We all experience stress to some degree. Sometimes stress can be good (i.e. short term stress that propels you to accomplish a goal such as a deadline, a test, giving a speech, etc.). I personally like this type of stress and thrive off of it. Working at a startup, good stress is par for the course.

Unfortunately there is also bad stress which often occurs when you feel helpless, trapped and/or have lost control. When we experience this type of stress, it can be damaging to ourselves and the people around us. However, there are way to mitigate and manage bad stress such that you avoid it in many cases or are at the very least able to quickly get past it. The specifics end up being different for different people, but the one thing I have noticed is that in most cases the key is knowing yourself.

One simple thing you can do is identify different situations that create a lot of stress in your life and simply avoid them. Sometimes this is difficult to do (ex. source of stress is family member), but other times it can be quite easy (ex. source of stress is Twitter). Try taking out a piece of paper and just write down a list of ten things that cause you stress. If you can avoid anything on your list without any negative repercussions, do it.

Of course, it is likely that a lot of the stuff on your list can’t be avoided for one reason or another. In that case, it comes down to setting up tripwires for yourself and having a few coping mechanisms. Some examples of tripwires may include things like:

  • Your sleep pattern drastically changes
  • You lose/gain weight
  • You lash out at a loved one

The more you can be self aware of what you naturally do when you are stressed, the easier it will be to do something about it. In terms of coping mechanisms, each person is going to be different but one really strong suggestion I have is to extract yourself from the situation and sleep. Now, in full disclosure, I will admit that I am absolutely terrible about this. I know how much sleep helps alleviate stress and reset your brain, but I continue to have a hard time doing it on a regular basis. Typically my wife is the one who hits my upside the head and forces me to rest. That said, once I actually get 8 hours of sleep (which is very rare for me these days) it is like magic.

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