Can you believe it? We are more than halfway through the first month of 2016 and stress levels are already high again (for some it never came down). Some people are still trying to get clarity on the goals they want to achieve this year, others already started giving up on their New Year’s resolutions, and then there are those who didn’t even bother to give it a thought. Which group do you belong to?
Enough Is Enough; But Do You Know How To Beat Negative Stress?
There is one area in life where I’ve been saying I would like to see change for a long time now, and I’ve decided that enough is enough. Irrespective of what time of year it is, it can be done at any time. There is never as good a time as now when it comes to taking control and to do what needs to be done.
For so long I’ve been saying “I don’t mind working hard, but if I can just stop rushing around and get rid of negative stress”. I want to be productive, but I’m sick and tired of the rat race. I know I’m not the only one saying this. At least my wife and my two daughters are saying the same.
They’re all doing very well in their respective careers, and both my daughters plan on starting their own businesses. But as I saw the pressure and the stress they take at work (and both my daughters are only in their late twenties), I decided that something needs to be done. Talk and giving advice is good, but it’s not good enough. Something needs to be done, and it needs to start with me. I have to do something about it in my own life, and only when I experience the results can I talk to someone else about it – including my immediate family.
Why Would I Want To Beat Stress or Even Reduce Stress Levels?
If you don’t know why you want to achieve a specific goal, you have failed even before you started.
Here are some of my reasons why I would love to beat any negative stress:
- I want to enjoy better quality sleep.
- I don’t want to be overly concerned with the opinions of other people.
- I want to get rid of the stuff which is just taking up time and is preventing me from being productive.
- I want to have more free time to spend with my family without being concerned about work that needs to get done.
- I want to experience inner-peace and calmness as a matter of routine.
- I want to get up in the morning and look forward to the day, not dreading it.
How about you? What is your why? Your reasons might be totally different from mine. But do take some time to do this exercise. You won’t regret it.
My Challenge To Beat Negative Stress
I have decided to set myself a challenge. I declare war on negative stress. My challenge to myself is to overcome and win over negative stress for at least 300 days over a period of 1 year.
No, I’m not bluffing myself by thinking that by just making a decision against it, I won’t experience negative stress, or that I won’t be exposed to it. Surely I will still have to face it, but I’ve decided to win the battle and I know it can be done because God says that through Jesus Christ we are conquerors.
Romans 8:15 (NIV) says “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[f] And by him we cry, “Abba,[g] Father.”
When reading further we see that Romans 8:28-38 (NIV) says “28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
How To Triumph Over Negative Stress.
It’s easy to say “I won’t give in to negative stress”, but it’s something else to actually put it into practice. It’s impossible to just get up one morning and decide not to stress about anything and think it will just disappear as if by some magic. So how can we resist giving in to negative stress? How can we know whether we are being successful at achieving this goal?
For a goal to be achievable, it has to be a SMART goal.
- S – Specific: The goal must clearly state what it will achieve.
- M – Measurable: Will you know if you achieved your goal?
- A – Achievable: Can this goal actually be achieved?
- R – Relevant: Is this goal relevant in reflecting your values in life?
- T – Time Specific: Do you know when you want to achieve this goal by?
(With regards to the goal being measurable, I will discuss this point in more detail in my next post, showing daily goals and actions steps which will enable you to know whether you are successful or not.)
Here is what I plan on doing:
1 – Remove As Much Uncertainty As Possible By Setting -, and Working Towards Achieving Goals.
I have already decided which the most important goals are for me to achieve during 2016. These goals must be broken down into smaller achievable action steps. Some of these action steps might even be turned into daily goals to be completed in order to develop habits that will ensure my success.
This will be done to enable me to eliminate any uncertainty and confusion as much as possible, and always to be aware of what the next action step will be. Each action step or smaller goal must bring me closer to the achievement of a long term goal.
Tools I will use to help me:
- Life Tick for goal setting (free)
- Wunderlist for general daily to-do lists – especially for repetitive actions like daily goals to create habits. (free)
2 – Following Routines and Proper Time Management.
The routine part might be the more challenging part here. I love change and I often recommend to people to try something new. Take a new route to work, or start a new hobby, just to get some creative thinking going.
But we also need to maintain a balance to preserve our energy levels for when we really need it. I believe this can be done by planning ahead. The main purpose of creating routine is to free your mind up by not having to think about something – saving that energy for when you are facing real obstacles during the day or for being able to think creatively while busy on work projects etc.
Time management is also essential to enable you to know exactly what needs to be done during the course of the day.
The main tool I will be using to achieve this:
- Google Calendar (free)
- The ‘tasks’ function in Google Calendar also allows you to create a to-do list and sort your activities according to their level of importance (or by priority) for each day.
3 – Learn To Say No And Do Less In Order To Become More Productive.
We are currently living in what Greg McKeown calls the “busy-ness bubble”. It’s saying ‘more’ in itself is a value. It’s almost as if it has become embarrassing when you can’t say how busy you are.
I recently watched a video interview between Ron Friedman (Ph.D.) and Greg McKeown. What struck me was when Greg Mckeown mentioned the fact that the word priorities only came into use during the last century or so, and how much it actually takes away from the original word priority. He went on to explain that we can actually get back to the meaning of the original meaning of the word by doing the following: Determine the 6 most important things to be done for the day, then delete 5 of them. That will leave you with the priority for the day.
Tools to help me achieve this:
- Evernote (free) to help me become more organized. Use it for filing, keeping notes and general organizing.
- Trello (free) for organizing work and schedules such as editorial calendar and keeping track of deadlines.
4 – Take More Breaks.
This point is pretty much related to my previous point about being busy. I often catch myself pushing in an attempt to get more done. Yet the result is just the opposite.
We need to take regular breaks to function at our peak levels. In his article ‘3 Unusual Secrets for Working Smarter, Not Harder’, Dale Partridge states that “statistically the average human brain can focus for 90 minutes and then needs a 15-20 minute break before we reach burn-out”.
I want to experiment by using a sliding scale from what he (Dale Partridge) describes as his ideal (for normal work load) – working 60-90 minutes and take a 30 minute break, going up to maximum capacity (as work load increases) of working 90 minutes and take a 15-20 minute break.
5 – Accountability
I believe accountability is a crucial part of ensuring success. Besides being held accountable; sharing goals, targets and projects with someone else also opens the door for support and encouragement from those around you.
I will share my goals, deadlines and projects I’m working on with my immediate family as well as a good friend who is working closely with me on many projects, such as the technical aspects of my sites, etc.
My Challenge Is To Say No to Negative Stress; Have You Already Begun To Think How Beating Negative Stress Would Improve You Life Too?
Now is as good a time as ever to take up the challenge. Now is the time to say no to negative stress. The challenge I have set myself, is to conquer over negative stress for at least 300 days over a period of 1 year. It is not a competition; there is no starting date or closing date. It’s about saying no to negative stress and claiming your life (and health) back. So irrespective of what time of year it is, why don’t you join me in this challenge?
I have mentioned several tools I want to use to help me achieve my goal of triumphing over negative stress (my priority). It is not to say that I will use every single tool all the way through. I will experiment along the way and keep those that work for me and let go of those that doesn’t quite fit the bill for me. I will discuss these tools more in detail and how I use them as I go along. So keep an eye out for these posts. I should also be able to achieve many other goals as a result of this project though.
My invitation to you is to join me in this challenge. If you have any strategies or tools to help along the way, why don’t you share it with the rest of us?
I look forward to hearing from you and share our experiences.