How I Make Being Stressed Productive – 3 Practical and Personal Tips
I might be stating the obvious here but stress is something everyone experiences. The funny thing about it though is that it never seems to impact two different people in the same way. I personally know people who cope extremely well with stress and some who don’t cope as well. Interestingly, people who fall on either side of the fence still never seem to react the same way. We all know someone who gets stressed and the tears start coming or, rather, gets worked up and angry. Neither is better or worse. It is just my observation on how, like all emotions, stress impacts everyone differently.
I would say that I am lucky enough to fall naturally into the group of people who deal with stress reasonably well. But the reason for me writing this isn’t to gloat about being naturally productive through stressful situations, it is to explain that, like anything in life, it takes work and practice to become better at it. Years of University, which included assignment after assignment, coupled with exam after exam, have given me plenty of opportunities to practice being better at dealing with stress, and, more importantly, using it to be productive.
I don’t think I am an expert on the topic by any means, but it is something I have consciously worked at over the years and I feel like these tips could potentially help people, regardless of what side of the ‘stress’ fence they sit on.
Tip 1) To-do lists are invaluable
Often for me, when I get stressed it is a result of having an enormous amount of things to do, but more specifically, not knowing exactly what or where to start.
I’m sure everyone knows the feeling, an overwhelming sense of so much to do, but they can’t actually picture any one specific thing that needs to be done.
This is where writing out an effective to do list can help.
I have 2 different to do lists. One that I write when I am feeling stressed and just need to get everything from my head onto paper. And one that I write close to every day.
Writing down everything that needs to be done on a list helps clear my head so much. Sometimes it helps completely destress myself as I realise there isn’t as much to do as I thought. Sometimes, it also does the opposite, but at least it’s not swirling around in my head anymore and I can start figuring out where to start.
The second list is an every day one which helps turn my stress into actually being productive. At night, before I start my next day I spend 5 to 10 minutes writing down everything I need to get done the next day. When I started doing this it helped so much in reducing the stress I would have at the end of the day about not getting enough done.
By writing these lists, I know exactly what I need to get done the next day and if I finish it all early, I know I have the freedom to do other things I enjoy without feeling guilty and then stressed about not doing enough for the day.
Tip 2) Talk it out
Now I know this one seems simple, but in my experience talking about why I am stressed is the last thing I want to do when I am stressed. Stress for me is this all-encompassing, weird kind of thing that takes over and shuts down all logic across my head space. All of the sudden things that I know I am quite capable of doing, seem tougher than climbing Mount Everest.
With this feeling in mind, before I began practicing this, spending 30 minutes talking it out with a friend definitely seemed like I was wasting valuable time.
But being disciplined to take the time out to discuss what was on my mind and why it was stressing me out began to help me understand it better. This better understanding of why I was stressed has so often led to me then be more productive in actually getting what I need to do, done.
Talking it out though was tough to begin with. It’s like with anything, sometimes the hardest thing to do is talk about why you are feeling a certain way.
But with lots of practice it’s one of my go to strategies in using stress as a tool to better understand what is going on with me and my life at that point and actually being more productive afterwards.
Tip 3) Do something, anything else.
I understand this one may seem a bit counter-intuitive but for me it works wonders. This strategy is actually quite a recent thing I am still working on and learning. As I have mentioned, when I am stressed and have a to do list longer than my arm, it seems more stressful to think about not getting started on ticking off those tasks.
However, sometimes for me I can just feel when I do that I compromise quality in what I am doing.
But then, what do I do with this burning fire that stress produces for me? For me it is a good opportunity to go be productive in another way.
For example, if I am stressed because I have 100 things to do for Uni and work, but getting started on them in the headspace I am in will compromise the quality and I don’t see the point.
So instead I use the energy that stress brings in doing something else I have been meaning to do, something completely different. Sometimes that is work on renovations I have going on in the backyard. Sometimes it is simply going for a walk and knowing that I am being productive in getting my daily steps up and being active for the day that does the trick.
It will be different for everyone, but the important part is recognising that more often than not, the world won’t end if your to do list sits there for another hour, or two, or twelve.
In summary, I know everyone deals with stress differently, just as they deal with everything else in the world differently. For me, I was and am lucky that stress is something that I feel naturally more comfortable with. In saying this though, dealing with stress, and turning it into a tool I can use to be more productive is something I have worked hard on over the years.
Hopefully, these tips that helped me get to the point I am at today can help you too!