We all know the constant bearing down of stress.
At first, it’s subtle; like a tingling sensation that persists but is hardly bothersome.
But, after some time, that stress becomes chronic and seeps into every part of your being, from your physical health to your happiness and productivity.
No one knows this better than the world’s most successful people, who have had to endure huge amounts of pressure to realize their incredible success.
Most people, I’ve found, do a bad job of managing stress. So, by taking a cue from some of the world’s most successful people, you can keep stress from holding you back from reaching your goals and dreams.
Its not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.
– Hans Selye
Here’s what 10 of the world’s most successful people do to manage incredible levels of stress:
1. Know when to unplug – Sheryl Sandberg
It goes without saying that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has to do things to deal with major pressure.
For Sandberg, that comes down to knowing when to unplug. She makes it a point to turn off her phone at night so she won’t check email or scroll through social– and, especially, won’t be woken up throughout the night.
2. Ritualize your day – Jack Dorsey
“I think generally stress comes from things that are unexpected,” said Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Forbes in a recent Forbes interview. “The more you can set a cadence around what you do and the more ritual and the more consistency you can build in your schedule, the less stress you’re going to have.”
Dorsey is big on structuring his day and planning everything out ahead of time so that there are no surprises. This is important because often, it’s when our expectations aren’t met that we become frustrated and stressed. The more you can structure your day and reduce that from happening, the better.
3. Take regular time off – Susan Wojcicki
Those who own businesses or have demanding schedules find it very hard to turn off work and take time for themselves. However, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki says that’s her key to managing stress.
“I think it’s really important to take time off,” says Wojcicki, “I’ve also found that sometimes you get really good insights by taking time off, too.”
4. Tune out critics – Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook knows how damaging critics can be to one’s efforts, often causing us great stress and anxiety.
“In today’s environment, the world is full of cynics and you have to tune them out,” Cook said. “Because if not, they become a cancer in your mind, in your thinking, and you begin thinking that you can’t or that life is negative.”
5. Fly fishing – Meg Whitman
Prolific business executive Meg Whitman, who has served as CEO of P&G, eBay, and Hewlett-Packard on top of being an avid philanthropist, loves taking time off to go fly fishing with her son.
According to a recent University of California study, partaking in leisure activities can relieve stress as well as several other health benefits.
Warren Buffett deals in billions of dollars of investment capital on a daily basis, so his threshold for stress must be high. What does he do? Buffett enjoys several side hobbies to relieve stress, but most particularly, playing the ukulele, which he’s played for several decades.
The same University of California, Merced study mentioned above found that learning and playing an instrument is a great way to reduce stress.
7. Don’t let fear paralyze you – Elon Musk
Elon Musk says that stress is more about rationalizing fear and moving forward confidently than anything else.
“Fear is finite, hope is infinite. We are afraid of failing, but it doesn’t stop us from trying,” Musk said. “People should certainly ignore fear if it’s irrational. Even if it’s rational and the stake is worth it, it’s still worth proceeding.”
8. Meditative breathing – Kay Koplovitz
USA Network and Syfy channel founder Kay Koplovitz uses the power of meditative breathing to bring calm and find perspective:
I close the door to my office, lean back and take deep breaths for several minutes. It’s very calming, and puts things in perspective.
Breathing is our body’s built-in stress reliever. It can profoundly impact our physiology, and several studies have shown that it affects the heart, brain, digestion, and the immune system.
9. Laugh a lot – Jeff Bezos
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has a lot on his plate these days, what with doing everything short of taking over the world and all. How does he deal with the huge pressure of his job? “In my particular case, I laugh a lot,” Bezos says.
Bezos also says that a large amount of stress comes from ignoring things that need to get done.
Stress primarily comes from not taking action over something that you can have some control over,
…I find as soon as I identify it, and make the first phone call, or send off the first e-mail message, or whatever it is that we’re going to do to start to address that situation — even if it’s not solved — the mere fact that we’re addressing it dramatically reduces any stress that might come from it.
10. Routinize yourself – Barack Obama
One of my personal favorite ways to simplify daily life and preemptively deal with stress is to reduce my number of daily decisions. The less clutter in my mind, the better.
In a recent interview, former U.S. President Barack Obama explained that he uses this same strategy to simplify his daily life, particularly when he served as President:
You need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day… You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.
You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.