• Scott Herring

Fighting Stress

Even before the pandemic jacked up our lives, stress was on the rise. Studies show that about a third of all workers say they are “always” or “often” under stress at work. More than a third say their job interferes with their family or personal lives, which creates even more stress. The most common causes of stress at work are job insecurity, overtime, performance pressures, and job dissatisfaction. Perhaps the reason you're an aspiring blogger is to one day tell your boss to take this job and shove it. I feel your pain. My regular work is super stressful, I have entrepreneurial projects demanding more time, and I committed to writing useful articles for Renegade Blogger every week. That's why I wanted to share a few ideas on how you can fight stress. You’ll not only feel better, but you’ll probably get more work done.

1. Diagnose the Cause of Your Stress.

In my opening salvo, I listed the most common causes of work stress. To fight it, you need to identify your source(s). Do you even like your job? Do you have a concern you're about to be fired? Do you take on too much work because your boss knows she can pile it on? You may have more than one contributor (I know I do!). Wanna know my biggest problems? I take on too many projects (can't say no), and I tend to procrastinate. Diagnosed...

2. Set Realistic Goals.

You cannot do it all. You must prioritize your own needs so you can beat stress. Identifying the source of your stress sets you up to try a remedy. Set goals if you don’t already have them. And if you’re trying to overachieve, set a smaller goal to focus on. We already know multitasking sucks. Taking my own advice, I set three main goals for each week, and one major milestone per day.

3. Erect Personal Boundaries.

Ah, we all strive for that elusive work/life balance. If you work too much (trust me on this one), work quality suffers. The more you work, the less effective your work time is. There’s a physical limit, in addition to an emotional one. Set office hours, then stick to them. Only use office hours for office work. Respect your personal time. I get up early, do personal projects while drinking coffee, then "clock in" at 8am. I "clock out" at the end of the day so I can spend time with family.

4. Rest.

True story: for a couple of years, I slept four hours a night. I only need six, but I clipped it down to four. After a while, I became toxic & dangerous. I made silly work mistakes, I forgot appointments, and I limped through each day. If you don’t sleep enough, not only do you perform poorly, but you cumulatively perform worse. It starts affecting you as if you were drinking on the job. And unless you work at a winery, that may not be a good thing.

5. Exercise & Eat Properly.

It’s so easy to eat at your desk and skip a workout to free up time for work. The reality, however, is that you’re probably not eating right when you do that (e.g., pizza, fast food), which taxes your body. Skipping a workout isn’t good either – exercise releases important chemicals for your mental health & emotional well-being. Take a 20 minute walk and think about your next article...

6. Gimme a Break.

I'm a big advocate of the Pomodoro technique, which leads to focused intervals of work (I use 25 minutes). But then...a break (I use 5 minutes). Work a while, take a break, work a while, take a break. The more you do, the more you’ll build a rhythm and get more done in your available time. Even if it seems counterintuitive, it really works. I maintain a daily diary where I color in circles for each completed Pomodoro. It's my daily productivity scorecard.

7. Best Way to Fight Stress: Say NO Often.

Saying NO absolutely reduces stress. Many times, that email from your colleague is nothing more than a redirect of a to-do item. You don’t have to deal with every such re-mapped assignment. Set boundaries around “your” work and “their” work. If your work is on schedule, then you might consider working on theirs. Unless it’s urgent and impactful, you should strongly consider saying NO. That doesn’t mean ignoring the request – it means letting them know you have your own commitments, you’d help if you could, but now isn’t a good time.

Fighting Stress Means Better Blogging

Productivity is an elusive goal. We’re all being asked to do more with less, when you can only do less with less. That said, you can accomplish more if you have less stress. Ironically, you can fight stress by doing less. It’s about doing less with more focus, energy and clarity. Your writing, if it's indeed a priority, will have room to breathe. And breathing room provides a path to quality.


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