When everything’s an emergency, nothing is.
Stress is a natural part of life, especially when working toward deadlines. It’s something you have to let out before it consumes your entire brain and body, which is something I learnt the hard way many times throughout university. Putting everything you do on red alert isn’t helpful and makes getting out of bed a daunting task. I’ve learnt that managing stress is incredibly important.
But relaxing when you’re stressed is paradoxical.
I’ve tried exercise, yoga, meditation, angry music, soothing music… You name it, I’ve probably tried it. I even based one of my final year projects on beating deadline stress (which, ironically, caused me a lot of stress). All these methods have proved valuable in their own way, but for me what works best is turning off the brain. Turn it to goop for 10 minutes. I like to do some typography whilst slipping into a semi-comatose state. It doesn’t have to be good, and you shouldn’t be self-conscious about the standard. I do this because napping is a skill I have never been able to master. Lying down when stressed allows my brain to go into overdrive as I panic about every second I’m wasting which could be spent tweaking a final design. However, focusing on something satisfyingly simple whilst thinking of nothing else allows my brain to recharge, and after 10 minutes you’ll have a page of doodles—they might all be crap, but it loosens the grip on your brain.
Mindfulness is becoming evermore popular with the help of positive studies along with endorsements such as David Lynch, who has set up a foundation to bring the technique to schools, prisons, war veterans, the homeless among other stressed communities. The great thing about mindfulness is that it can be as personal as you want it to be; my method might only work for me but it works well. For children, it can be as simple as ‘quiet time’, which has proved highly successful for thousands of kids who take antidepressants, suffer with ADHD or have other mental disorders. For professionals, it might be simple breathing exercises or appreciating nature for a short time.
Stress is like the morning coffee. Essential to kick the mind into gear, but too much will likely burn you out.
Sometimes we like to be stressed. It seems ridiculous, but we enjoy bragging about how little sleep we got last night or how many commitments we have coming up. It makes us look and feel important. Stress gets the adrenaline pumping, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Stress is essential to our mental and physical performance, but it’s also essential to manage it, and here’s why:
As you can see from this scientifically accurate graph, if you’re not under some amount of stress, you won’t perform at your best. But it’s essential to know your boundaries. As soon as you are too stressed, your performance—and, most of all, health—deteriorates, at which point you need to allow time to recover. So when you’re feeling like your brain is in a vice, don’t underestimate the power of taking 10 minutes to climb a tree or having a quiet cup of tea to yourself (green, ideally).