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Coping with Stress: 5 Ways

Problems are to the mind what exercise is to the muscles, they toughen and make strong. ~Norman Vincent Peale

I am a self-employed freelance writer and if you have ever worked for yourself (or worked at a demanding job), you can probably related to the sentiment that stress from work is one of the biggest factors that can cripple your mind and body.

Since our goal at Think Simple Now is for all of us to live a happy life, in this post I will share a story of when stress broke me down and the 5 lessons I’ve learned while coping with stress.

As much as being your own boss is fun and it can give you the tremendous freedom, it can also be extremely demanding and emotionally stressful. You end up wearing many hats in your company: marketing, HR, the IT person, customer relations and CEO. If I stopped working, so will my business. All pressure is on me.

As the day starts, my brain races through the list of tasks that “must” be fulfilled during the next 10-12 hours. Sometimes, I’d get so distracted that I would completely ignore what my partner just said. Sometimes, I would rush through a whole day and not remember what I ate for breakfast.

Has this happened to you? Can you remember the last time you brushed your teeth or bathed mindfully?

Progress and stress seem to go together. There is hardly anyone who manages to glide through life with zero stress.

Frankly, I believe stress is there for a reason—and a good one. In terms of a simple equation, it is a negative motivation that if X doesn’t get done, Y will result. Y is not something attractive and you’d like to achieve Z. So X must be done at any cost.

But if we let stress take over our lives, we lose control and fail to achieve anything. It becomes a hurdle instead.

I have come to realize that more than getting things done, more than self-motivation, more than self-discipline and any commitment, I first must tackle one serious concern: the stress in my daily life.

It is true that we cannot completely eliminate stress from our lives. But we can minimize it to create a more controlled, productive and enjoyable experience here on earth. And it is possible irrespective of how “hard” your goals are to reach.

In other words, if you decide to beat stress, you will. How? We’ll talk about 5 ways on coping with stress. But first, a personal story.

Personal Story on Stress

Recently, I was beaten by stress left, right, center.

I felt like a squirrel running in a cage. I had several projects on my platter—a new non-fiction book to be ghost-written; a bunch of articles to be edited for a personal trainer; a press release to be written for a magazine; interview questions to be devised for an expert/scientist in the field of climate change and some editing work for Tina.

As you can see, the projects were pretty spread out and a bit all over the place. But this was nothing new. However, this time something entirely outside of my expectations happened.

I was starting to get furious because I couldn’t achieve things as scheduled and when I did, I saw my quality suffer. Tina asked me to relax, and write from a place of inspiration.  I tried several recommended resources and tried to relax.

Yet, nothing much happened. I kept losing.

Then I was asked to take a break and come back to it when I felt inspired.

But I didn’t take a break. I continued to force the creativity out of myself. “Come out! Show me your face. I am waiting.” I pleaded my muse. I was not letting this go. The fight was on.

Zilch.

Needless to say, I was exhausted. Do you know why I lost? Can you figure why I couldn’t force the creativity out of me? Because I couldn’t give myself permission.

What permission, Pooja”?

Permission to . . . fail. Permission to feel low. Permission to feel unmotivated. Permission to just be even if it meant being unproductive for a while.

Do you know what I mean? Can you relate?

Being a driven person, I’ve never missed a deadline—it was just “not me”. So I used the persuasion tricks on my body and mind.

Come on you two, if you bring me fresh ideas I will give you a break. I will give you fresh air. I will love you more.” I’d try to convince myself.

The more I fought and forced my creativity to show up, the more it hid from me. The farther I ran away from feeling pathetic—well, you guessed it—the more miserable I was! In the end, I was more worn-out and stressed-out.

So what was happening? How was I, the sole member of my company, supposed to break this cycle of stress and keep myself going?

My Revelation about Stress

After about 2 weeks of this back and forth action, I realized I had to stop. Just be still and look straight at myself. No more pretenses, no more running away.

Finally, yesterday, at 5 am in the morning, I woke up, sat still in my bed, and just observed in silence.

There was a cry from my ego—it tried to distract me. Basically, it tried to prevent me from feeling pathetic. But I continued observing.

I felt every single emotion that was chained inside me. From a deep sadness to a feeling of bubbling enthusiasm for the future. I was overwhelmed with tears. I had just given myself the permission. And it didn’t suck at all.

I realized that it was  . . .

  • okay to not be perfect every single time
  • okay to take time off
  • okay to accept the highs and lows of your productivity
  • okay to love and hold your inner child

I understood the most important thing for me was not finishing everything on time, not producing exceptional work, not even prioritizing things—no.

The number one thing for me to do, as I realized in that moment, was to accept my present state of mind. After I did this, I was truly let free.

5 Ways of Coping with Stress

I am not going to pretend these methods will make you stress-free for life. But they will prove to be your armor against stress and help you minimize your everyday tension. If you’re looking for a once-and-for-all kind of solution, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Progress and stress tend to alternate like ebb and flow of life’s waves, so let’s just accept it before we move further, shall we?

In those two weeks of coping with stress, I employed some ways to gradually feel better. And I did.

Stress Coping Method #1: Banish the Media

It is not surprising—most of the negative information comes from various media.

I don’t ask that you completely disconnect from the external world or that you don’t stay abreast with the latest happenings around. But while you do so, remember that what sells is always what’s broadcasted.

Stay away from the toxicities of news. Choose what you’d like to feed your psyche and reject the rest. Be mindful while you engage with the media and consume information.

Stress Coping Method #2: Move Your Body

Life is movement. If you go beyond the atom level in a human body, you will find what remains is pure energy. And you will notice a beautiful movement in this energy. Our bodies are meant and made to move.

Make sure you exercise in regular doses—even 15 minutes of simple stretching exercise everyday will help you stay rejuvenated for hours. Also, make sure you take ample breaks from your home-office desk. Get up, drink a glass full of water, stretch and come back afresh!

Stress Coping Method #3: Don’t Panic

That morning I realized that even though I was blessed with a lot of loving people in my life, not everyone will choose to remain a part of my life forever. It’s harsh and gave me the shudders. But it was ultimately a truth.

Another truth I realized was that there was just one entity who will always be there for me—always. No strings attached. And that’s my inner self. In good times, and in bad, it is there to comfort me.

So what’s the point to panic? None. Whatever happens, always remember you are not alone. Don’t panic.

Stress Coping Method #4: Morning Rules

Being a work-from-home gal, I didn’t have any restrictions of waking up early. However, I noticed that no matter what time I woke up, there were some “morning no-no’s” that when followed led to a more peaceful and more clear state of mind. Some of the things I stopped doing first thing in the morning were:

  • Reading newspaper or watching TV
  • Worrying about what problems I have
  • Trying to be perfect
  • Check my email or facebook

Our brains are most receptive in mornings. It is therefore best to avoid the above items. In the same way, there are some morning routines I’ve started to do:

  • A 5-minute silence first thing I wake up
  • Being easy on myself
  • Having a proper breakfast
  • Treating myself well—jumping into shower with rich aroma oils that leave a lasting feel-good effect
  • Choosing a new place to write, like a café or my local library, if the desk doesn’t invite my creativity
  • Taking a walk in the park near my house

Stress Coping Method #5: Become Financially Aware

I left this for the end because I wanted to highlight the other stress coping methods more. Still, I cannot deny finance is one huge source of stress for many people.

Are you aware of your expenses? Do you do your own taxes? Even though you hire someone else to do them, do you understand the whole thing? Do you strive for a better and improved financial independence? Do you have a mental block when it comes to wealth?

Money has earned a bad name but it is important even though you have a great house, relationships and marriage. Lack of money is a stress accumulator. Therefore, it’s important we remain aware of our finances all the time.

~ ~ ~

I have one last thing to ask of you: Listen to your inner child when it is feeling low. Accept that stress is there and focus on dealing with it rather than on it. Once you give yourself the permission to feel bad, that too shall pass and everything will look brighter in the morning.

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About the author

Pooja is a writer and editor residing in Melbourne, Australia. She is the rock-star Editor on our brother site Work Awesome. She is also on the team of editors for several Australian publications. In March 2010, after fully awakening to her passion for writing and publishing, she left a successful software engineering career to pursue her love for writing. Today, she works from home in her jammies, while enjoying a view of sunny Melbourne from her balcony. Read more about her at her blog– Of Parchments & Inks.

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21 thoughts on Coping with Stress: 5 Ways

  1. Sharad Shrivastava

    Dear Pooja,
    I agree to your thoughts, because its a state which almost everyone goes through. I have been in this ordeal almost everyday due to commitments and deadlines. The best way to deal with stress, is to remain silent. Try to be calm with one selfs, its the 1st step to de-stress oneselves. 2ndly to deal one problem at a time, be patient. 3rdly re-check details by which one can easily avoid mistakes that can happen.
    Thanks so much for the article
    Sharad

  2. Max

    For me, Stress Coping Method #2: Move Your Body, is totally true. I’ve tried meditation, affirmations, reading the best books on focus and relaxation.

    But finally, the best way I’ve found to cope with stress is to run in the woods or do dynamic stretches.

  3. Thanks for the kind words, Sharad!

    -
    Pooja

  4. Rahi
    Rahi

    Pooja,

    Enjoyed your article…it is so real and relate-able! You have given some simple yet highly effective tools to be used on a daily basis that i can incorporate in the stress management workshops.

    Thank you.
    Blessings.

  5. Thanks Pooja. I am one of those people that stay at home and work. To top it off I have a 4 year old and I am about to adopt my 2nd. I wonder what the days will be like trying to work and manage the family. I ended up with something called Adrenal Fatigue this past year from just going to hard every day. I had to force myself to rest. It’s the only way to recover. It’s also not worth it. If you have your business chances are you are a AAA personality and it is in our blood to go hard all the time but taking the time to stop has to be the priority. Thanks for the great reminder. For me exercise keeps my sane and I make the space for in my life at least 3 -4 days a week. It keeps the stress at bay and frees my mind to wonder to something other than my to do list. Thanks for sharing and have a “happy” creative day!

  6. Great article, Pooja!

    You highlight something people tend to forget: The media can be a source of stress. I know of two people who have expressed greater amounts of stress in their lives precisely because they are glued to the news for a couple hours or more EVERY night.

    I notice my heart rate increase when I watch too much local news. I search for world events and news magazines, and keep my time I watch to a minimum. It makes a difference.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. Sam H

    Wonderful article!

    It is so easy to get wrapped up in stress, or the fear of being stressed.

    Morning routine is so big for me! I refuse to start my day without eating a good breakfast. My quicky favorites involve cereal and an english muffin, and on days where I have more time I enjoy making myself pancakes. Its just so rewarding to start your day by rewarding yourself with a good breakfast that you made or helped make with your partner. Gives me positive vibes that I cherish as a tool for the rest of my day. Media blackout is very important too. I always find myself going into a sluggish mood whenever I suppliment my mornings with games or media (in the form of social networking sites and stuff).

    And some days, like today, I find it works wonders to not be in a huge rush. I have drawing homework to do by tomorrow and I want to work on a personal project. However my motivation is rather average, and the pleasantly cloudy weather with light rainfall tends to get me in less productive moods. So, I just listen to my inner-voice. Right now I have plenty of day left, so I am just relaxing with my coffee and some soft music while appreciating the little things around me before getting moving by doing some minor housework.

    And on a day like today, that’s all my body and mind really needs to get going. You just gotta let your mind and spirit be content with the present moment every now and then. I just know once I am done with my little break here I’ve have the motivation and spirits I need to get what I want to get done today :)

  8. shawn

    I liked the blog all the way until your 5 ways. Your 5 ways would not work for me. But totally agree that entrepreneurs have a love/hate relationship with work/personal life balance and managing that is a natural sign of growth. The better one gets at managing stress and work/life balance, the more they can live in the present instead of always in the past of future. thx for the blog.

  9. Great post Pooja

    I think you’ve put your finger on a number of important ways of reframing and coping with stress.

    I know for myself, that stress tends to come from the gap between how I’d like the world to be, and how it really is – I think beating stress has a lot to do with giving up on control

  10. Max

    Wow – Escaping in the woods. This one’s always been an intriguing option for me, although I haven’t tried it (apart from the occasional camping).

    Tell us how you go with it!

    -
    Pooja

  11. Glad you could relate to it, Rahi. :)

    -
    Pooja

  12. Sam

    You sum it up in a spookily accurate way!

    Great points, but what caught my attention is how closely you observe the minute details of your day. I especially enjoyed reading how you use your “positive morning vibes as a tool” for having a good day ahead. Awesome!

    -
    Pooja

  13. Jacqueline

    You’re welcome. Agree. Thankfully, I am somewhat away from the AAA persona that you quote. I guess far away. And I’m happy for that. :)

    On a totally different topic, I always wonder what the experience of people who adopt children is like. Hmmm…Perhaps, a book on the subject is calling my name.

    -
    Pooja

  14. Starfish

    You hit a chord here – Giving up control = Stress free. Simple but super.

    -
    Pooja

  15. Hi Shawn

    I wrote it in the flow of the moment, from what I felt was happening with me. It’s possible the points don’t work for you, but I am glad you could take away something from it. :)

    -
    Pooja

  16. MsConnie

    I really needed to read this post. The stress of getting a freelance writing career going has caused me to backslide from some of my healthy habits, and I need to stay more on course now more than ever. Looking forward to reading more of your posts.

  17. Really you must have a cut off from your working life and keep time spare for your family and those most important to you. Make sure you also have a hobbie or at least something to put your mind at rest.

  18. Stress is bad for the wellbeing of anyone. It can have a detrimental effect on how well individuals can focus and also can effect performance. It helps to make sure your lifestyle is in check and every other aspect such as diet, activity etc

  19. If I were perfectly honest with myself: I hate my job. There, I said it. It’s a job I never wanted to do, yet it highlights my talents. It lacks creativity, is a failing system, paws WAY too low, and forces me to conform to the ideals of a small community.

    That’s not my style.

    Thank you, for giving me the permission to give myself permission to listen to that nagging voice inside my head that cries for me to start writing for REAL. For me. My current job surely taught me where to place punctuation marks and how to make a sentence; simply complex. So although it prepared me for the jump I’ll be making soon, it doesn’t fulfill me.

    These were my revelations as I read your post. :)

  20. Imtiaz Hosein

    Interesting Pooja. Thank you for bringing these ideas to my consciousness. Even at fifty and five i still seek ways to reduce
    stress. I shall be happy to receive any, and all techniques at your disposal that will help in dealing with stress.

  21. Hello! Long time no blog communicate! This was a good article, and I appreciate your tips on reducing stress. Cut back on media…. yes… working on that.

    Though you’ve had a lot on your plate, I’m happy you have so many projects going. I hope you continue to shine and you find much success.

    I nominated you for a versatile blogger award… To view it, go here: http://www.currierose.wordpress.com

    Have a happy week,
    Currie

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