Why All the Stress..All the Time?
Stress is something most adults struggle with, all over the world. However, with our increased connectivity, productivity, and everyday life, we find it more and more difficult to manage the newly-established, ever-rising stress levels we are faced with everyday. I’m sure that most of you, like myself here, are required, one way or another, to accomplish your job through some level of computer connectivity and social networking. Let’s be honest – most of us can’t perform our daily tasks without the Internet. Personally, I am a digital marketer, so the speed at which information online flows through my brain cells is faster than gasoline catches fire from a lit match. The speed at which I am required to conceptualize, create, then analyze information is a major workout for my brain and when I’m working on real-time projects, which is most of the time, the stress levels are undoubtedly high. The interesting part here is that we were never faced with these stress levels before the explosion of the Internet and social media, so we never had to consciously deal with the consequences.
Another component contributing to my increased stress levels is that I worry…about EVERYTHING. Good things, bad things, unknown things, etc. A big struggle I’m always working on improving is focusing my thoughts on the present and not worrying so much about the future. With this in mind, I’ve come up with a way on how to dedicate one hour everyday (or as often as possible) to working on unconsciously reducing my stress levels while taking the time to enjoy something that allows me to use other parts of my brain which I’m not able to during the workday.
I call it – the Golden Non-Digital Hour. First thing’s first – you MUST disconnect from the Internet. Don’t check your social media, don’t touch your phone. Take one hour in your day to sit down/lay down (whatever you prefer) and do something that allows you to enjoy activities you don’t normally have time for. For example: I love to write. I also love to paint. If writing or painting isn’t up your alley, how about kicking a soccer ball around? Or maybe you put on a face mask, turn on the Meditation playlist on Spotify, light a candle, and quietly relax in your room. Do you live near a beach but never actually go there? Take the hour and enjoy some sand and waves! Everyone has their own way of creative expression and their own definition of an enjoyable time. The important thing here is to put everything on pause and allocate that one hour to your personal activity.
To those of you saying – Alex, you’re crazy! I live in the middle of nowhere and there’s nothing to do here! That may be so, but you’ll be surprised when you actually Google your area and find things that will seem interesting to you. If in fact, there really IS nothing around you, take a Thinking Hour instead. This is something else I like to do if there’s just nothing that comes to mind activity-wise. Have you been itching to re-decorate your apartment? Think it through, plan it out – make a list, do some sketches, create an inspiration board. Going through a creative thinking process without a deadline will actually alleviate your stress and you will accomplish things you’ve been putting off doing. Two birds with one stone!
And if you’re saying to yourself – an hour?! I can’t spend an hour gallivanting in the park! Yes you can, and you should. If you don’t take the time for yourself and do what is good for YOU, no one will. How can you be 100% helpful to others if you can’t even help yourself?! Just do it (like Nike says) and make the time.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
You have to keep in mind that taking a vacation once a year (twice at best) is not going to help reduce your daily accumulated stress levels. It’s like taking vitamins – they’re not going to work with just one dose. Of course it will make you feel better, but longterm, it’s not going to solve this problem. Many people talk about personal time, me time, mental health days, etc. The reality is, it’s very hard these days to dedicate large chunks of time to be away from work. What I’m suggesting is actually doable and will pay off over time. You will notice an overall stress decrease, if you practice everyday – it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change! Just like everything else in life – you have to practice to get better. Stress-relief is no different – treat it like a sport, or a musical instrument if it helps. Try it for a week and let me know how you feel!