It's Monday yet again. You are behind at work, already stressed. The weekend was amazing, but now this. You're sick and tired of being this anxious, with the growling stomach and the sweats, the jumpiness and lack of focus. What to do?
I've been a worrier since I could worry, probably at 5. Here's how I've learned to deal with it. Throughout the day, I:
1) Walk briskly and a lot - regularly and throughout the day. I walk my daughter to her daycare, to the subway. After I'm in the office, I walk at mid-morning, then at lunch and then mid-afternoon. Ideally, it is the same time every day, but even if impossible, I make a point to walk. Even inside the office, I would rather get up and walk over to ask questions that to email. Brisk walking is just as effective as most exercise, without the impact or the risk of injury.
2) Put on my favorite music. The Mozart channel on Pandora helps me focus. Choose your own. It should be music that can put you at your ease and yet excite you just enough to power through the morning work. Toward the end of the day, around 3 (when circadian rhythms are generally low and you need a pickup), I put on jazz (Red Garland channel on Pandora). Again, whatever helps you to improve your mood and power through. Music is very powerful to improve your mood (or mess it up completely, if you don't choose well).
3) Meditate or pray. After I'm up and clean and dressed, I meditate and pray. Sometimes it's by myself and other times, in synagogue with others. I practice gratitude and pray for family and friends, for sustenance, for health and bodily integrity, for life itself, for guidance and for strength. This helps align my purpose and my mission with whatever comes that day, throughout the week, no matter what. This way, I always know why I am doing what I'm doing, even if it's stressful, boring or annoying.
4) Take breaks to stretch every 45 minutes to an hour, max. Sitting's slow death. Your muscles start to lost their tone. Your posture sags. Your resting heart rate goes down. I stand with my legs out, arms stretched and move side to side to stretch the arms and back. I stand up on my calves, back down, handful of reps. I move my neck around from side to side and front to back several times.
5) Filter my information flows effectively throughout the day. In order to stay sane when faced with hoses of emails and requests and articles and data, I organize my email and set up filter rules to know where I can find any message on any subject, from any person. I filter feeds on LinkedIN and on FB so that when I take my break at lunch and check them, I am looking at the news from sources that I want and useful articles from Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Forbes, EurekAlert, etc. I regularly prune the feeds, unfollowing the people and the information sources that are wasteful. You set yours up whatever way you like. Unfollow people that contribute only photos of vacations or cat videos or other junk. Focus your information feeds for only things you need and move you forward in life. Cut down your email to a minimum. Unsubscribe from shopping emails and newsletters you don't need. Cut out the fat and junk.
6) Avoid negative people. These are the gossipers, the jealous, Debbie Downers, people that talk too much and about nothing useful, waste my time and drain my energy. Life is too short. My time's too valuable. There are too many things to do. Move on.
7) Keep a running journal. Whether by email, on paper or a post-It, I always write down my ideas for writing, business, things to do, agendas, goals and things to work on. Not only is this helpful as a record of your thoughts and history, but it's a useful means to move you through great stress and changes, scary thoughts. It helps you organize your thoughts, calm down, refine and craft a strategy for moving forward. It's great therapy.
8) Always organize my things. Aside from information flows, my work space is well-organized, my files easily accessible. The house is reasonably clean, the dishes washed, the trash is taken out. The mind gets cluttered easily and stressed if things can't be found with ease, if there's frustration around cleanliness and order. You don't need butlers, even maids for this. Just keep your things in order and clean up right after meals. Schedule cleanings every week.
9) Always prepare and optimize your time and things. Make lunch and pack it before bed. Go through my notes before the meeting. Check LinkedIN to remind myself about the guys or girls I'm meeting. Make an agenda. Write a project plan. Fill in the details. Do my research. Practice speaking. Always be mindful.
10) Prioritize experiences ahead of things. Experiences are what makes life interesting and fun and meaningful, not clothes or cars or real estate. I stop and smell the roses with my daughter, go out with my wife, sit down to write each day. I spend the Jewish Sabbath with good friends and neighbors. I go for coffee with entrepreneurs to hear ideas and give my own. I get the greatest value from relationships and books. This doesn't take much of a budget or of planning, just my motivation to live life.
11) Don't compare myself with anyone. Not because I'm so special, but because my mission in this life is totally unique, just like yours is and every other person's, equally. G-d and my parents gave me certain traits, some things I'm good at and some others that I'm awful at. Each person is this way. The only thing that matters in the end is what you do with what you have been given. What does it matter that your friend has better shoes or that your sister's smarter? Make the best of what you have. Each person has his path in life.
12) Try hard not judging others harshly; judge them favorably. I have no clue what they have been through in their lives and why they are the way they are. The less I judge, the less I am frustrated with the world and ultimately, my own failings. Each person has his ups and downs, his merits and his failings. Live and let live. Life will be easier for you.
13) Forgive myself. I may be far from perfect, but I'm not a useless shmuck. I push myself, I try my best. I have my highs and lows. Of course I fail a lot, but I have learned to live with it without debilitating doubts about myself. This may be the single hardest thing to practice daily, but it's critical.
14) Don't stress about the things I can't control. Whether it's getting sick, a tax assessment, water damage, hurricanes or terrorism, I've learned to live and focus on the things I can control. There is no point wringing your hands, being superstitious, trying to control your fate. Either your faith will carry you if you believe in G-d or if you don't, you'll think it's arbitrary and all meaningless. Live life as best you can; the rest is up to the Creator.
15) Do the hardest tasks in the morning, when I have the most energy and focus. Small (or even big) wins set me up well for the day to accomplish what I need to do. Motivation is everything. Never waste the day, especially the first half, which is the most valuable. Otherwise, you'll be frustrated and that will snowball into further stress.
16) Take time off from devices. No phone, computer, nothing before leaving home. No phone, computer, tablet, TV screen after 7 PM. There's nothing like abstaining from the constant onslaught of updates and information coming through devices. And most importantly, I take (an actual) and digital Sabbath every Friday night to Saturday night. This is time completely free of devices and is used to catch up with family time, friends and neighbors, plus to reflect on life and what's really important and meaningful in it, what I need to do to improve as a human being.
17) Sleep well and regularly, every single day. There's simply nothing better for bad stress than a good night of sleep. See what I've written on the subject.
18) Maintain a stable and sustainable routine, with room for variation, new experiences. Life is a crazy up-and-down. Because I've crafted and continue tweaking my routine, I always have a structure to the day and week that keeps me going through whatever stress, surprises, unexpected news. Without this, I would become jello, shrink away from life, depressed and miserable.
Now go chill out, you crazy anxious and hot mess! I'll see you on that walk around the park :)
Do you have other strategies for beating stress, anxiety? Please share with the Community in Comments below. We'd love to hear from you!
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Yuri Kruman is a Healthcare Product Manager, published author, blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com and health tech entrepreneur based in New York.
*The views expressed herein are his own*