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How To Find The Level Of “Healthy Stress” You Can Handle

I was recently listening to the audiobook version of #GIRLBOSS (worst title ever) by Sophie Amoruso, and there was a section about stress that stuck with me. (The rest of the book was just okay.) The quote that got me thinking was actually from a section written by Leandra Medine (an author and fashion blogger over at Man Repeller):

“I also think you age a lot quicker if you can’t keep yourself busy and under the right, healthy dose of stress. Too much of anything obviously isn’t good, but as my dad always said: Overwhelmingly busy is a much better state to be in than overwhelmingly bored.”

I could not agree more with this statement. People always complain about how much stress they are under, and while too much stress is definitely a thing, the right amount keeps you motivated and efficient. Have you ever had a job where there’s just not much going on, and you find yourself browsing the internet to keep yourself entertained? I sure have! And I find when that happens, even the smallest of tasks feels like such a drag, and I end up pushing everything off just to do one more (or four more) stupid Buzzfeed quizzes. On the other hand, when I have a job where I am consistently busy and have a (not too huge) pile of files on my desk to get through, I work harder, better, and faster (you’re welcome for getting that Daft Punk song stuck in your head). It’s way too easy to fall into a non-productive rut when you don’t have a bit of stress nipping at your heels.

Different people have varying levels of tolerance to stress; a level that might result in peak performance for one person could cause another to buckle under the pressure. You just need to figure out how much stuff you can take on to keep yourself in that target zone, without overloading yourself. How exactly are you supposed to find that sweet spot, though? Well, trial and error I guess. Think back to times where you felt like you were thriving under pressure, and then compare them to times where you were under too much stress and just wanted to cry. What was the difference? It also depends on what area of your life you are dealing with; let’s talk about that a bit more.

Money Stress

Since this is a blog about finance, we’re going to start there. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your finances, then there are a few things you can do to get your financial life in order and running more smoothly. Debt tends to be the biggest money stressor, but even living with high levels of debt can be bearable if you have a solid plan to pay it off.

  • Budget, budget, budget!: The number one thing you can do to feel in control of your finances is to create a monthly budget for yourself. This does not need to be complicated (money in, money out) but knowing where your money is going and how much you can spend on what is essential.
  • Emergency fund: An unexpected expense can often throw a financial plan off track, so it is critical to have an emergency fund to cover your butt. I like to have about three months of expenses saved in my emergency fund, but if job security is something you are concerned about, it may make sense to bump that up. I wouldn’t go overboard, though. An emergency fund needs to be readily available and should not be invested, but you don’t want to have too much of your assets sitting on the sidelines.

If you’re living the good, no-money-stress life, then it might be time to up the ante. As we discussed above, stress can be a motivating factor and might be the push you need to better your financial position. Maybe set yourself a goal to start saving a percentage of your income.

Work Stress

This can be a tough one, and more of a challenge to solve. Unless you’re the boss, you don’t always have control over what tasks are assigned to you and how fast they need to be completed. There are some things you can do to make sure you are working efficiently, and hopefully lower your stress level.

  • Prioritize: When I get overwhelmed at work, I find that it helps to take a second, stop whatever it is I’m doing, and make a priority list. It might feel like everything has to be done right this second, but I promise you, it doesn’t. Once you figure out an order to do things, you will be able to focus on checking things off your list instead of freaking out over everything at once.
  • Plan ahead: Most jobs have busy times and slow times, so take advantage of breaks to get a step up on the busy season. Keeping your stress level at that healthy amount consistently by staying productive even during slow periods will mean fewer freak outs when things get crazy.
  • Ask for help: Maybe your boss doesn’t think you’re doing the job of two people, but if you are always feeling stressed out and overworked, it might be time to discuss this. You might just be so good at hiding your stress that no one has any idea you are suffering. It might not even be a matter of hiring a new staff member, but just re-assigning some tasks internally.

If it’s boredom you are dealing with at work, then there are also things you can do to boost your motivation. Perhaps there’s a project that no one wants to do, but that would make things run more smoothly. It’s never a bad idea to take on extra work; you can use it to your advantage when performance review time comes around. If there’s nothing available, consider doing something that might not be directly work-related, but will improve your skillset. There might be an online course you can complete or a book you can read that will make you a more productive employee.

Home Stress

I’m no expert on relationships or parenting (no kids here), but I do have a few tactics for dealing with stress when life gets in the way.
  • Just say no!: I think everyone is guilty of agreeing to do something they don’t really want to do, so stop doing that. You are allowed to say no! Taking on too much is going to result in you doing things poorly, and nobody wants that, so don’t feel bad for passing on an event or refusing to take on another task.
  • Me time: Schedule time to treat yourself! There’s plenty of ways to be kind to yourself that don’t even involve spending money. Take a nice hot bath with lots of bubbles and a good book, go for a long walk with your dog, or do a little at-home yoga.

I always seem to have a hard time finding middle ground at home; I always either have way too much on the go, or nothing at all. Not ideal! I’m also not the best at getting myself motivated to do things. One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to build up a bit of an archive of blog posts so that I never have to scramble. Let’s just say that is still a work in progress…I’ve been better about sticking to a schedule, but am still writing most of my posts the same week they go up. I need to figure out some way of rewarding myself — that seems to work for getting me to the gym! I always see that quote that talks about not rewarding yourself with food because you’re not a dog…but hey, if it works 😉

How do you guys keep yourselves motivated during slow periods and from losing your minds when you get stressed out?

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