Becoming an entrepreneur was the most challenging and exciting experience of my life. Shortly after I embarked on this journey, I realized that I needed to learn how to manage my stress levels if I wanted to keep up with the pace of changes and not lose momentum. Now I am committed to becoming more connected to my mind and my body in order to feel less stressed daily. During my searches within the last six or seven years, I came across a lot of information and I tried out several methods and practices. Some worked well, some did not. Therefore, I decided to compile a list of things you can choose from, try them out and decide what are the most suitable for your own lifestyle.
April has been considered the #StressAwarenessMonth since 1992. Stress was definitely around before then, but people were feeling and looking at it differently. Regardless, our society in 2021 is faced with a pandemic that has been making victims for years. One that is primarily caused by the big elephant in what seems like everybody’s room: s-t-r-e-s-s. This infamous s-word is everywhere before our eyes.
'Getting rid of stress' seems utopic. But there are ways we can learn to manage it. Within my regular conversations with people, I realized that learning to approach stress can become a stressful process too. It is essential for us to stay aware and observe the way we normally add pressure on ourselves. Stress management starts with taking distance from our demanding inside voice. For that, I have a few useful tools that anyone can use.
I hope the tips below will find the right person during these times when it seems like stress management is more important than ever.
Since the outburst of COVID-19, people have been on their phones more than they used to. Our phone is like the whole world available at our fingertips, it fits into our pocket, on our coffee table, on our nightstand, it comes with us at work, shopping, walks, to the gym, etc. Because we are spending so much time on our phones and they can easily become a strong addiction, managing our time spent on our mobile devices is very important. Notice I am not banning the usage of phones, I do believe that technology can be and should be integrated into our lives. But let’s be conscious about it for the sake of our mental health.
So now that you turned off your notifications and distanced yourself from all the social media apps that sometimes can make you feel bad about yourself, what are some great apps you could use instead? I divided them into three categories: ‘fun’, ‘wellbeing’ and ‘learning’.
The ‘fun’ category comprises a selection of apps that you can immerse yourself in when feeling the extreme urge to be on your phone. And this one is for the fun times.
Another category of apps is ‘wellbeing’. These are the apps that can have a deeper meaning to us, a little trick to hack our way to a healthier lifestyle.
A category I find highly relevant is ‘learning’. We should keep in mind the capability of technology to teach us things, not only to do things for us. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to work on ourselves, gain new skills or practice something while being on our phones?
An honorable mention would be listening to audiobooks using Audible. Some that I really liked are:
We all have moments throughout the day that are just ‘dead’, like when we wait in traffic or when we choose our outfits. Sometimes these moments can feel quite stressful. I find that filling those moments with listening to audiobooks has improved my relationship with books. I feel less like falling behind my reading list. This in itself can cause stress: putting pressure on ourselves to do more, be better. What is the ‘why’ behind all of that?
We all want so many things in life, it’s no wonder we are so anxious all the time. When our mind is running threads it doesn’t know much about and it cannot make logical connections, that is when we start feeling anxious. The black unknown of life is what is so scary. So, why do you want to be less stressed?
It seems like a rather strange question, but bear with us.
In spite of popular belief, our brain does not work based on external rewarding systems. The way our brain works is totally intrinsic. To find more complex explanations on this topic, we invite you to read more about how our brain works in this great book called 'Change your brain, change your life', written by celebrities’ favorite psychologists, Dr. Daniel Amen. But to put it shortly, this is the way forward with our brain connections and healthy mind: give purpose, be patient, appreciate the outcomes, balance the pros and cons, repeat.
When it comes to a healthy, stress-free lifestyle, it is the same. It is about creating habits, one by one, that lead you to your desired goal. Recently at Linnify, we had a presentation by nutritionist Laura Popescu, who emphasized the necessity to find the right reasons for changing your life. Be it losing weight, or curing a disease, you need to keep in mind the ‘why’ throughout your entire journey. Now your brain has a goal.
Yes, food is fuel and we should treat it accordingly. Oftentimes we eat just to make the feeling of hunger go away, or on an emotional and stress basis. Food can change the way we feel. Period. We cannot stress enough how much having a balanced diet has contributed to my mental wellbeing. Some might wonder what a 'balanced diet' looks like. Like everything else in life (almost) it depends: on who you are, how active you are, what your genealogy looks like, what you like and some things are left to ‘trial and error’.
Of course, there are several things that we could all consider fundamental when it comes to food. Here’s a list of those things:
I could go on and on about food. Laura Popescu, whom we’ve had the pleasure to talk to last week, said something really great about how to choose the diet that fits you perfectly. She is all about biohacking, which essentially means each and every one of us needs to ‘hack’ their way through nature and figure out what is right for them and what is not. It is the same when it comes to food. After years of studies and research, Laura came to a rather simple conclusion: you really need to test it out and see it for yourself. She actually recommended a device that you put on your arm and it constantly reads your blood glucose level. She wore that device while eating different types of foods and, for example, she discovered white rice spikes her sugars to the skies, so now she knows to avoid it.
In a study I came across at one point, I read something interesting. It appears that six months into the pandemic, 30% of frontline and remote workers have said the pandemic has increased burnout at work, while 70% of them claimed that they think meditation could help decrease work-related stress.
It might be because meditation seems like such an unattainable thing, but Western and Central European countries are more and more into meditation. Meditation can take many forms and, similar to food, it depends on the individual needs. But as a thing we all have in common, our minds sometimes act like racing cars for no reason, sometimes the mind works against us and sometimes the strangest of thoughts come to our head. Before being able to practice meditation, we should find a way to download all the information running through our brains in a way that feels liberating.
A lot of people swear by journaling or to-do lists. I say, find a way to make peace with your brain about the day that has gone by. One way you could do that is by writing down all the activities you’ve accomplished throughout the day and the remaining things you must complete and set a goal for the next day. This will help your brain understand things are under control.
If the mind is the king of the body, then breathing must be the king of the mind. I personally believe that doing breathing exercises has helped me decompress and become more in sync with my mind and my body. I recommend trying out the 4-7-8 technique, the Wim Hof Method, the square breathing method, etc. This is another thing you could learn to do in different situations throughout the day, it doesn’t have to be a 'chore'.
Once you’ve mastered breathing techniques, you could start meditating. There are many apps available where you can find guided meditations, which I think are the best starting point for someone that is not used to it. You can start small, a few minutes when you wake up, a few minutes before going to bed. The pace of life and the stressful times can seriously damage our minds and taking the time to breathe properly and meditate can feel so freeing, to me at least this is catharsis.
A great deal of the stress we feel is related to our professional lives. This is why having a work environment that promotes creativity, authenticity and that is well organized can be a game-changer.
At Linnify we’ve quite literally built our workplace together as time went by and the company grew bigger. We chose the headquarters at a house because we wanted it to feel cozier than a regular office space. And it does feel like that.
Getting daylight and recharging from the sun is yet another important factor. But to us at Linnify, the thing that makes the days better constantly is the team. I consider myself lucky for being surrounded by people that share my vision, people that allow each other to express, grow and learn. I can guarantee that forming connections with the right people at work can decrease the levels of stress you feel throughout the day.
I am glad the conversation about stress, especially work-related stress, is more open than ever. Talking about it openly and fearlessly is, I think, the first big step towards changing the status quo. To put my own little end to #StressAwarenessMonth, I wish everyone reading this article some well-deserved peace of mind.
From myself and the team at Linnify, we hope you find it.