Today’s Biz Ladies topic is one that is incredibly relevant and important to so many of us running our own businesses: dealing with stress. After an interesting Twitter conversation I had with some of you after reading this NY Times article, I really started thinking about how so many of us struggle with balancing work and life. While I’m pretty sure it’s something even the best business owners wrestle with on a regular basis, I think it’s important to hear from people who have tips, advice or feedback to share that they’ve found helpful. For most of us, stress and over-working aren’t issues that are solved overnight, so I have a feeling this is an important topic we’ll be revisiting here in the Biz Ladies column for years to come.
Today designer and stylist Michelle Smith is sharing her thoughts on the topic, along with some tips for unplugging and de-stressing that she learned after dealing with a difficult stress-induced illness. I triggered my own stress-induced illness while writing the D*S Book, so I’m going to be listening to Michelle’s advice closely. As much as I know that it’s important to unplug and take care of yourself, sometimes we all need a little reminder that these de-stressing ideas are crucial for not just the health of our business- but our bodies. Thanks to Michelle for sharing her story and advice today. Stay tuned for more personal/business stories on this topic in coming months… xo, grace
The full post continues after the jump…
I’m a pull yourself up by your bootstraps kind of girl, self-employed with an abundant drive and passion for my business; I’m also a classic workaholic, as I think many of us self-employed, creative types are. Not only do I work hard to make my business succeed but I pursue my dreams with an unwavering focus and my mind is constantly churning with new ideas to realize. But I’m also (reluctantly) aware that there aren’t enough lifetimes for the myriad projects I envision and of the toll that working too hard can take.
Last year, after a particularly demanding season I was able to catch a glimpse into my future in the form of a medical diagnosis. Because of too many hours working and not enough time to unwind, the stress I was experiencing manifested itself in my body: I was diagnosed with an extremely rare, but stress-induced condition, which has actually made me allergic to the sun. This unusual and unexpected circumstance has all but forced me to reevaluate my lifestyle across the board. Mostly it has made me even more mindful of the need for balance and aware of just how difficult it is to achieve when to-do’s and preoccupation are just a smart phone away.
So how do you slow down when there is always something else to be done? Here’s what has helped me:
• Step away from the computer and the smart phone. This is a difficult one with twitter, blogs, pinterest and email just a click away, and I am as guilty as the next, but seriously take time to smell the roses versus taking a picture of them and uploading them to instagram – your senses will thank you.
• Focus on one thing at a time. It is quite freeing to rebel against multi-tasking, to let go of all those internet tabs and have only one thing open on your computer at a time, to just focus intently on the task (or person) at hand without any other distractions.
• Clean the house. When I feel particularly overwhelmed I crank up Beyonce on the radio and dance my way to tidier surroundings. When my environment is in order, I feel less chaotic.
• Take time to reflect. Meditate. Write in an actual journal (again, away from the computer). Do this before anything else, right when you wake, before the daily email assaults and to-do’s pile up. Chart your own course for the day.
• Stop juggling so many balls. Create just a few goals for yourself a day, maybe even just one big one for the year. You’ll be more likely to achieve them this way.
• Stop holding yourself to such high expectations.
• Exercise. We all know it’s good for us, but how many of us actually do it enough? Since my job keeps me in front of the computer most of the day, I lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle, less than I realized before changing it. Now doing yoga 3x a week and exercising on top of that, I can say it really makes a huge difference in managing stress.
• Evaluate your goals and make sure you’re still aware of why you are chasing them. Why are you pursuing your business? Why did you start it in the first place? Take stock of the things you’ve already achieved and make sure you’re not just moving to move.
• Empty your jar. A friend shared with me a philosophy on staying balanced based on the concept of a jar filled with water and rocks and it really resonated with me. The jar can be filled with some large rocks and lots of small rocks but too many and the water that is in the jar will overflow. The large rocks represent the things most important to you: family, health, whatever, the small rocks represent everything else. If you fill your jar with all small rocks there is no room for the larger more important rocks. And regardless of how you fill your jar, you need to periodically empty your jar to make room for new things to enter.
• Take the time to regenerate and allow for periods of stillness. Joni Mitchell is famous for taking breaks between albums and painting during these periods of rest. Here is what Feist has to say about the subject in regards to the timing between her own albums “ I read a National Geographic article about soil and modern farming,” she says. “The point is for food to grow, the point isn’t for it to grow all at once and never grow again. Soil does its job, but unless you let it rest it can’t regenerate its own minerals and do the same thing again. You just have to let it lay there under the sun, dry out, get rained on, and be still a little while.”
To paraphrase a famous quote, life is like a river and will always be moving, the key is to follow the current and not resist the flow.