Managing Stress: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

As the semester ramps up, I am noticing a steep increase in anxiety, stress, and sickness throughout my program. I am definitely among the afflicted. I always sort of thought that I was pretty good at managing stress, but after finishing a particularly difficult week, I am seeing that I might not be as collected as I thought.

The Good
In some ways, I handle stress well. I love making lists of things that I need to do, whether it be for short-term or long-term periods (daily vs. monthly, weekly vs. semester-ly). I find that when I am feeling particularly swamped with no direction as to where to start on my mountain of homework, I write lists. Here is a breakdown of how I like to organize them:

1. I write down all of the things I need to do. This helps me as I am a visual person and seeing all of my assignments helps bring them into a world I can manage.

2. Put the deadlines beside the each project. This is really beneficial because it helps me logically organize what needs to be done by when.

3. Put a value to the projects. In my case, it’s grades. If I have two projects due on one day and one is worth 10% and the other 30%, I need to prioritize my time to fit the end goal. Does that mean I sacrifice my lesser project because it’s not worth as much? Absolutely not. It just means that I should prioritize based on value. And as I move forward towards my career, the grades will transition into payment.

4. Reorder the existing list based on time constraint, value, whatever helps to get through it. Sometimes as an accompany piece to this step, I draw up a mini calendar and put asterisks beside each of the days that things are due, putting multiple asterisks when multiple things are due those days.

5. This step is optional, and usually reserved for my short-term lists or particularly daunting and involved projects. I plan out exactly how long I have for this assignment, and then make daily goals in order to achieve my end goal. This way I have some accountability as well as extreme satisfaction when I can cross the goals off my list.

CreativeBloq wrote an amazing list on how to live a less-stressful designer lifestyle that is definitely worth checking out. Some of their tips can be achieved by doing the list method I addressed above among other really great, healthy coping methods.

The Bad
A lot of people don’t like to talk about their bad coping habits but perhaps if I can come to terms with mine, it will help others do the same.

One of my big, bad habits is stress-eating. If a deadline is approaching, you are almost guaranteed to catch me surrounded by chocolate bars, chips, and pasta. I think a lot of people share in this problem, as snacking is such an easy crutch to lean on. However if when I find myself reaching for a bag of Cheetos, I try to take a few minutes to reorganize my workspace, clean up my room, or go for a short walk.

Another one of my weaknesses is distraction. Often I try to make my distractions at least semi-productive (i.e. practising hand-lettering, writing with my left hand, working on my illustration skills), but more often than not they turn into me reading weird Wikipedia articles at four in the morning. A quick Google search yielded an interesting article about ways to limit your internet access to help you get work done.

The Ugly
I am actually currently getting over what I believe was a stress-induced cold. It is no secret that stress has often been fabled to bring on colds, but an article by Amanda Gardner sheds light on the science behind this theory. Making sure you are drinking lots of fluids, eating right, and taking vitamins can help ward off colds, or at least make them less severe.

While it may seem easier said than done, managing stress in a healthy way is very achievable. Creating lists, working out, journaling, doodling, playing with a pet, or talking to someone can really help reduce any physical or emotional symptoms of stress. Being a designer can be demanding but it is just as important to take care of yourself as it is to take care of your clients and their work.

Have any tips on how you manage your stress? Found interesting articles about to deal with it? Let me know in the comments!

Cheers,
Camilla

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