Stress can kill you. It’s a contagious, pervasive, long-term illness that can destroy your health and ruin your career. It’s a relentless enemy. When you are stressed, you make poor decisions and people don’t really want to work around you. And it’s all self-perpetuating. It’s way too easy to get into a habit of letting stress rule over you.
The good news? You can break the destructive cycle. Stress does not have to win. In my own work, I’ve figured out a few helpful methods for reducing stress and maximizing productivity, and some of them are pretty radical. I’m not talking about breathing exercises or drinking more coffee. These are more radical techniques for people who are so stressed out that they can’t seem to work as effectively.
1. Find a Stress Accountability Partner
I’m convinced real change in life happens through direct accountability with another person. I’m learning this the hard way by testing an app called Retrofit that has helped me lose a few pounds by sharing detailed food and exercise logs with a team of people. For those who deal with personal stress, accountability is the key. There’s something profoundly helpful about sharing struggles. Find one person in the office right now. Tell him or her you deal with stress. Explain that you are not working as effectively and what is causing the most stress. Ask that person to keep tabs on you. Meet weekly. It works because half of your battle is just keeping those stressful thoughts bundled up inside your head.
2. Take a Legit Sabbatical
This will require some planning on your part. There’s a reason the word sabbatical exists. The concept came out of religion, obviously (i.e., the sabbath), and then filtered down into the teaching profession, where a sabbatical is often required after a set number of years. It works in business too. Why? Because stress is often the result of work overload, repetition, boredom, and fatigue. We all work too much. We check our phones constantly. A proper sabbatical should involve more than just a trip to Florida. Turn off service on your phone, rent a cabin in Wisconsin, learn how to cross-stitch. Use the time away to really think about why you are stressed and how to alleviate the problem. Use the time almost as though you are staying at a hospital. See it as a way to perform stress surgery.
3. Get Data on Your Stress
I recently tested a gadget called the PIP that lets you monitor and control your stress. It’s an interesting device, because it gives you a tool to track the data. Knowledge is power, as we all know. Knowledge about your stress can help you overcome the problem. Go to a doctor and get a complete physical, and then ask for a detailed report on your health. Use that info as a starting point. Mark that day when you get the report as your first step toward breaking the cycle of stress. Use the data about your heart rate, your blood pressure, and anything else you can think of as a way to monitor stress. It’s incredibly helpful. When you know the actual numbers, you can do something to change them. Take the steps necessary to become more healthy and eat different foods. Set goals to deal with the stress overload you are feeling, and monitor your progress.
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