Stress sucks, regardless where they come from.
The good news? It’s how we choose to respond to them that matters.
Knowing that we can do something about these productivity-sapping, grump-inducing monsters is quite empowering. Here are my top 3 effective stress-reduction methods that I still use today.
…From irrelevant noise, mainly the news media. The world will get along fine even if you disregard the news for a few days. Try forcing yourself not to read news (be in on websites, TV, etc) for a few days and you’ll be surprised at how much more free time and relaxed you get.
…From the ‘uncontrollables’. Worrying about things you can’t control is an awful waste of energy. From the weather, economy, just after the CFA exams, or even work issues.
Try implementing a new rule. Before worrying, check to see if there is anything that you can reasonably do about it. If you can’t, focus on something else. Keep calm and carry on.
…From stressed, negative people. Birds of a feather flock together, after all. We are pre-programmed to mirror the physiology of others around us. Until you’ve achieve inner peace and conquered your stress, it’s best to avoid them for now to control your stress levels.
…From work. while your enthusiasm and energy for work is commendable, it shouldn’t be so extreme until you have to check your work phone every hour outside of work hours. I have been guilty of this myself years ago, and noticed the effect of my behaviour on people I care about (not good). Even at work, constantly checking your inbox every few minutes is a terrible way to stay productive or relaxed – instead, try checking your inbox just once an hour. You’ll get work done faster, and in a less stressed state. Once you take a step back and observe things from a different perspective: Guess what? Work can wait for a bit.
The Think-Do-Relax Approach
Ever had those moments where you worry about something repeatedly and just feel like you’ve fallen into a dark abyss? The reason why the worrying cycle repeats is because it’s uncontrolled and you allow that to happen.
It’s time to exercise some mind discipline to stop this incessant worry loop. Apply these 3 operational modes for your mind: thinking, doing and relaxing. Allocate specific time of the day to devote to each of these mode individually. Here’s a quick summary of this method:
#1. Thinking Mode: If you’re a morning person and think best then, use 1-2 hours in the morning (cut off time at 11am) to think and plan about the work you need to do for the day, how you’re going to do it (to do lists) etc. Write down your worries, and basically the to-do list contains attempts to alleviate those worries/goals for the day.
If when studying for the CFA exams and, for example, you don’t get a particular section on FRA, what are you gonna do about it? Online research, referring to materials, or ask someone in a forum? Write down your to-dos and going through them will allow you to ‘transfer’ those worries into a list of actions.
#3. Relaxing Mode: You can choose either an active or passive relaxation mode. Active is often easier for beginners, as it normally involves things like playing the piano, having lunch with friends and playing tennis, activities that don’t leave much room for worrying.
Passive relaxation, on the other hand, are ‘quieter’ activities such as reading, running and meditation. It’s harder to prevent worries from creeping into your mind here, but we all know there’s time for that (mode #1) and practice helps.
Studies have shown that having pet owners tend to live a longer and healthier life. If you have one, lucky you! Go for a walk with it outside, breathe in some fresh air to clear your clogged mind. Train it to the latest tricks or simply playing with them will do wonders for your mind.
If you’re like me and don’t have any pets: try good old-fashioned internet animal videos; I swear it’s equally effective. Just make sure it doesn’t take up all of your study time!