We are all so busy. We whiz through life with a million and one things always on our to-do lists. Whether it’s at work, at home or in our personal lives, we juggle a huge amount of tasks on any given day. It’s no wonder we’re so interested in finding stress management tips and advice to help us get it all done without losing the plot! Stress and burnout come at a high cost and running yourself into the ground for the sake of ‘doing it all’ doesn’t benefit anyone. Not you and not your loved ones. So what can we do to get stuff done and stress less in life?
Let’s find out from these 3 books.
The End of Stress – Don Joseph Goewey
Published in 2014, this book looks at the damage that stress causes on your health and happiness. So many of us live in a chronic state of stress which we tend to accept as a normal part of modern life. But that’s where we go horribly wrong. Because stress has a major impact on our health:
- It releases toxic hormones that damage our higher brain functions (the ones managed by the prefrontal cortex). We’re talking about making big decisions or plans and achieving our goals, for example. And if that wasn’t bad enough, our ability to tap into our emotional intelligence is also reduced.
- Stress hormones are responsible for physically reducing your brain’s neural paths! With connections between your brain cells slowly dying away (I’m not even joking here), your creativity and ability to learn go out of the window.
- Being stressed has important physical consequences too. It weakens your immune system and damages your heart.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that we can do something about it. And that something, to sum it up, is changing your attitude. Thanks to a superpower (we can call it that) that we all have called neuroplasticity, our brains can quite literally reorganise and rewire themselves. In a nutshell, you can undo the damage that stress creates if you’re able to:
- Let go of fear (and worry less!)
- Change your perspective (and stop engaging with your negative thoughts and start look at the bright side instead).
- Adopt a peaceful mindset, by starting off your days quietly and taking a few quick pauses (we’re talking 30 seconds here!) to clear your mind and ground yourself.
Studies show that around 85% of the stuff we worry about never end up materialising. Most of the time we pretty much worry ourselves for no reason at all!
The 5 Choices – Kory Kogon and Adam Merrill
It’s no secret that stress management and productivity go hand in hand. With so much to do all of the time, we’re all on the hunt for a solution that allows us to be super-productive without getting stressed and burning out. In this book, Kogon and Merrill show us how.
First things first, to organise your time you need to create a time matrix. Grab a piece of paper and divide it into the following 4 quadrants:
- Q1: Important, urgent work.
- Q2: Important tasks that aren’t urgent.
- Q3: Work that’s urgent but not important.
- Q4: Time-wasting tasks.
You probably feel the most productive when you do work in Q1 and Q3, but really, spending your professional life in those quadrants is a sure recipe for stress and burnout. Instead, try to focus on Q2 tasks – this is where you are your most focused and creative. And yet, we only spend about 30% of our time in this quadrant. Is that really a surprise that we end up stressed?
Pause, clarify, decide.
So how do you make sure the majority of your time is spent engaging in Q2-type activities? Use the Pause-Clarify-Decide method to determine whether a task is important. In other words, before you do anything, take a second and make sure you make that choice out of intention and not out of habit. Once you have, get planning. Work out what you really need to do and schedule blocks of time to do it. Having a task scheduled in your diary makes it more likely for you to actually get it done.
What I love about this book is that although it effectively talks us through a productivity system, it also values looking after your body and mind as fundamental ingredients for achieving productivity without burning out. Because our brains consume about 20% of our overall energy on a daily basis, we need to literally feed our brain! How? Just follow these three steps:
- Draw energy from your why. In other words, have a powerful purpose, and your work will allow you to feel energised.
- Move – generate energy from your body.
- Connect – cultivate relationships and friendships.
I know how she does it – Linda Vanderkam
And finally, if you’re looking to reduce stress as a working mum, check out I Know How She Does It. In this book, Linda Vanderkam talks about something very close to my heart – how to develop our careers AND enjoy our personal lives. (‘Without losing the plot’, may I add? Just listen to this podcast interview to find out how I very nearly did).
I love how the author breaks a typical week down for us. If you think about it, in total, we all have 168 hours per week. If we sleep 8 hours each night (yeah, right) and work, say, 44 hours per week, we still have 68 hours per week that aren’t spent at work. That means that all of us should be spending more time at home than at work. So why it is that more often than not, it feels like the other way round? Or why does it feel like we’re always chasing our tails? What can we do about it?
The key, apparently, is all in the planning. Vanderkam outlines these steps for excelling in your career while still finding time for yourself:
- Find opportunities for flexibility in your work, i.e. leave early on your children’s account if you need to, but carry on with your work when they’re in bed. Or, if your employer allows it, work from home one or two days a week.
- But at the same time, make sure you don’t work too much! Start the day with your toughest or most urgent tasks (has anyone read The One Thing, by any chance?), only attend meetings that are strictly necessary (or make them shorter where you can), and ensure you have enough free time by planning and scheduling things for yourself.
- Plan your week in advance. On a Friday afternoon be sure to carve out some time to plan the week ahead.
- Try and love what you do. And if that’s easier said than done (I hear ya!), do you think that changing careers could be an option?
And at home…
- Remember that being around your family isn’t the same thing as being with your family, so try and plan shared activities to spend quality time together. Think about sharing a meal, exercising or spending time outdoors when possible.
- Plan and spend alone time with your partner. And admin and grocery shopping don’t count!
- At home, try and let go of perfectionism and ask for help (and accept it) when it comes to chores and housework.
ADD_THIS_TEXTStress management: what’s next?
I hope you enjoyed this selection of books, which I discovered thanks to the amazing app Blinkist. Blinkist offer short summaries of non-fiction books that you can read or listen to in only 15 minutes. I wouldn’t have discovered these books had it not been for them! If you want to find out more, click here.
Over to you now. Have you read any of these books? Are there any others you’d recommend?
*This post contains affiliate links, which means that should you decide to buy any of the products I recommended, I will get a small commission.