Recently I had breakfast with a colleague who recalled an incident from last summer. Back then I had a lot of work on and, being the perfectionist I am, I refused to rest properly often working continuously for eight to 10 hours at a time. When it was time to relax at home, I carried on working on my smartphone, even though I knew it was too much.
“Your eyes were a sore sight, and you lost a lot of weight,” my colleague told me. It was true. I was so immersed in what I was doing I would sometimes forget to take a break; I just wanted to deliver my projects perfectly and on time. I suffered from a temporary stress-related eye condition as a result. Funnily enough, although I did not feel stressed in myself, my body did.
After that incident, I began meditating more, ensured I took regular breaks and did not overwork my mind.
That happened over the course of a few months, but many entrepreneurs know how it feels to be so immersed and passionate in their work that they neglect breaks, don’t eat proper meals, and sometimes skip sleep. Before I knew it, I was back where I was, and once again friends and family noticed how immersed I was in my work during April and May this year.
“You’ve lost so much weight” and “You’re not eating proper meals” were common comments that I heard. I did not feel I was doing anything differently and I felt fine. In fact, I was proud of delivering my work on time, and of my enhanced skills.
Dealing with pressure is something we all have to face, from navigating through morning traffic to ensuring you hit your work deadlines. But constant pressure, even though we don’t always realise it, can take a toll on our physical, mental and emotional health.
At the start-up stage you can feel the pressure even more: with the investment you’ve made, how slow it can be to see significant business growth, and dealing with uncertainties.
So, here a few ways to help you deal with pressure:
• Change the way you look at pressure. Instead of viewing it as the enemy, consider it a challenge.
• Plan your time and workload. If you have a big project on, outline your tasks and dedicate time to each task accordingly. That way you will not have to take on the project all at once. It will also give you room to fix a situation should things go wrong.
• Take a break. Make room in your schedule to have a proper lunch, and I do not mean one at your desk. Dedicate half an hour to have a proper healthy, nutritious meal somewhere away from the office. Several research studies have found that taking a proper break away from your desk helps to enhance your productivity. And do not get up from your desk only for meals. Take five to 10-minute breaks every hour to rest your eyes, especially if you are working on a computer. This avoids dryness and eye stress conditions. Get up and take a walk, even if it is just around the office, or go and chat with a colleague.
• As hard as this may be, get enough sleep. With seven to eight hours a night, you will be able to think properly, come up with great ideas, your performance will be enhanced and your overall mood will be better. You will also enjoy your work more because you won’t feel drained and be daydreaming about an afternoon nap.
• Last but not least, make room for what you love to do every day. Even if you have lots on, it is important to do something you enjoy during the day. It could be going for a jog with a friend, or reading a book before you sleep.
There are many tips out there, but I found these helped me relax whenever I steered off course. Finding yourself under pressure is normal from time to time, and even more so when you are at the beginning of your career. Just remember to relax, unwind and plan ahead to keep stress at bay.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.
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