I realized what I’ve been getting wrong about stress: it’s not something you can get rid of once you have it – you have to make sure it never gets to that point in the first place.
I used to think that stress was something you were supposed to deal with when you felt..well, stressed. It’s like when you get sick and take an antibiotic and you get better. Turns out, stress isn’t exactly like that. Usually by the time you’re sick, it’s already too late. I mean you CAN do that (i.e. take vacations, wait until you get a super nervous breakdown before doing something…whatever) but it’s definitely not the most optimal.
So then I thought, well, maybe you’re just supposed to avoid stress. Yeah, that just doesn’t work out well at all. Even if you weren’t running a startup, life just throws random things at you that are completely out of our control. So no, avoiding isn’t the answer either.
Which brings me to my realization: you have to take steps to make sure that you never FEEL stressed. It’s like probiotics or vitamin tablets: take them every day to make sure you don’t get sick. Prevention rather than treatment.
So what are vitamin tablets in the stress world? I think they have to do with daily habits that people cultivate. I have a strong suspicion that the most successful people also have the best stress coping habits. They do things every day so that there is no need to feel stressed, ever. I think that’s highly possible, if not highly probable. I can’t speak for other fields, but at least at a startup, I think it’s doable.
How is the better question. Here’s my list so far:
- Exercise is an absolutely fantastic way to help you feel energized, and more importantly, help you see the world through new eyes
- Meditation lately has been pretty rad, I must say. I was a skeptic at first but I like it. I think I”m going to keep doing it. I try to do 10 minutes every morning, but I’ll probably expand that time gradually.
- Eating/sleeping enough: I think it goes without saying but just in case it needs to be said, I think this one is huge.
- Being grateful/thankful. I find that if we cultivate this habit, I just feel genuinely happier/joyful more often than not. I’m trying to get better at this
- Longer term planning: I’m reading this pretty interesting book by Bill Walsh, super successful coach of the NFL San Francisco 49ers, and I love how he talks about having a plan for every single scenario out there. If it can happen, he has a plan. So during the game, he can sit back and let things happen. Yes there are a lot of calls during game time, but for the most part, he knows that he can handle whatever is thrown at his team. I am absolutely horrendous at this, but I think if I start putting this into practice, it’ll make me a lot more confident.
Anyway, it’s an idea I’m working with. Still need to flesh it out, but I’m going to start figuring out my daily habits to help me lead a more productive and joyful life. I’m all about that.