I used to think stress was all a load of rubbish. I used to think it was a term used by doctors when they didn’t know what else to say, but I’ve changed my mind recently. Stress is real, and it causes some very real, very serious problems. It’s difficult as well, because it’s not obvious. You don’t always know you’re stressed. Not until you realise you’re not sleeping or your stomach isn’t working properly or you’ve started losing your hair or losing weight and you wonder why, and then somebody says “well, are you stressed about anything at the moment?” and you say “no no, not that I can think of” whilst you stuff your sandwich into your face in your 15 minute lunch break at your highly stressful job which you work at until 7pm before you rush to your fitness class and then come home to your partner who’s yelling at you again because you didn’t do the dishes. Oh no, not stressed at all.
We get so accustomed to our hectic lives and schedules that I don’t think we realise how much of a toll it’s taking on us, or that we’re actually very capable of changing it. Yet instead of sitting down and managing our time and getting on with what needs to be done, people moan and whinge and the to-do list gets bigger and the stress levels rise. Don’t get me wrong, life can be very, very stressful, but a lot of it can be filtered out. A lot of it is unnecessary stress, or “unnecessatress” as I like to call it. (See what I did).
It’s unnecessary because there’s no need to be stressed. Ever. Period. All you’re doing when you stress is wasting your energies on something which serves neither you, nor your goal, nor anybody else any purpose. You don’t change anything by stressing. You don’t make a situation easier and you definitely don’t solve any problems, so why not use that energy on being productive, being organised, learning to chill and, in doing so, AVOIDING the stress? I’ve found there’s some really simple steps you can take as preventative measures against stress, so follow along my dears and I shall talk you through them.
1. Fix your environment.
The first and most important step is to ensure that your environment is as stress-free as possible. You are a product of your surroundings. The places you spend a lot of time in, the people you spend a lot of time with, the things you spend a lot of time doing, are all the things which shape you. And if these are all stress-inducing, is it any surprise that you are stressed? Your environment should be calm and clear and support you, as far as you can control. It should not be causing you stress. If it is, change it. Clear it out. Get rid of people and things which do not serve you. Getting picky about your crowd and your environment is the number one step for self-love and protection. I’ve not had any drama in my life for a long time because I don’t mess with anybody or anything which ruins my vibe. This is a stress-free zone.
2. Look after yourself.
If you’re going through a stressful time, you need to be doing all you can to care for yourself. Remember: the physical supports the mental. If you’re body isn’t feeling good and performing well, nor will your mind. If you’re eating rubbish, not getting outside, spending hours cooped up everyday, your body isn’t going to be feeling at its best and, NEWSFLASH, this has big effects on the way that you feel mentally. So take care of yourself. Sleep well, eat well, do some exercise, drink lots of water. It will make the world of difference.
3. Plan your time.
Planning out your time is, in my opinion, crucial to anything you do. I believe that a majority of our stress comes from time constraint. Think about it – all of those things which you are currently stressed out about right now would probably be easier if they didn’t have a deadline, right? Right. Now, you can’t just throw your watch out the window and pretend that time doesn’t exist but you CAN get smart about your time and how you use it. If you’re going to work, or study, do it. And do only that. How many hours have you wasted because you’ve sat down to focus, and you’ve spent 20 minutes on your phone, and then you needed the bathroom, and then you wanted a snack, and then your mum phoned, and then you remembered you didn’t pay your rent, and then this and then that and before you know it, you’ve taken four hours to do what should have taken one? “Procrastination is the thief of time.” So use your time wisely. Plan. Switch everything off, focus on one thing at a time, do it, do it WELL, and then move on to the next thing.
4. Plan your FUN.
This sounds a bit contradictory, but bear with me. Whilst you are busy with step 3 and planning your time for work and productivity, don’t forget to plan your downtime. Your “you” time. Don’t forget that perhaps the most important things you do in your week are the things outside of work and studying and that, without your time for these, you won’t feel good. So schedule your time off, schedule your fitness classes or your sports, your reading time, your walking time, your coffee with friends: the things you do that you enjoy and give you peace. Before you do anything else, get them into your schedule. There’s a TED Talk which talks about what makes the most successful students so successful, and they found that one of the contributing factors was the value that these students put on their leisure time. The students who plan out their study timetable and schedule in their downtime first tend to be the more successful ones. They perform better when it comes to studying because they’ve earned it, and because they know that at 5pm on Tuesday they’ve got their time off at netball practice or whatever. You want to be less stressed? Schedule in the fun, the stuff that’s important to you. Do this first. Get the balance sorted between your work and your play, and watch how your mindset changes.
5. Just chill out.
Relax. Calm down. Breathe. In any situation you find yourself in, ask “what’s the worst that could happen?”. Be brutally honest. I would confidently say that, in 9 out of 10 cases, it’s never that bad. If you can do something to prevent the worst from happening, do it. Do it now. If not, don’t worry about it. Acknowledging the worst possible outcome takes courage, preparing for it takes strength, but expecting it? Anticipating and stressing over it? That takes nothing but fear. Deal with problems, don’t stress about them. Worrying about things you can’t change is such a tragic waste of your fantastic energy and life. So just chill. At the end of the day, you’re a tiny blob, on a tiny planet, in a tiny solar system: exams and work and responsibilities might seem like the most important things in the world but, in the grand scheme of things, whatever you’re stressing about probably isn’t too crucial. So just chill my friends. No more unnecessatress.