Stress is an inevitable—and often necessary—part of life. Think about how it motivates you to meet deadlines, solve problems, and meet goals. As long as you don’t let stress paralyze you, it helps propel you toward getting things done. But when stress is chronic or experienced at high levels, it can cause health and emotional problems that wreak havoc with life.
Take it from Adam Friedman, Founder and CEO of mobile app development and distribution platform Shareable Apps. Since launching in 2013, the company has created more than 52,000 apps for individuals and brands including Universal Music Group, the BBC, and Target. “I’ve probably [handled stress] all the wrong way, having grown a bootstrapped startup to an international business,” Friedman says. “It’s very easy to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” Here’s what he says he has learned along the way about the most effective ways to manage stress and achieve balance in work and life.
1. Turn Off Your Technology
This is bold advice coming from a man running a mobile software company. But Friedman sets time aside each day when he’s not reachable and his devices are powered down. “It’s really easy to be contactable 24/7 via message, calls, texts, email, and all of the social-media channels,” he says. “One of the most important features on your phone for managing stress is the off button.”
2. Be a List Maker
Tasks that are committed to paper or a screen get done. It’s the same with ideas. Jot them down when they appear in your mind and eventually they may come to fruition. Prioritization works, too. Ask yourself: What are the three most important things that need to be done today?
Once you have your lists outlined, what tasks can be assigned to others? “The speed with which things get done when they’re distributed across a team is more satisfying than the thrill that I might get from having done some sort of super-human feat myself,” Friedman says.
4. Spend as Much Time in Nature as You Can
Get away from your screens and put your head up under the limitless sky. It will change your perspective, contemplating how little you are in the world compared with larger systems you can’t control.
It doesn’t have to be a formal or spiritual thing. Just set some time aside to be quiet, listen to your thoughts, and focus on your breathing. Find somewhere comfortable to sit and focus on incrementally relaxing each part of your body from head to toe.
6. Do Non-Work Activities That You Enjoy
They will help you recharge. For Friedman, it’s playing instruments with other musicians. “You have to see your downtime as [being as] important as when you’re working,” he says.
7. Develop a Support System
Think of yourself as an athlete. If you want to perform well, you need coach-like people helping you along the way. Get a mentor who can help you identify your weaknesses and problem-solve whatever is going on in your life. And spend as much time with friends and family as you can. Research shows the happiest people invest heavily in their closest relationships.
8. Take Care of Your Body
Exercise every day and eat more vegetables and less bread. Friedman focuses on his health by wearing gadgets such as the Fitbit Surge to track his activity and other biometrics.
9. Get Enough Sleep
Three hours of sleep a night is not sustainable, regardless of what you have going on in your life. Practice good sleep hygiene, such as banning electronics in your bedroom, as well as going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.
10. Take Responsibility for Your Stress
It’s easy to blame other people and situations for your stress, but ultimately you are in control of how you react to whatever comes your way. Even though you can’t control everything that happens in life, you can control who you spend your time with and how you expend your energy. “It’s really important to identify what moves you toward your goal, and if there’s something that’s holding you back, find ways to either mitigate that or eliminate it,” he says.
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