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How to Relieve Stress (A Practical Guide)

by Sean Ogle | Last Updated: June 27, 2017

It always hits me at the most inconvenient time…usually around 3:30 in the morning.

It’s too early to get up and start my day, and I’m too tired to do anything but lay there in complete darkness, feeling completely overwhelmed and completely helpless at the same time.

I bet you’ve experienced too. I’m talking about the crippling effects of stress.

As I mentioned, for me it’s always worse in the middle of the night, because there’s not much I can do to alleviate it right then and there. I simply feel it until I’m able to fall back asleep for another few hours.

As a solopreneur, the effects of stress can be particularly overwhelming. How to Relieve Stress (A Practical Guide)

Why?

Because everything is on you. It’s not like you have coworkers you can hand things off to if your workload becomes too much to handle.

You can’t phone it in for a few weeks, while you get your personal life in order.

It’s completely and entirely up to you to support yourself through your business, and that on its own can be more than many can handle.

For the last 8 years of working for myself, I’ve been winding in and out of periods of totally relaxed bliss, and completely overwhelming debilitating stress, but as I’ve seen these patterns evolve and repeat themselves, I’ve started to learn a thing or two about both why I become stressed, and more importantly how to manage it on a regular basis.

Personally, I’ve learned my day to day stress almost always stems from something that is under my control.

Usually, it’s something I’ve procrastinated on long enough or forgotten about, that comes back with a vengeance to remind me: “Hey, you were supposed to take care of me weeks ago, and now I’m going to nag at your subconscious until you get it done.”

One of those is fine and is easily manageable. It’s when you get a dozen or more things piling up, that cause those middle of the night freak out sessions.

How to Relieve Stress

In today’s post, I’m going to share my completely rational, logical strategy for dealing with an emotion that is anything but.

This technique to relieve stress tends to work very well for me, but obviously, we’re all different. That said, if you’ve been feeling more anxious or overwhelmed than normal, give this a shot, it might provide just enough structure to your stress to help you get things done, and feel less overwhelmed.

Depending on how overwhelmed you’re feeling, you can do this every day, once a week, or anywhere in between – but I’ve found it helpful at the very least to spend some time on Sunday afternoon or evening going through this process, so that I know exactly what I need to do come Monday morning.

Step 1: What are you stressed about?

This step might feel pretty obvious, but often when we get overwhelmed, we have so many things running through our head that it’s tough to pin down exactly what’s actually stressing us out.

When you take the time to consciously think about all of the things you have to do, you can always tell the ones that are the biggest roots of the problem, because as soon as you think about it, your chest will tighten up a bit, your blood pressure will rise, and you can feel the physical effects of the stress.

Make special notes of the things that cause this reaction, as those are going to be the most important to tackle first.

So to help with this, create a “stress list” that’s simply a brain dump of everything that is stressing you out in your life.

My list yesterday had 13 things that were actively adding stress to my life right now, and many of those had subtasks on top of that.

Some were major like “get my passport renewed before upcoming trip” and others minor like “do a purge of my closet” but both are adding stress to my life in different ways.

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Step 2: Organize and Rank These Stressors

Next, I go through and I order all of those stressors and rank them from most stressful/timely/urgent to least.

This helps me provide a barometer for what is going to be the most impactful. Usually, if I can knock off the first three things on my daily or weekly list, I immediately feel 75% better.

Worth noting is there’s a fine line between things that are causing legitimate stress, and things that are simply stressful because you’ve been procrastinating on them for so long.

As you go through your list, ask yourself this question for each item:

“Will this help alleviate my immediate stress?”

For instance, as I mentioned above, I have “purge my closet” on my list. It’s mostly stressful because I’ve been putting it off so long and the clutter is starting to get old.

Other things like “renew my passport” causes a serious physical reaction when I think about the fact I haven’t done it – because if I don’t do it soon, I’ll be screwed for upcoming trips.

Focus on prioritizing the latter items. And for the less serious and urgent ones? See Step 6.

I recommend using some kind of task or project management system to help further provide help managing this process.

When I’m not in this habit, is when I forget about things, and weeks later wake up in a panic.

Here are three tools I’ve found to be really useful depending on your specific needs:

Step 3: What Are the Best Stress Relievers for You

With the first three steps, this system felt a little generic, I know. “Figure out what’s causing you stress, do the thing causing you stress.”

But we all know there’s more to it than that.

Sometimes we’re stressed for no apparent reason. Or sometimes, we know the reason, but simply ticking off a box on a to do list, won’t fully set our mind at ease.

That’s why it’s important to always have a list of things that have been proven to relieve stress for you.

These are things you enjoy, that relaxes you, and that can help take your mind off of everything else.

During times of significant stress, I always try and add at least one of these to my daily to do list.

It’s a two sided approach:

As an example here’s my current list of best stress relievers:

Step 4: What Are Good Stress Relievers You Don’t Regularly Do

Every once in awhile, my stress can be a little stubborn.

I’ve found when this is the case, I need to break out of my routines, and try new things that I don’t often do.

Obviously, there are a lot of things out there that work for different people, I always like to keep a list of other ideas in case I feel like I need to mix things up.

Here are some examples of some simple stress relievers, I don’t use as often:

For instance just a couple weeks ago I did a 30 minute yoga routine – which is something I hadn’t done in a year or two. It felt great, and it took my mind off everything else I was worried about, as I was more concerned with not collapsing on top of myself.

Now I’ve made a point of trying to do it more often.

Step 5: Create a Plan for Accomplishing Tasks

This is simply creating your to do list for the day or week, based on the things you’ve found to be causing the most stress in step 2, while also adding at least one of the stress relievers you identified in step 4.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind while you’re creating your to do list that I’ve found help me feel more productive and less overwhelmed.

Don’t try and do everything at once

This is the biggest one. It’s really easy to create your stress list, see everything that needs to get done, add it all to your daily to do list, and then only complete a fraction of it.

What happens then?

You get even more stressed because you didn’t get as much done as you’d planned.

I usually try and focus on 1-3 big things each day and then maybe a handful of smaller/faster items depending on what they are.

Often this will take me half to two-thirds of the day – so then I use the rest of the time to focus on one of those things in Step 4 that I know will help reduce stress further.

There’s a big difference between accomplishing 3/3 planned tasks and doing something for myself versus accomplishing 5/12 things and not having the time to do something that personally makes me happy.

Remember, not every task is created equally. Pay attention to your ranking in step 2. Even if you only knock out the #1 thing on your list, that might be causing more stress than 2-4 combined.

It’s not always about how much you accomplish – it’s about what you accomplish.

Batch Your Tasks by Category

One of the toughest parts for me as a lifestyle entrepreneur is the fact I have so many different things I’m working on. Golf tasks, Location Rebel task, marketing consulting  – the list goes on.

The more I bounce between everything, the less effective and more frustrated I become.

I try and batch things by days or half days.

For instance, Monday mornings are all about Location Rebel. Blog writing, answer emails, course creation etc.

Then in the afternoon is when I focus on stuff for The Eighty Club.

It helps with decision fatigue and minimizes time switching back and forth between completely unrelated tasks.

Have a Default Action

This is huge. I often find myself with 10-20 minutes in between calls, tasks or other things I’m supposed to do.

For most people, the default action during those times is to go to Facebook, YouTube, Candy Crush, whatever; something that’s less than productive.

However, if you can create a positive default action, you can easily add an extra hour of productive time to your days without even thinking about it.

Examples of this could be:

That’s not to say you shouldn’t schedule breaks where you can get your social media fix, but just make sure you’re doing it deliberately, and not because it’s simply your default action.

Step 6: Once a Month Do All the Little Things

Finally, if you’re walking through this process a handful of times per week, what you’ll often find is that after a month or so you’ll have a handful of tasks that keep getting pushed to the bottom of your “stress list”. These are tasks that on their own might not be a big deal, but when you add them together and don’t accomplish them for weeks on end, they start to add up and eat away at your subconscious.

So once a month I try and make a list of all those small things and devote a day to just knocking them off the list.

Often for me, these are those things around the house or in my personal life that start stacking up.

Step 7: Repeat as Necessary

As I mentioned, I always do this at least once a week on Sundays, but if there’s a lot going on, I’ll do a variation of this every single day. Making sure I take a minute to really think about what’s causing the stress and prioritize my tasks accordingly.

That’s It!

Hopefully, you got an idea or two out of this post that will not only help alleviate stress in your life on a regular basis but also help you be more productive in the process.

Have questions, comments, or want to share a stress reduction technique that works well for you? Just drop a note in the comments!

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
Build a Lifestyle Business Giving You Freedom You've Always Wanted

Our 6-part course gives you a strategy to start right now. Put control of your life back in your hands. Sign up below and let’s do this together.

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