We all know that stress can manifest itself in different ways for everyone. Some examples might be anxiety, anxiousness, fatigue, bloating (seriously), migraines, and in my case, chronic stress headaches.
Over the last three years since starting the Sledge Hockey Experience I have had to deal with stress headaches on a few occasions and when I chat with people about it, they always want to know how I dealt with it and what I learned from the experience.
At the worst of times I was in to see my doctor. I tried medication, had an MRI scan on my brain at one point, but in the end it just came down to understanding that I was trying to manage a huge volume of work and needed to give myself some space (and time) to heal so that I could reapproach the work I had.
After getting through some very challenging times I have learned a few things:
That I am resilient
That I keep getting better at managing stress
You can make it better or worse depending on how you deal with stress
And so, I wanted to share three tips on how to manage stress, especially if you feel like you can’t currently overcome it or that there is no end in sight. These are the strategies that helped me take my recovery time down from 4-6 months to 4-6 weeks once I recognized that something needed to change.
Number One: Prioritize Your Health
When we get stressed, one of the first things we want to do is to find comfort, and where do we do that?
Eating like crap is going to help you feel ok at the moment, but it’s not going to keep you on (or put you on) the right path to spiral up, not down during stressful times.
You need to do the hard thing which is continuing to prioritize your health first. Be willing to let some balls drop as you focus on small things like getting enough sleep, getting outside and exercising.
That means if you meditate to continue doing so, keep journaling, stay in contact with friends to talk about what you are dealing with, even if it’s just for a short 5 minute conversation, it helps you to stay connected and vent with a close friend if necessary.
When I was playing for Team Canada I was always asked how I found time to exercise with a busy schedule. The short answer is that it was my job to stay fit, however now as an entrepreneur I can speak even closer from trying to manage “work life balance” that if you don’t make the time, you won’t have the time.
If you always choose work you may look like a hero to others, but you also need to be a hero to yourself. Eventually the volume of work can catch up to you, you burn out, and then you have to work extra hard to get yourself back on track.
“It’s easier to stay ready than it is to get ready” – Will Smith
To be the hero of your own movie and deal with stress in a positive way, prioritize your health first.
Number Two: Focus On What You Can Control
The calendar will keep filling up with appointments, but what you can control is what you say yes and no to.
There will be some things you MUST DO, but what about all the things that you don’t need to do but say yes to anyway – because you are a people pleaser, you want to make a good impression early in the job, or perhaps you dislike confrontation?
Have you been asked to volunteer for another committee? Politely decline this ask and let the committee know you are stepping back until you are in a position to give again?
Struggling to make time for yourself? Make sure you time block by creating your ideal week. It may not go exactly as planned each week, but it will give you framework to follow and makes it easier to say no in the moment when you have “you time” pre scheduled.
Are you feeling overwhelmed by your to do list? Try these steps to get back on track:
Make a list of all the things that you have to do. Don’t worry about their importance yet, but get everything down on paper first.
Once you have everything on paper, then choose your Top Three Rocks. Write those down at the top of a new list.
Write down all of your appointments, your MUST DO’s for your day, and 3-5 miscellaneous tasks that you can bang off your list in the same day.
Write down with a red pen/marker how long you think each given task will take.
Now go tackle your list.
What this does is allows you to focus on just a few, simple tasks, and keep in focus what your priority is. It helps you stay focused in the present so you do not get overwhelmed with thoughts about mistakes you made in the past, or what lies ahead in the future. In order to be effective and get “caught up” on your to do list, focus on a few simple steps you can take today, and then tackle that list.
Number Three: Weather The Storm
One final lesson I have learned is that sometimes you just need to weather the storm and accept that this is just a period of time you need to go through.
When things aren’t working out as you’ve planned, it’s about keeping your head high knowing that this is something that can be overcome and you just need to build some momentum. You might need to remind yourself that “you just haven’t figured it out yet”, and if you hang in there long enough “this too shall pass”.
You might be at an internship and have eight months to go. These months might be long, but they are contributing towards your long term goal. You know that there’s still more to learn, but you don’t need to learn everything right now. You maybe don’t want to be in your role right now, but if you weather the storm and stick it out, you will soon be able to move onto the next step.
Eight months in the span of your life’s career isn’t that long. When you think back to high school and one class you hated… at the time that one semester seemed forever, but now it could be considered a “blip” on the radar for how short that one semester was in terms of your whole high school experience.
Dealing with daily stress isn’t fun and it can be very difficult when you need to reel yourself back in and get life back on track. The lesson I find comes from developing your self awareness. Each of us have the ability to choose what we focus on, what we are willing to tolerate, and what our perspective is that we choose to take every day in becoming the hero of our own movie.
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