10 Friends for stress free excellence

Stress free excellence – It is within your grasp. Here, are our 10 Friends to handle stress.


 What is stress?

Stress is a mental tension and worry that is caused by challenges in life, education, health, relationships, work etc. When the demand on us exceeds the resources, abilities, skills we start experiencing Stress.

In the current world, sources of stress seem to be increasing for kids and adults alike. On the other hand, stress coping and handling methods are not adequately used. World Health Organisation has called “Stress as World Epidemic.” In this context, it is important that we take a closer look at Stress and take steps to take control of it before it takes control of us.

Is all stress bad?

There are two types of stress. The one the world knows is Distress (harmful stress) and other one is Eustress the positive (yes, this stress is positive).

Eustress is a stress which happens when we take the tasks within our abilities and skills threshold, thus creating motivation and excitement, makes us more energetic, improves productivity and is present for short periods. Examples of Eustress – getting high marks, receiving award for your project, vacation, play time, new hobby etc.

Distress is the stress whose byproduct is anxiety, worry, makes you feel unpleasant, decreases productivity, can lead to mind or body problems and can stay with you for short or long periods. At students level, this stress is mainly formed when we take a task which is seen as outside our abilities and skills. Examples of Distress – examination tension, project completion, awaiting results, too many classes to attend, conflict with friends, poor time management, balancing study and many other things in life, poor parenting style, ineffective teaching style, ill-fit learning style, subjects that are considered as boring etc.

Symptoms & effects of stress

Stress impacts our mind, body, emotions and behaviour. Notice your daily life and see if any of these are part of your current lifestyle:
• Mind—worrying, feeling overwhelmed, indecisive or making hasty decisions, forgetting things more often, self-negative talk and difficulty in concentrating or focusing.
• Body – frequent headaches, racing heart rate regularly, frequent cold, digestion problems, body pains without clear diagnosis, feeling tired always, low energy throughout the day.
• Emotions — low self-confidence, feeling anxious generally, guilt, getting irritated easily, lack of engagement in study, unhappiness.
• Behaviour— sleeping problems, loss of appetite, lot of silly mistakes, resorting to bad habits, procrastinating without reasons.

Physical injury brings immediate awareness and hence we attend to it immediately. Stress on the other hand happens slowly over a period of time and we are not aware of it until we face a bigger impact.

What can we do about stress?

Students as they grow older will face new stress — entrance exam, career selection, job, marriage, kids, promotions and so on. Capabilities, skills, maturity and resources to handle those stress will be different. Considering the current context and future requirement, I am going to give you “10 Friends” who if you use them well in your life, will be a great ally in any situation —be it examination, entrance exam, career selection, relationships, health and so on. We do not want to end up becoming one role wonder. We should be “Multi Role Wonders” in multiple domains of life and should become an inspiration to the future generation. Let us meet our 10 Friends to handle stress.

1.Time —use your most precious resource well

Many of the stress will be handled well (examination, project work, too many tasks in hand etc.) if we start using this one resource well. This is the most wasted resource. If we are

30 years of age and let us assume we will live till 80 years healthily and happily, we have only 18250 days and 438000 hours left. You see, we do not have unlimited time with us. We somehow give more importance to money than time because we know our bank balance. If you can understand this one concept, you are going to live your days more effectively.

Here are a few tips:

  • Perform time audit
  • Track where you are spending your 1440 minutes a day (for a week)
  • Identify your “Time wasters.” Mark them and identify the total hours saved. Remember, all of us have some time wasters.
  • Invest Time wasters into an area that will give you more benefits in future or reduce your current stress level. You could use these saved hours into your area of want (e.g. study, projects, social work, growth, reading, exercise, play).
  • Plan your days (Do you know this is the No.1 tool for the highly successful people in the world?).
  •  Plan your 6 most important tasks soon after you come from school (at students level, it could be doing homework, project work, study, preparing for the upcoming test, play time, reading a book etc).
  • Try to complete them in the same order .
  • dentify one “Not to Do list” (tasks which you don’t want to do or want to restrict in your life that will make you live better (e.g. less gadgets, junk food, TV, play station etc.). Try to note and implement this “Not to do.”
  • Review at the end of the day.

There will be a huge change in students’ life if they follow this. They will be learning to live an organised life. Completion of homework, projects and reading daily portions will be no longer tough at the same time enjoying the childhood. They will balance their present pleasure and future growth requirements – enjoy journey and destination.

2. Urgent vs important – key to your growth

Many of the kids (including adults) do not give due importance to the word “important.” We all know we have to exercise (Important) but most exercise only when they get a disease or ailment (after it becomes urgent). Preparing daily for exam is important. But, most of us prepare only on the day of exam (urgent). We could plan our project work ahead (important). But, rush through on the last day of the deadline (urgent). Anything done with urgency increases stress, reduces quality and engagement, lessens learning and retention. See if you have this as a source of stress in your life. If yes, plan or break the work into smaller chunks and handle it daily.

3. Mindfulness and focus — get more with less effort

Do you know we all waste 40% time daily due to multi-tasking. This is equivalent to having 34 hours in a day. Multi-tasking is another source of stress for all of us. Just by focusing on one task at hand, you are going to increase your effectiveness by 40%. Assume you study every day for 3 hours. Just by being focussed, you could save 1 to 1.5 hours.

Practice Pomodoro technique for your important projects and studies. This is one of the mindful techniques. In this technique, you will focus on a task (e.g. homework, study, project etc.) for 25 minutes and no distractions (no internal and external distractions) are allowed during that time. This is followed by 10 minutes break. You can do more Pomodoro depending on your time availability. By following this method, you will become super effective as you will be concentrating and studying. You will be amazed to see you complete your studies in a comparatively much lesser time and your focus, memory and concentration improve at a sharp rate.

4. Know yourself – secret for accelerated success

One of the biggest stressor is lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem in kids and adults. Kids and adults compare with peers and feel bad about themselves. If duck is evaluated for flying and eagle is evaluated for swimming, they might end up with low self-confidence. We all have unique talents e.g. studies, sports, creativity, music, leadership, entrepreneurship etc. You might not become a copy of another person but you can be more of what you are good at with practice and effort. This also means you will be operating from your zone and will hardly have competition. A person who knows about him or her will not have impact of stress In fact, they will experience more of positive stress (Eustress).

5. Power of actions & accountability

Action has the power to change anything. Most of the stress happens in our mind through thinking. Action is the “Doing” phase which actually releases or reduces the stress. Whenever you are worried or indecisive, take the next immediate step through smallest action. This generally helps you move forward and create action momentum. Even talking to somebody or exercising or playing helps in reducing stress. If you want to make action as a habit, try “Power of Small Actions.” Small actions done on consistent basis is far more powerful. It is easy to act with no brain resistance and also the effect over a period will be exponential.

Accountability means you take complete ownership of the situation. Strictly, no blaming others. What this does to you is to take control of the situation and you look for options to improve the current situation.

6. Relationships – you are who you are with

One of the easy ways to handle stress is to have right people in your life. Alone, you cannot do anything in life. With partnership and collaboration, great achievements are possible.

  • You are who you are with — Find out who you are spending time with. If you want to prepare for a difficult entrance exam and you are spending significant time of yours with lazy and people who procrastinate, you will have little chance to crack your exam.
  • Understand that differences of every person are advantage and not otherwise. If all fingers are same, we cannot do anything.
  • Help others and seek help when you need it.
  • If possible, identify a mentor or a coach to help you in your journey.
  • Be thankful for all your relationships.
  • Join a growth community in your Interest Area. This will help not only in handling stress but also in your future growth.

7. Strong mind & body

We get very upset if our car or mobile gets a scratch, but allow our mind and body to get multiple scratches. A strong mind and body is what you want to handle difficult and challenging situations. You can handle any stress with a strong mind and body. We hear IIT student committing suicide or a 30-year-old getting heart attack. This is mainly due to weak mind and weak body. Below are few tips for having a strong mind and body:

  • Exercise daily.
  • Have at least one hobby.
  • Study daily using Pomodoro technique.
  • Reduce your junk intake.
  • Meditate for few minutes daily.
  • Believe that you will make it very big one day.
  • Drink a lot of water.
  • Practice gratitude.
  • Instead of always concentrating on what we don’t have, concentrate on what you have. This can be done by monthly volunteering yourselves in helping underprivileged or visiting nature or doing gardening or playing with your pets. These are natural ways of de-stressing. If you get an opportunity, grab it next time.

8. Accomplishment as a way of life

We know stress is a negative emotion. To counter it we need lot of positive emotions. To get more positive emotions in life, set small goals and accomplish them. Goals need not be in only studies, it could be sports, hobbies etc. Make accomplishments as a way of your life.

9. Celebration – do this more if you want more success

India is famous for celebrations and that is why we have so many festivals. The emotion and happiness that we experience during celebration is available to us on daily basis. We are used to focusing on To Do List vs Completed List. To do list is never ending. In fact, your Completed List is a source of energy to complete your To Do List. Whenever you complete something that you have planned even though it is small, start celebrating (it could be having a small chocolate, pat on your back, Say “great job” with intensity). This releases positive emotions and your brain will look forward to more such experiences which will help you handle difficult situations.

10. Enjoy journey and destination

Understand the difference between “Journey and Destination.” If we are travelling from Chennai to Delhi and let us assume we focus only on reaching destination, we miss the real fun of journey. If we focus only on grades, we miss the real fun of learning. This is one of the reasons why we do not enjoy our studies as most of us end up focussing only on Grades. This is the reason why many stop learning after school which impacts them at later stage through unemployments and layoffs. Focusing on Journey and Destination brings in real happiness which helps in handling stress better.

If you have learnt the above and start practicing in small ways in your life, you will become a super man or super woman who can handle more challenges as you grow older in life. Most importantly, people will look up to you as a leader and inspiration.

Best wishes for “Stress-free Excellence” – It is within your grasp. Go get it!

Venkatesh Athreya is a Chartered Accountant with 20 years of corporate experience. His life changed for better when he discovered that his future is to help people grow and become best version of themselves. He is the founder of path2selfgrowth, Author of “50 Secrets to a Fantastic Life and Career” and Coach for Youth, mid-career adults and home makers. His dream is to “Develop Strong Youth” who are inspiration and role models in every area of their life. He has developed programs that cater to this requirement. He is also working with rural schools and colleges to bring in new awareness