I was sitting at the bus stop the other day. It was a Friday. I had spent the day leisurely – some work in the morning, then off to the city after lunch for some writing on my laptop at an Aroma’s cafe for a couple of hours. I had plans for a game of tennis with my friend Alborz for 7 PM that night.
I left the city to go home before tennis with what I thought was plenty of time to spare, at about 5 PM, a full two hours before I was due at the courts.
On the way home I got off the bus early to stop by the supermarket because I was almost out of milk.
I don’t like to play tennis without eating beforehand otherwise I run out of energy. I wanted to get home to have something to eat before playing.
I had to catch a Citycat (a river ferry) to get over to the tennis courts.
The mixture of these transportation variables and activities I wanted to do before tennis combined to create stress. Yes, I know you are probably laughing at me – “That’s not stress, I’ll tell you about stress!” you are thinking. I admit it wasn’t significantly stressful but in a life like mine this is about as stressful as it gets – enough stress that it sparked the concept for this article.
I was standing at the bus stop to finish my journey home after buying my milk and a few other items from the supermarket, frustrated because I was hungry and annoyed that I managed to make a few activities stressful when I really didn’t need to. It didn’t help when I only had a $50 note for the bus driver and he couldn’t provide change.
To cut the story short, I managed to get everything done, had a snack, dressed for tennis, caught the ferry over the river, walked into the tennis centre and looked at my watch – 6:35PM – I was a full 25 minutes early. I couldn’t help but chuckle at myself.
While I was on the bus I was thinking about my “previous life” as a university student. Now those days were stressful. Exams, assignments, tutorials, lectures, lots of public transport and of course studying topics I really didn’t care too much about, combined to create tonnes of stress.
I thought back to one of the worst times – exam block – those few weeks when you have a bunch of exams at end of semester all at once. At around that time every year (right about now actually as I type this), at the end of May and early June, I would get sick. I’d get the flu and have the added pleasure of feeling physically miserable while I did assignments and studied for exams. My own personal hell that I’m sure many other university students are going through right now.
I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but ever since I’ve been my own boss and worked on precisely what I want to work on, I don’t get sick anymore (touch wood!). It could be that I no longer go to a university campus infested with other sick students all coughing and spluttering on each other, sharing the same computer equipment and congregating in small square tutorial room boxes in close proximity to each other.
Or it could be, and I think this has more to do with it – I don’t really get stressed anymore, and well gosh, I’m pretty happy most of the time too, which is not something I could say about my university life. Being happy, having no stress and being in control of your emotional state combine to create the most powerful immune system boost you could ever have.
I’m a firm believer that your mindstate very much influences your physical state. You can literally make yourself sick just by the way you think and the prime culprit of illness inducing thinking is stress. I’m fairly certain that if I asked you right now about when you have been crook (unwell) in the past, it almost always coincides with a period of high stress in your life.
The mind is powerful. I’m living proof of this as I’ve managed to change my thinking process so dramatically in the last few years that what used to be the biggest cause of problems in my life, is now the most powerful asset I have for dealing with potential negative influences. As I discussed previously in my article – The Key To Happiness – your self talk, self-awareness and the choices you consequently make, dictate your happiness (and other emotional states).
One of the main influences on my choice to work towards self employment as an Internet marketer was to remove all time based deadlines from my life. I didn’t want to be anywhere at any time unless I specifically chose to be. I constantly make choices that remove any deadlines from my life because I know for me, the way I work best, is to have no rigid deadlines.
People are asking me when Blog Traffic School will be released. I answer by saying I don’t know. I have some loose likelihoods – the month I hope to be finished – but I am not committing to any specific timeframe because I’d rather give myself the time necessary to produce my best work, rather than rush something because of a deadline. That would create stress and reduce my output quality.
I’ve turned down speaking and networking opportunities that start before 9 AM because of my sleeping patterns. That one 9 AM start would ruin a full day for me because I’d miss some sleep and my output is terrible without sleep. I almost always choose my own physical health over anything else because I know that is the most important consideration for my success. Without my health I can’t achieve what I want to. Therefore, and this seems so logical to me, yet millions of people everyday make the opposite choice, I will always opt for a good nights sleep or a quality meal instead of pushing myself to work to meet a deadline, which in the grand scheme of things, has very little impact on my happiness, while my health certainly does.
When people look at my “working lifestyle” they are amazed at how relaxed it is. An hour or two of work here, another hour or two there. As I’ve written previously I don’t call it work, it’s what I do for enjoyment and satisfaction, but the label of “work” is necessary in order for most people to understand what I do. My average day has NO stress and I am not driven by deadlines, I’m driven by comfort and happiness. Can you say the same?
I used to get stressed when students would send in editing jobs to my business BetterEdit with short deadlines. I’d have to arrange projects sometimes with only a few hours before the deadline. Back when I was very gun-ho to get my business going I’d take on every project and I’d feel terrible if I couldn’t meet a deadline.
We’ve both matured past this now (that’s both me, and BetterEdit the business). When a job comes in I ask my editors if they can do it and respond matter-of-factly to clients “I’ll do my best, but no promises”. I won’t create stress in order to complete a $100 job, it’s just not worth it.
It’s amazing what happens when you disconnect yourself from what you have been trained to value so highly – money. Don’t create stress and make your life mentally and physically painful just for an extra buck. It is never, ever, worth it.
I’m sure you have heard the phrase “Time is an illusion”. If it really is, then it has to be the most powerful illusion ever not to exist. Time is the single biggest cause of stress in our western culture. It’s amazing how much value we give it, how much influence it has on us and how it, or a lack of it, makes us sick.
Deadlines at work, during studies and in our social lives make life rushed. You feel as if you are running from place to place, meeting one deadline just to start work on meeting the next. During the worst times you feel as if you no longer have control over your own life, you forget why you created the deadlines in the first place and just work as fast as you can like a mindless automaton. You are always busy and if you are not you start to feel guilty. There has to be something wrong with that.
Then of course you look at the big picture and once again we seem to be rushing to achieve certain goals before we are 20, 25, 30, 40, 50 or 65 years old. Am I the only one who finds it funny that we count down our lives using a numerical system that just seems designed to make us feel like we are useless, out of date and underachieving? I’m constantly trying to forget my birthday so I can just be Yaro rather than a 26, nearly 27 year old male who should be earning so much money now and doing certain things because society says I should (and my peer group are too). It’s hard to forget how old you are though because you get presents on your birthday
People have told me that some stress is a good thing. You need stress in order to push yourself to achieve things. I don’t agree with this, or at least I don’t think “stress” is the right label for it. You need desire, motivation and passion to achieve success, not stress. Stress is the result of letting time and money influence the way you live your life.
If you break things down, really evaluate what is important for you right now in this single moment, during this one day, then you will quickly realize most of the causes of your stresses are because you are running as fast as you can towards false idols. Don’t be in a hurry to get to tomorrow because you have been socially conditioned to do so. Don’t convince yourself that you HAVE to achieve something by the end of this year, resulting in stress, dissatisfaction and potential sickness, for the next six months. Don’t make stress because you want more money, that shiny new boat/car/house, just because the TV commercial told you it will make you happy or your neighbour just got one. No physical item has ever made anyone truly happy.
Adapt your life to what works for you. Afterall, you can only do the best you can with what you have been given. Each and every one of us has been given a different situation in life. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, freedoms and limitations. As you are the best judge of you, all you need to do to reduce your stress is to start listening to your feelings.
Flag the events, thoughts and situations that create stress. Figure out why they do (probably because of time based constraints or limitations or expectations you have created), then work to change these situations, remove them altogether if necessary. Then start hunting for the opposite – find what relaxes you or energizes or motivates, but doesn’t create stress. Work to imbue your life with more of these situations and you will find your life will slow down, your happiness will increase and your health will improve.
The key to eliminating stress from your life is to relax. Doesn’t the polarity between those two words just seem so appropriate? Relax, don’t stress. Be in control of your emotions and your life. Don’t let your life control your emotions.
Do you hear this phrase repeated over and over from self development teachers and spiritual leaders?
“Enjoy the moment”
It’s true, so very true. If you enjoy the moment, the deadline doesn’t exist. If you take a step back, connect with where your true happiness comes from, you will realize that nothing has to happen today unless you want it to. Tomorrow is just as good, or the next day, or the next.