How to Avoid Stress: The Proven Strategy

Like it or not, stress is a potential problem for all of us. Stress can reduce your quality of life. It can also reduce the quality of your relationships. That’s why it’s important that you learn how to avoid stress.

The key to avoid stress, I believe, is this: live with margin.

Margin is the difference between your maximum capacity and the capacity you use. Living with margin means living below your maximum capacity.

Think of your life as a bucket of water. If you fill the bucket to capacity, then even a small shock can cause the water to spill out. But if there is enough space between the surface and the top of the bucket, the water won’t spill out.

Your life is similar. If you fill your life to capacity, then even a small disturbance can stress you out. But if you live within margin, you can remain calm even when problems come.

How do we create margin then?

In essence, there are two ways to create margin:

  1. Increase your capacity, and
  2. Reduce your load.

Increasing your capacity is like having a bigger bucket, while reducing your load is like putting less water into the bucket. Both can create margin.

Let’s look at them one by one.

1. Increase your capacity.

Increasing your capacity means increasing your ability to handle responsibilities. Here are some ways to increase your capacity:

  • Exercise.
    Exercise increases your physical energy, which enables you to do your tasks with focus and intensity. You can then get more done in less time.
  • Have a “quiet time.”
    By “quiet time,” I mean time for your spiritual routines. This could be praying, reading spiritual text, or something else that works for you.
    This strengthens your purpose which, in turn, increases your work motivation.
  • Nurture your relationships.
    Other people’s support is essential for your productivity. Not only can it boost your morale, but it can also help you meet the right people for your situation. So make time to nurture your relationships, especially with your loved ones.
  • Learn.
    Learning can give you the knowledge of how to best handle a situation. As a result, you can get things done in a more efficient way.

My suggestion is to incorporate exercise and quiet time in your morning routine. That way you are well-prepared to face your day.

2. Reduce your load.

Reducing your load means reducing the burden of your responsibilities. If you are stressed and want to create margin fast, this is the way to go. Why? Because it’s easier to reduce your load than to increase your capacity.

Here are some ways to reduce your load:

  • Eliminate.
    This is the sure way to reduce your load. For this, go through your list of responsibilities and find the ones that you can eliminate. For example, you might want to resign from some committees or limit your involvement in less profitable ventures.
    Apply the 80/20 rule. Find the few activities that give you the most return and try to eliminate the rest.
  • Delegate.
    For things that you can’t eliminate, aim to delegate as much as possible. The rule of thumb is that if someone can do something 70 percent as good as you do, then you should delegate it.
    In many cases, others can actually do it better and faster than you do because they specialize in it. Outsourcing websites such as Elance and Fiverr could be useful here.
  • Organize.
    For things that you can’t eliminate or delegate, you should organize them. Build a system so that you can easily get what you need when you need them.
    Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity is a good book on it. You might want to try its system and customize it to your situation.

***

To avoid stress, living with margin is key. Don’t fill your life to capacity; spare some space instead. You will then live a balanced and stress-free life.

Photo by Pat Pilon

9 Comments

  1. you know… the alternative is to just become a Hobbit and live in your hidey hole and then you’ve got no stress at all til Gandalf wants to overrun your home with dwarves and take you on a glorious adventure.

  2. This is a great idea, in part because I believe stress can actually be useful at times. Sometimes it good for our growth & expansion. However, if it gets to be too much, then we can increase our capacity and reduce our load. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Donald,

    Well put as ever. One of the hardest things about reducing load is saying no to ourselves. Often we can be our own worst enemies thinking there are things we ought to do but don’t. Ditiching a few of these and getting some focus really helps.

  4. Knowing this,
    I think I do need to keep the balance between
    “increase my capacity and reduce my load”

    If I may put it as my own conclusion:
    I should increase my “useful” capacity and reduce my “useless” load…
    I should not underestimate the important and overestimate the unimportant…

    Well the right habit sure is the key… It’s the habit which possible to put someone unconsciously into wrong “set of margin”, or the right one…

    Thanks for showing me “the compass” 😀

  5. Hi Donald,

    great article to put into perspective of work load and irritability to any excess that we need to handle while taking a different approach we can be less irritable. The other downside of being constantly a full bucket is, that we or if I say this applies to me as well and my observation, once you are weakened you start getting to weak to step away and say no when its time to take a break and do your exercises. It’s really important to keep fit, but not just physically but also mentally. The brain is not likely going to get stronger by us constantly abusing it of delivering processing power. Your post covers this topic well by addressing the capacity increase. I don’t think running away on a long holiday does fix and increase capacity. Little tweaks with growth work better. If I run away on a holiday to recover I would just keep on wondering about all those construction sites and undone work…

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