Diss-Stress

     I’ll begin this weeks post with two words … stress kills. We all have varying degrees of this nasty scourge in our lives, but have you ever considered this? We manufacture a great deal of it ourselves. Headaches, panic attacks, and that constant state of feeling overwhelmed are sure signs that you’ve taken on too much responsibility. Now, anyone in their right mind wouldn’t consciously load up with something they’re adversely affected by, right?

     Wrong.

     Granted, most of us don’t wake up in the morning and say, “Gee … what can I do today to cause myself harm? However, whether or not we realize it, a certain percentage of the stress we feel each day is self-induced. Don’t believe me? Let me give you an example. Are you, or is someone you know, a “joiner.” I speak from experience on this one. Induction into one writers group is good, so two must be twice as good … and you join the second. How is that working out? Honestly, I knew it was a mistake the moment I did it. The reason? There just aren’t enough hours in the day to actively participate in both. I did it anyways. Time to change course.

     As a writer with a full-time day job, I’m painfully aware that you can only burn a candle at both ends for a finite amount of time, before all you have left is a flaming puddle of wax remaining. Taken literally, one may end up with a hellacious mess to clean up. In real life, what you figuratively have on your hands is a meltdown. Let’s try to figure out a solution before that happens. After all, running yourself ragged and becoming ill helps no one—especially you.

     The first thing that’s so important to remember is this … it’s all about the journey. We must learn to slow down and take it all in. A failure here almost insures that down the road, you’ll wonder where the time went while remaining a considerable distance from your goal. As counter-intuitive as it seems, sometimes less is more. Make a list of your commitments. Don’t bother to include family, or paying the bills. These are obviously a given and are non-negotiable. As for everything else, let’s try to find some things on the list to cull.

     First, put a little star next to the things that bring you the most joy and also serve a purpose. These are the activities you’ll definitely keep. For instance, I enjoy the dual purpose of Twitter. I get to meet and interact with some tremendously friendly, gifted, intelligent people while making this on-line society aware that I have a novel to offer for their consumption. I do my best to balance the social/promotional aspect of this activity and truly enjoy myself in the process.

     Next, look at the remaining items before you. Put a check mark next to those that you don’t quite enjoy, but are necessary for the successful advancement of your goals. Editing is one item on my own list that instantly comes to mind. It’s not my favorite activity, yet, the process is imperative if there’s any hope of producing a solid work. These items also stay.

     At this juncture, the remainder of said list will be subject to the cull. This is where we play stress-buster. I began with my blog. As it turns out, I had placed undue stress upon myself by thinking it was necessary to have something fresh on there every day or two. My solution—quality versus quantity. I decided to post two pieces, once a week. One is this very post that you’ve been kind enough to visit, where I share my experiences with you. The other; a creative writing exercise. I produce a flash fiction work from a prompt that I request from fellow writers. I write both pieces on Saturday for post on Sunday. This decision immediately alleviated stress from my life, turning a self-imposed chore into something I now look forward to and enjoy immensely. Writing is my passion, yet I had turned it into a nightmare by inadvertently overdoing it. Common sense? Yes. Easy to see. No. Sometimes we’re just too close to see the forest for the trees.  

     Here’s another suggestion that may prove helpful. The items that you put a check next to on the list—schedule them so they’re completed first. This way, only the tasks with stars next to them remain. Leave these for last, as they’re the activities you enjoy. Regard these items as a reward for completing the chores first. This way, you always have something at the end of your hard work to look forward to. Seems simple, right? Some of you are already doing this. I’m willing to bet many are not.

     Here are a few more common-sense maneuvers you might try in order to succeed in being less stressed-out. If you engage in an activity that requires your undivided attention, give it the respect it deserves. Shut the music off. Turn off the television or the computer. Silence the cell phone and leave it in the other room. Your improved focus will increase your efficiency, which in turn will reduce stress. It’s a matter of initiating good habits versus the bad ones you may have picked up along the way.

     Maybe you’ve developed an unhealthy obsession. I know some writer friends who check their sales stats constantly over the course of any given day. A watched pot never boils, but you do it, regardless. How stressful. Stop. Try having a conversation with a fellow author instead. Perhaps you could give them some assistance in the form of a promotional tweet, or post a review of their work you enjoyed. Not only will this distract you from staring at the sales page, but you’ll likely feel fulfilled when the individual you help shows you love in return for your kind gesture. You may be amazed at what a fantastic stress eraser this can become.

     Yup … you may very well have driven yourself into this veritable mud bath of stress. Hook your common sense winch onto that classy chassis of yours and pull yourself out. Adjust your repertoire and kiss that stress goodbye.

     We’re all human and spreading ourselves too thin is one of the easiest mistakes to make. Give yourself a break. Realize that you can’t do it all. Complaining about it is a good vent, but does little in the way of alleviating stress. Take action.

     Do you have any comments or ideas on the subject? I’m always thrilled to hear what you have to say. I sincerely hope the ideas put forth in this post will help you live a more stress-free life.

All the best,  AB

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24 Responses to Diss-Stress

  1. Ann Mauren says:

    I enjoyed this post immensely! I am a chronic over-doer (mommies generally tend to be) and I have problems saying no–especially to myself with certain activities. This article put some perspective on things for me and provided useful, workable tips on tactics and approaches to putting first things first.

    I especially loved the suggestion to redirect obsessive time wasting, stress building habits into investing a little time with other authors, whether in direct contact and relationship building, or in reading, reviewing or promoting their work. I’ll have to be careful though. I’d much rather read and comment on an awesome blog post like this or tweet about a fantastic author friend’s new book than do my own editing!

    Thanks for taking time in your busy week to provide thoughtful, useful insights and assistance to writers old and new. You are one bright candle, Al!

  2. Sue London says:

    Thanks Al! That was like a breath of fresh air. It is very easy to over-commit and then end up in the guilt spiral – which means getting even less done than would have gotten done otherwise. For me some of the biggest challenges come when there is an emergent issue (emergency!) and yet I expect myself to keep up the current pace on all other obligations. But doing things like writing up blog posts while sitting in hospital waiting rooms, or cleaning the house at one in the morning – those things just can’t be maintained. Then I have to remind myself of the advice, “If everything is important then nothing is.”

  3. Junying says:

    Stressed? Moi? NO, that’s what I’d like to say, but actually it’s a reluctant admission of yes, yes, YES! The fact that I got up at 3am and tried to locate my book on Amazon Kindle which can no longer be found can only be explained that I’m either going crazy, or to a lesser degree, just stressed!

    In the last few weeks since I’ve published my first book, after the initial sense of achievement, the stress has been building up over time. While it’s great to be learning to use new tools like Twitter and meeting a lot of wonderful, gifted individuals all over the world, I find myself overwhelmed by the sheer amount of time and efforts that are required for promoting a book and oneself as an author, not to mention the feeling of inadequacy and imcompetence that is now inflicting me. On reflection, I realise that I have not been fully prepared for this brandnew world of kindle publishing and I have probably rushed into it prematurely. I guess having a day job does little to help.

    Anyway, I do not intend to turn this reply to a moan-fest. I just want to say thank you to Al, for sharing your experiences and wisdom, and imparting valuable advice, which is sorely needed. This Diss-Stress piece is well presented and timely – I would probably be smashing up my PC or tearing off my hair right now, if I were not reading your sound analysis of the cause of stresses and ways of combatting them🙂. I think I’m going back to bed now, and leaving all the stress for another day – tomorrow. Who knows, maybe a miracle will happen when the day breaks and all my stress will just disappear into thin air!

    I agree with you that some authors are obsessed with the sales figures – this kind of obsession is bad, having a very negative impact on people around them. I also agree that some of the stress is self-inflicted, so I am going to take action. Now.

    Thanks again for sharing!

  4. Al Boudreau says:

    Thank you for such a heart-felt response, Junying. Our saving grace in and amongst the stresses we encounter on our journey as writers, is that our community contains some wonderfully giving friends who are ready to help. Please don’t hesitate to communicate your difficulties … to myself, or to others. As you know, we’re always willing to give a hand when needed. The good news … it gets easier. Persevere and you will soon see the fruits of your diligence.

  5. ellieswords says:

    I liked what you said about enjoying the journey. Sometimes I think, “ARgh I just want to be published already, everything will be easier then!” when a.) that’s not even true adn b.) I should bask in the joy of no deadlines and pressure-free writing. Like you said, I should just be patient and enjoy the journey!🙂
    I also like to unwind on twitter, it’s so fun! I really like being outside, too, it revives me. Thanks for your post!

  6. junyingkirk says:

    Thanks again for your kindness and encouragement, Al. It means a great deal.

    Have got myself a blog today, and will play around and build it up. Will do as you say: persevere🙂.

  7. Great ideas for setting priorities and perspective. I have also found that physical activity ( a walk with just me and my iPod) helps. I have also begun learning meditation techniques. For those interested, Deepak Chopra runs periodic 21-day podcast FREE lessons in meditation.

    • alboudreau says:

      Excellent suggestions Victoria. Thank you for helping us all discover productive solutions for reducing stress.

  8. junyingkirk says:

    Thank you, Victoria. Yes, Ipod and music are great for stress-release, as well as physical activities. Do intend a walk in the sun today, and will certainly try medication too. Bought yoga DVDs but have not used them yet. Perhaps about time :-)!

  9. Monica McRann says:

    I so appreciated this timely post, as I said earlier. I hope you will not mind but I will be sending this to, my parents (by snail mail) they are 90+ as you may imagine haven’t an inclination nor a clue to join us on the internet highway, at this point.
    I sent the link to my sisters too and I am positive they will send it on to others.
    Lastly, keep up the excellent work, I especially enjoy, your down to earth approachable style of writing.
    ;~) Monica
    PS:I do not have a kindle or any device that would support your e-book😦 or I would have already. My father who is an avid reader would also enjoy it I’m sure.

    • Al Boudreau says:

      Thank you so much, Monica. It warms my heart that you feel strongly enough about this post to send it to friends and family members. I appreciate your support of my writing and always look forward to your tweets on Twitter.

  10. May Torres says:

    This was a much needed reminder! I also juggle a very busy daytime job and writing. As a single-parent I do try to do it all, making myself crazy in the process! I have to learn to give myself a break. I know I’m stressed out when I’m going crazy looking for my glasses and they’re on my face🙂

    • Al Boudreau says:

      You really made me laugh with the “glasses on the face” comment May, as I occasionally have similar events happen to me. Often times, we continue adding things to our over-loaded lives until we become miserable, then wonder how on earth we got there. Sometimes an honest self-assessment of where we are and where we want to be can prove very telling. It’s what we decide to do after this assessment that can make all the difference.

  11. I also had to go from blogging 5-7 times a week to 2-3, depending on the mood that strikes me. I’m also going to start having guest bloggers more often to lighten the load. I found I wasn’t enjoying my blog, and I was getting burned out on it.

    After a couple of months of 1x a week posting, I’m back in a groove and enjoying it again.

    The most surprising thing was that my regular followers really didn’t mind at all. I had this idea that somehow it was “expected” that I post every single day, and it felt like a huge burden.

    Makes me wonder what other assumptions I can challenge. =)

    Great post!

  12. Al Boudreau says:

    Thank you for your response India. I love what you said about “challenging your own assumptions.” We all need to decide what our comfort zones are, in terms of work load then adjust accordingly. Our friends and followers are an understanding group and will surely be there in the end to support our adjustments.

  13. Rin says:

    A great post. My biggest time sucking activity is constantly checking email / Facebook / other social media. Perhaps I should limit it to once in the morning and once in the afternoon, unless I have a specific email that needs sending.

    Anyway, it was nice to find this blog through Twitter, some really great idea here.

    • Al Boudreau says:

      Thank for stopping by Rin. Social media can be highly addictive. Limiting ones self, in terms of time spent, is a great stress-buster. That way you don’t eat up valuable time needed to accomplish other, more important tasks.

  14. What wonderful suggestions. Thank you. I think it speaks volumes about my slightly enabling personality that I instantly began to think of at least five people I wanted to send this post to, in order to help them feel less overwhelmed with their stress. Naturally I would do this *well before* tending to my own stress and
    disorganization.😉

    Had 18 years in a career that was all about stress and sacrificing my needs emotionally, physically & creatively. I’ve spent the past three years or so unlearning all those habits. Every day I am working to discover who I am and what brings me peace, joy and satisfaction. So now the new journey begins…

    Thanks again, really enjoyed the post.

    • Al Boudreau says:

      Hello Madame Paradox…sounds to me as though this post is a custom-fit to your particular situation. I’m glad you’re making inroads to facilitate positive change in your life. As you well realize, it’s all about the journey. I’d love you to check in and let me know how it’s going. You’re welcome to follow me on Twitter @threecifer, as I’m always happy to have convos about anything and everything. Congrats on your new beginning.

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