to accomplish than low goals. One reason for this statement is that high goals will raise your performance to the level of expectation. Also, high goals will give you stronger motivation to accomplish them. So, don’t be afraid to set even unrealistic goals.
Fifth requirement of setting SMART goals is to put them into specific time frame. Every goal you set for yourself must have a specific date when you will reach it. Setting SMART goals can help you handle stress better by forcing you to focus only on what matters to you and also to come up with an action plan (attainable). Increase your chance of reaching your goals and finishing your work or project without burning out, by implementing another “E” and “R” – make your goals SMARTER. E stands for evaluated and it means regularly evaluate your goals, projects and your progress.
R stand for re-evaluated. This step will come to use only after you accomplish your goal or finish your work and project. It is about reviewing (re-evaluating) your process, gathering feedback and improving your goal setting strategy. If something doesn’t work for you, get rid of it. If something looks promising, implement it and experiment with it. Make your goal setting system flexible.
Follow 80/20 Principle
Another pretty smart rule to follow is 80/20 principle also known as Pareto principle. This principle basically says that 80 percent of the outputs come from 20 of inputs. At least this is how it is often described. The truth is that those percentages can vary a lot. You can find this principle as 90/10, 80/10, 90/5, 70/20 and many more variations. What is the constant is that the majority of outputs is generated by minority of inputs. The rest depends on whom you are talking to. Anyway, there are many ways you can use indirectly to handle stress. By indirectly I mean simplifying your workflow by making big part of your work constant and reinventing only the minority of parts.
For example, if you are making money by developing templates or SaaS products, you can create your own library with dozens or even hundreds code examples, modules and plug-ins. Then, when you start working on a new project, you can simply open your library and take fifty or more percent of the whole code from there. This will make your work much faster and help you handle stress by completely avoiding it. Small and useful hack to create more products in less time. Who knows, this small hack can even help you create and establish your own small business sooner then you would think is possible.
Relax and Make Your Priorities Clear
There is probably no better way to handle stress than relaxing on the regular basis. And, the best option, when it comes to relaxing and recharging your energy, is sleep. No doubt about that. Just take a look at the schedules of the greatest athletes in the world and you will see two things. First, they have insanely hard and long training sessions. Second, they sleep a lot. Eight hours are bare minimum for most of them. Sometimes, it almost looks like these people are competing with each other in how many hours can they invest in sleep.
Let me give you couple examples. If you like tennis, you probably know Rafael Nadal and Rodger Federer. Did you know that Rafael Nadal sleeps eight to nine hours per night? Rodger Federer takes it farther with eleven to twelve hours per night. Do you prefer basketball? Okay. LeBron James sleeps about twelve hours, Kevin Durant eight hours. What about the fastest man in the world Usain Bolt? Eight to ten hours of sleep per night. Now, I hope, you understand that in order to deliver great performance and results you have to invest a bit of your time to resting. Read the last sentence again … You are investing your time, not wasting it.
As we discussed in the beginning, when your body is at rest, it actually works hard. It removes toxins and various bad chemicals created by stress. And, the best and most beneficial way of resting is sleep. What’s more, when you sleep you also give your brain a chance to rid itself of toxins and create new memories. So, if you want to handle stress better aim for at least seven hours of quality sleep each night. You can also use napping to make your take it on Pro level.
Unfortunately, there is a downside. If you will sleep more, you will have less time for other activities. With seven hours of sleep, you will have seventeen hours to hustle. Before you make some unfortunate conclusions, I don’t suggest you to shorten your sleep. That’s nonsense. My advice is to shorten your TV time or to get rid of that thing completely. How much money did it earn you anyway? Next, unless it is part of your work, stop mindlessly browsing social networks. Knowing what your friend had for dinner will not get you to your goals either.
Let me put it this way. If you want to succeed and still be able to handle stress like a Pro, you have to assess your priorities. Decide on what goals do you really want to achieve in your life. Or, put even simpler, get your shit together. You have to understand that there is no such a thing as work-life balance. Well, it is and it’s called average. It is impossible to achieve success (whatever that means to you) while wasting your time, not to mention being able to handle stress. So, before you start any work or project, make sure you are willing to commit everything you have to it.
Implementing Escape Route
This one is my favourite way to handle stress. It is also quite easy to understand. When you feel stressed, depressed or close to burn out, switch to some activity that will allow you to let off steam. And, the more stressed you are the more extreme and/or immersive that activity should be. For example, let’s say you spent your whole day working on your business or side project. The majority of people will, when they feel stressed, will sit in front of TV or hang out with some friends to grumble and get drunk. Since you are reader of this blog, this is probably not interesting for you. You want more. You are a hustler, always giving one hundred percent to anything you do.
From that point of view, spending your time watching TV or being surrounded by average people will be boring and waste of your precious time. So, what can you do instead? Pick some activity you like, sport is the best, and give it all you have. Allow yourself to get lost in the moment. Let me give you an example. For me, calisthenics, boxing or some creative endeavour like writing, coding or sketching work the best. No matter what activity will you choose, give it all you have. Meaning, if you decide to hit the gym, crush it! Let that beast inside you go out. The same with anything other activity. In other words, hustle hard, relax hard. There is no better way to handle stress.
If It Is Too Big, Break It
It is not just the amount of work and projects you have that can put you under pressure. Another factor on how stressing projects can be is how big they are. The best way to solve this problem is to divide every big project or goal into smaller parts or milestones. Or, as Henry Ford said: “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” So, when you will feel overwhelmed or stressed by particular project or work, look for ways to break it to smaller pieces. This approach will help you handle stress while pursuing high goals.
For example, instead of focusing on big goal like creating and building a company, divide it into smaller and more manageable parts. These parts can include creating an idea, testing its viability, developing your idea, finding partners and suppliers, creating marketing plan, getting founding (if needed), hiring employees and so on. In case your project is something simpler like designing and building a website, you can divide into smaller parts where each part is a single page. If you are working on some SaaS related project, you can set milestones according to its functionalities. Just remember that you will be able to handle stress better when you divide it into smaller parts.
Is It Hell Yes?
The last piece of advice I will share with you is one I learned from Derek Sivers. If I will butcher that advice, accept my apology Derek. Anyway, this advice is following … Don’t do it unless it is hell yes. It is simple as that. When you are thinking about starting something new, do it only if you really want to do it. It must be hell yes thing, no doubts are allowed. If you are not one hundred percent sure whether will you stick with it until the end, don’t start it. Otherwise, you will only get stressed and depressed when you drop it halfway through. This may sounds harsh, but it is as it is.
However, if you still insist on getting it going, you should question whether the source of your doubts is. There is possibility that all those doubts are rooted in issues such as low confidence and limiting beliefs. In that case, it can be actually better for you to get your project in motion. It can be a great way to learn how to handle stress and crush those limiting beliefs. Having said that, divide the project into smaller parts and milestones. As I said earlier, chunking the whole project will make it easier for you to finish it. Otherwise, another failed project might make your limiting beliefs only stronger and your confidence lower. So, set yourself for success.
Closing Thoughts on How to Handle Stress
Although stress will be a necessary part of your life if you want to achieve something great, you can make your life easier. You can learn to handle stress better while keeping your performance on top level. Hopefully, the tips outlined above will help you with achieving everything you want. My goal is to provide you with information that are valuable and useful. That’s it, nothing else matters. If you still find it hard to say on track while pursuing your dreams, let me know and I will help you as best as I can. Now, as always, get back to work, stay humble and always hustle!
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